Saab’s New Fighter Radar in the Air

Saab has successfully completed the first air trials with its new fighter X-band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which will be offered as a new addition to Saab’s PS-05/A radar family. Saab continues to develop core AESA technology and has now successfully completed the first air trials with the new X-band AESA radar. The trials were flown successfully, collecting data while detecting and tracking objects.

The radar is designed for fighter aircraft and can be adapted to a variety of platforms. As Saab previously announced, a version of the new AESA antenna has been sold to the US. Government customer. “This is an important step in the development of our new fighter AESA radar. We see great possibilities for the radar, and its modular, adaptable and scalable design means it can also be used for a range of other applications”, says Anders Carp, SVP and head of Saab’s business area Surveillance.

The host aircraft during the air trial was a Gripen D aircraft, which is currently offered with Saab’s latest Mk4 radar. The new version of the radar can be offered to Gripen C/D operators, as an upgrade.

The new AESA radar features GaN, a material that gives lower power consumption and improved heat resistance. This enables wider bandwidth and greater reliability, availability and efficiency. The new fighter X-band AESA radar will, for example, have better performance against small targets, enhanced Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) capability as well as improved ability to support more advanced weaponry.

Radar systems generally work by connecting an antenna to a powerful radio transmitter to emit a short pulse of signal. The transmitter is then disconnected and the antenna is connected to a sensitive receiver which amplifies any echoes from target objects. By measuring the time it takes for the signal to return, the radar receiver can determine the distance to the object. The receiver then sends the resulting output to a display of some sort. The transmitter elements were typically klystron tubes or magnetrons, which are suitable for amplifying or generating a narrow range of frequencies to high power levels. To scan a portion of the sky, the radar antenna must be physically moved to point in different directions.

The primary advantage of an AESA over the previously used PESA is the capability of the different modules to operate on different frequencies. Unlike the PESA, where the signal is generated at single frequencies by a small number of transmitters, in the AESA each module generates and radiates its own independent signal. This allows the AESA to produce numerous simultaneous "sub-beams" that it can recognize due to different frequencies, and actively track a much larger number of targets. AESA's can also produce beams that consist of many different frequencies at once, using post-processing of the combined signal from a number of TRM's to re-create a display as if there was a single powerful beam being sent. However, this means that the noise present in each frequency is also received and added.

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