Types of Radars

Radar originally was developed to meet the needs of the military services, and it continues to have critical applications for national defense purposes. For instance, radars are used to detect aircraft, missiles, artillery and mortar projectiles, ships, land vehicles, and satellites. In addition, radar controls and guides weapons; allows one class of target to be distinguished from another; aids in the navigation of aircraft and ships; and assists in reconnaissance and damage assessment.

Military radar systems can be divided into three main classes based on platform: land-based, shipborne, and airborne. Within these broad classes, there are several other categories based mainly on the operational use of the radar system. For the purposes of this report, the categories of military radars will be as described below, although there are some "gray" areas where some systems tend to cover more than one category. There is also a trend to develop multimode radar systems. In these cases, the radar category is based on the primary use of the radar.

Some of the more prominent types of radars are described below. These descriptions are not precise, for each of these radar types usually employ a characteristic waveform and signal processing that differentiate it from other radars.

Land-Based Air Defense Radars. These radars cover all fixed, mobile, and transportable 2-D and 3-D systems used in the air defense mission.

Battlefield, Missile Control, and Ground Surveillance Radars. These radars also include battlefield surveillance, tracking, fire-control, and weapons-locating radar systems, whether fixed, mobile, transportable, or man-portable.

Naval and Coastal Surveillance, and Navigation Radars. These radars consist of shipborne surface search and air search radars (2-D and 3-D) as well as land-based coastal surveillance radars.

Naval Fire-Control Radars. These are shipborne radars that are part of a radar-based fire-control and weapons guidance systems.

Airborne Surveillance Radars. These radar systems are designed for early warning, land and maritime surveillance, whether for fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, or remotely piloted vehicles (RPV's).

Airborne Fire-Control Radars. Includes those airborne radar systems for weapons fire-control (missiles or guns) and weapons aiming.

Spaceborne Radar Systems. Considerable effort has been applied to spaceborne radar (SBR) research for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions over the last 30 years. The Department of Defense (DOD) seems to be expressing new interest in SBR.

Military Air Traffic Control (ATC), Instrumentation and Ranging Radars. These include both land-based and shipborne ATC radar systems used for assisting aircraft landing, and supporting test and evaluation activities on test ranges. See Appendix B for descriptions of shipborne ATC radars.

Simple Pulse Radar: This type is the most typical radar with a waveform consisting of repetitive short-duration pulses. Typical examples are long-range air and maritime surveillance radars, test range radars, and weather radars. There are two types of pulse radars that uses the Doppler frequency shift of the received signal to detect moving targets, such as aircraft, and to reject the large unwanted echoes from stationary clutter that do not have a Doppler shift. One is called moving-target indication (MTI) radar and the other is called pulse Doppler radar. Users of pulse radars include the Army, Navy, Air Force, FAA, USCG, NASA, Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of the Interior (DOI), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Treasury.

Moving-Target Indication (MTI) Radar: By sensing Doppler frequencies, an MTI radar can differentiate echoes of a moving target from stationary objects and clutter, and reject the clutter. Its waveform is a train of pulses with a low PRR to avoid range ambiguities. What this means is that range measurement at the low PRR is good while speed measurement is less accurate than at a high PRR's. Almost all ground-based aircraft search and surveillance radar systems use some form of MTI. The Army, Navy, Air Force, FAA, USCG, NASA, and DOC are large users of MTI radars.

Airborne Moving-Target Indication (AMTI) Radar: An MTI radar in an aircraft encounters problems not found in a ground-based system of the same kind because the large undesired clutter echoes from the ground and the sea have a Doppler frequency shift introduced by the motion of the aircraft carrying the radar. The AMTI radar, however, compensates for the Doppler frequency shift of the clutter, making it possible to detect moving targets even though the radar unit itself is in motion. AMTI radars are primarily used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the USCG.

Pulse Doppler Radar: As with the MTI system, the pulse Doppler radar is a type of pulse radar that utilizes the Doppler frequency shift of the echo signal to reject clutter and detect moving aircraft. However, it operates with a much higher PRR than the MTI radar. (A high-PRR pulse Doppler radar, for example, might have a PRR of 100 kHz, as compared to an MTI radar with PRR of perhaps 300 Hz) The difference of PRR's gives rise to distinctly different behavior. The MTI radar uses a low PRR in order to obtain an unambiguous range measurement. This causes the measurement of the target's radial velocity (as derived from the Doppler frequency shift) to be highly ambiguous and can result in missing some target detections. On the other hand, the pulse Doppler radar operates with a high PRR so as to have no ambiguities in the measurement of radial velocity. A high PRR, however, causes a highly ambiguous range measurement. The true range is resolved by transmitting multiple waveforms with different PRR's.(3)

Pulse Doppler radars are used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, FAA, USCG, NASA, and DOC.

High-Range Resolution Radar: This is a pulse-type radar that uses very short pulses to obtain range resolution of a target the size ranging from less than a meter to several meters across. It is used to detect a fixed or stationary target in the clutter and for recognizing one type of target from another and works best at short ranges. The Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and DOE are users of high-range resolution radars.

Pulse-Compression Radar: This radar is similar to a high-range resolution radar but overcomes peak power and long-range limitations by obtaining the resolution of a short pulse but with the energy of a long pulse. It does this by modulating either the frequency or the phase of a long, high-energy pulse. The frequency or phase modulation allows the long pulse to be compressed in the receiver by an amount equal to the reciprocal of the signal bandwidth. The Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and DOE are users of pulse-compression radars.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR): This radar is employed on an aircraft or satellite and generally its antenna beam is oriented perpendicular to its direction of travel. The SAR achieves high resolution in angle (cross range) by storing the sequentially received signals in memory over a period of time and then adding them as if they were from a large array antenna. The output is a high-resolution image of a scene. The Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and NOAA are primary users of SAR radars.

Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR): In many respects, an ISAR is similar to SAR, except that it obtains cross-range resolution by using Doppler frequency shift that results from target movements relative to the radar. It is usually used to obtain an image of a target. ISAR radars are used primarily by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA.

Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR): This variety of airborne radar employs a large side-looking antenna (i.e., one whose beam is perpendicular to the aircraft's line of flight) and is capable of high-range resolution. (The resolution in cross range is not as good as can be obtained with SAR, but it is simpler than the latter and is acceptable for some applications.) SLAR generates map-like images of the ground and permits detection of ground targets. This radar is used primarily by the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and the USCG.

Imaging Radar: Synthetic aperture, inverse synthetic aperture, and side-looking airborne radar techniques are sometimes referred to as imaging radars. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA are the primary users of imaging radars.

Tracking Radar: This kind of radar continuously follows a single target in angle (azimuth and elevation) and range to determine its path or trajectory, and to predict its future position. The single-target tracking radar provides target location almost continuously. A typical tracking radar might measure the target location at a rate of 10 times per second. Range instrumentation radars are typical tracking radars. Military tracking radars employ sophisticated signal processing to estimate target size or identify specific characteristics before a weapon system is activated against them. These radars are sometimes referred to as fire-control radars. Tracking radars are primarily used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and DOE.

Track-While-Scan (TWS) Radar: There are two different TWS radars. One is more or less the conventional air surveillance radar with a mechanically rotating antenna. Target tracking is done from observations made from one rotation to another. The other TWS radar is a radar whose antenna rapidly scans a small angular sector to extract the angular location of a target. The Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and FAA are primary user of TWS radars.

3-D Radar: Conventional air surveillance radar measures the location of a target in two dimensions-range and azimuth. The elevation angle, from which target height can be derived, also can be determined. The so-called 3-D radar is an air surveillance radar that measures range in a conventional manner but that has an antenna which is mechanically or electronically rotated about a vertical axis to obtain the azimuth angle of a target and which has either fixed multiple beams in elevation or a scanned pencil beam to measure its elevation angle. There are other types of radar (such as electronically scanned phased arrays and tracking radars) that measure the target location in three dimensions, but a radar that is properly called 3-D is an air surveillance system that measures the azimuth and elevation angles as just described. The use of 3-D radars is primarily by the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, FAA, USCG, and DOE.

Electronically Scanned Phased-Array Radar: An electronically scanned phased-array antenna can position its beam rapidly from one direction to another without mechanical movement of large antenna structures. Agile, rapid beam switching permits the radar to track many targets simultaneously and to perform other functions as required. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are the primary users of electronically scanned phased-array radars.

Continuous-Wave (CW) Radar: Since a CW radar transmits and receives at the same time, it must depend on the Doppler frequency shift produced by a moving target to separate the weak echo signal from the strong transmitted signal. A simple CW radar can detect targets, measure their radial velocity (from the Doppler frequency shift), and determine the direction of arrival of the received signal. However, a more complicated waveform is required for finding the range of the target. Almost all Federal agencies used some type of CW radar for applications ranging from target tracking to weapons fire-control to vehicle-speed detection.

Frequency-modulated Continuous-wave (FM-CW) Radar: If the frequency of a CW radar is continually changed with time, the frequency of the echo signal will differ from that transmitted and the difference will be proportional to the range of the target. Accordingly, measuring the difference between the transmitted and received frequencies gives the range to the target. In such a frequency-modulated continuous-wave radar, the frequency is generally changed in a linear fashion, so that there is an up-and-down alternation in frequency. The most common form of FM-CW radar is the radar altimeter used on aircraft or a satellite to determine their height above the surface of the Earth. Phase modulation, rather than frequency modulation, of the CW signal has also been used to obtain range measurement. The primary users of these radars are the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and USCG.

High Frequency Over-the-Horizon (HF OTH) Radar: This radar operates in the high frequency (HF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (3-30 MHz) to take advantage of the refraction of radio waves by the ionosphere that allows OTH ranges of up to approximately 2,000 nautical miles. HF OTH can detect aircraft, ballistic missiles, ships, and ocean-wave effects. The Navy and Air Force use HF OTH radars.

Scatterometer: This radar is employed on an aircraft or satellite and generally its antenna beam is oriented at various aspects to the sides of its track vertically beneath it. The scatterometer uses the measurement of the return echo power variation with aspect angle to determine the wind direction and speed of the Earth's ocean surfaces.

Precipitation Radar: This radar is employed on an aircraft or satellite and generally its antenna beam is scanning at an angle optimum to its flight path to measure radar returns from rainfall to determine rainfall rate.

Cloud Profile Radar: Usually employed aboard an aircraft or satellite. The radar beam is oriented at nadir measuring the radar returns from clouds to determine the cloud reflectivity profile over the Earth's surface.

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