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IFC - Acquisition Radars

This information is grouped into the following sections:

From FM 44-1-2 ADA Referennce Handbook, 15 June 1984, see page 21 "Rings of Supersonic Steel"

Pulse Radar Fundamentals

"RADAR" is a short form of the name "RAdio Detection And Ranging".

  1. A radar set transmits radio waves out in a narrow beam (similar to a flash light beam).
  2. Some of the wave may hit an object and be reflected back (as an echo).
  3. Some of the echo is caught, amplified, and displayed by the radar set receiver.
  4. The time delay of the echo indicates the distance to the object.
    The direction of the beam indicates the direction of the object.
  5. The receiver displays the return signal on a display, with the echo as a bright spot or a raised blip.

There are two major types of radars, "pulse radar" and "continuous wave (Doppler) radar". (There is also a hybrid between the two sometimes called "Pulse-Doppler" used in Patriot radar. [thanks to Doyle Piland ])

(Also from Doyle Piland )
Chirp is another technology which is also used with pulsed radar. The general idea is to take advantage of the high power contained in a long pulse and still retain the range resolution of a short pulse. There are also other side advantages which makes it harder to use ECM against. Chirp simply uses a swept frequency, long pulse of up to 120 microseconds. I think the convention is the beginning of the pulse is the lower frequency and the high frequency is at the end of the pulse. When the return is received, the receiver delays different frequencies differently (called de-chirp). Thus, the energy contained in the return is compressed into a very short period of time, as if it were a short pulse. The Sentinel/Safeguard system made extensive use of "Chirp" techniques.

As Nike radars (except HIPAR - which I do not know) used "pulse radar", we will discuss "pulse radar".

Short Powerful Pulses The "pulse" radar set sends out a very short (0.2 micro second to 1 microsecond) very high energy pulse of radar waves - then listens for echoes of this energy pulse. The pulse of radar waves needs to be as strong as practical so that the echo can be detected as far as practical. For Nike radars, the peak energy rate in the pulses ranged from 250 kilowatts for tracking radars to over 1 megawatt for the LOPAR acquisition radars. The average transmitted energy is much less because most of the time the wave is not being transmitted. (The average transmitted energy from most radars is about the same as a home microwave oven.)

Some search radars such as the Nike HIPAR, and the airborne AWACS search radar use much higher average and peak powers. The AWACS uses klystrons rated at over 50 megawatt peak power and over 50 kilowatt average power. HIPAR is reputed to have used similar technology.

Radar Echos are caused by many things, birds, planes, ocean waves, metal buildings, metal ships, some weather conditions, and so on. The pulses are short so that the echoes are short so you can more easily tell when the echo starts and stops from a particular object. If the pulse is long, and there are many objects, several objects could be echoing at the same time from the same pulse, making resolution between objects difficult or impossible.

Make a beam - like a long range flash light

Radar usually uses the shortest practical radio waves because short radio waves can be focused into a narrow "beam" with a smaller antenna than long radio waves. This is especially important in ship and airborne radars, but still important in all practical movable, steerable radars.

"Short" radio waves for radar usually are between 1 meter (300 million waves per second or 300 megahertz) and 3 centimeters (10,000 million waves per second or 10,000 megahertz or 10 gigahertz). Longer wave lengths than 1 meter require inconvenient sized antennas for anti-aircraft sites, and wave lengths shorter than 3 centimeter are increasingly hampered by weather and moisture in the air.

The focusing ability of a lens or mirror type antenna is directly related to its width in wavelengths of the radar wave. The wider the antenna is in wavelengths the smaller the angle of the beam that contains 50% of the radiated energy. The smaller the angle of the beam, the farther the radar can see the target and the more precisely the angle of the target can be known. Nike tracking radars had an effective antenna width of about 150 wavelengths. (The antennas were actually physically a little larger, but there are edge effects which decrease the focusing effect of the edge areas.)

Nike tracking radars focused more than 50% of the radar pulse into a beam less than 1 degree wide, both horizontally and vertically. The acquisition radar beam was about 1 degree wide horizontally, but spread out vertically into a fan shape to see aircraft both near the horizon and also higher up.

Radar Range to any echoing object is measured by determining the delay between the transmitted pulse and the echo. The speed of a radar wave in air is about 300 meters per microsecond. (It varies very little with normal ranges of altitude and weather.) The round trip time for a radar pulse from transmitter to echo object to receiver is about 150 meters (164 yards). With electronics, measurement of the echo time to with in 5 meters is no technical challenge.

One Antenna is used for both transmitting and receiving. This is actually rather tricky, as the transmitter sends a pulse of energy to the antenna sufficient to cook or spark most receiving components, then with in a few micro seconds, the transmitter must be electrically disconnected from the antenna and the receiver connected. This is microsecond switching function is performed in the radar "wave guide" by a "duplexer" circuit usually using a "TR" tube (transmit/receive tube). Basically, the powerful radar pulse causes an arc in the TR tube (in the wave guide), and the arc, being a conductor reflects most the pulse away from the receiver connection, keeping the pulse from the delicate receiver components.

Download photo of a British TR tube

This Purcell interview mentions TR tube development, radar frequency troubles (water absorption line), and many other radar adventures.

The Magnetron

Before 1939, radar waves were created using rather standard vacuum tubes. The tube shapes were changed to permit shorter wires (higher frequencies) but even the best technology was limited to pulses of about 2,000 watts at about 700 megahertz (700,000,000 waves per second). There was great desire to get higher frequency (for tighter beams with smaller antennas) and higher power (for longer range).

In 1939, the British developed a remarkably simple method of generating an intense pulse of radar waves. This was the multi-cavity magnetron The arrival of the secret working British prototype magnetron into the U.S. caused great hope and excitement. The British prototype could deliver 10,000 watt pulses at 3,000 megahertz. This was 5 times the power (great!) at 4 times the frequency (wonderful!) of the best current technology. And the current technology seemed just about at its maximum (the components and systems had been pushed and tweaked extensively). And the newly developed magnetron from the British was just a research prototype - there could be room for big improvements.

This was a stunning "breakthrough". See "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975)" for further details. The British prototype was certainly improved in the U.S. for much higher power, manufacturability, stability, frequency adjustability and range, and other factors, but the impact of this basic invention on the successful Allied radar development was very great. It turns out that the mass manufacture of high performance magnetrons is much more tricky than first imagined. There were whole new worlds of large glass/metal seals, permanent high vacuum evacuation of machined metal castings, manufacturing tolerance of the cavity size and shape, cathode resistance to back bombardment, etc to be solved. Bell Labs and Western Electric made more than 100,000 magnetrons of various frequencies and powers for World War II.

This is an Allaire interview that describes a bit of the additional development work. This Bainbridge interview describes other radar related adventures of the times.

This "tube" helped guide the British fighter planes in the "Battle of Britain" bombings and gave the British (and the Americans) an advantage in the radar race until the Germans also developed one (from a downed British bomber?).

The 3,000 megahertz magnetron perfected from the British prototype had a very large (30 pound, 14 kg) magnet with a metal and glass "tube" about the size of a hockey puck (small can of tuna). (Higher frequency, shorter wavelength magnetrons and magnets are smaller and lighter.) It had a peak power of 1,000,000 watts (an improvement by a factor of 100). It was rugged and reliable.
The above is a diagram of a magnetron (with out output loop)
Download photo of a British magnetron

Notes about the photo - The large glass part is to help prevent the high voltage from the cathode circuit from arcing to ground. You may notice the two contacts on the top the the glass section. These allow for cathode heater current (remember vacuum tubes had a hot part called the cathode to "boil off" electrons into the vacuum?). A special 5ish volt transformer was used which permitted the whole cathode to be at 18,000 volts during the short (about 1 microsecond) time the magnetron "fired". The black magnet and other parts stayed at "ground" (zero volts).

There were many interesting effects in the magnetrons (as in most of the other radar components). For instance, after the cathode was heated by the filament current, and the magnetron was pulsed with the high voltage pulses, there were so many electrons that would gain energy then come crashing back to the cathode that the cathode would over heat unless the cathode heater current was reduce or eliminated.

For a more detailed description of how a magnetron works, see The Magnetron Tube, Structure and Operation . This describes a microwave oven magnetron, which does not have the pulse width and tunability requirements of a radar magnetron, but the principle is identical.

For a detailed description of how a radar magnetron works, see Magnetrons.

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The Modulator - A special circuit (modulator) would suddenly put a high voltage and current across the magnetron and out would come powerful radar waves. In the LOPAR acquisition radar, the modulator put about 18,000 volts and 100 amps through the hockey puck sized "tube" of the magnetron, and out would come about 1,000,000 watts of radar waves. This pulse would last about 1 micro second, and would be repeated 500 times per second.

The most noticeable component of the LOPAR modulator was the hydrogen thyratron tube. This tube was about 24 inches tall and about 5 inches in diameter. This was the tube that switched the 18,000 volt 100 amp current mentioned above on very quickly, about 0.05 microsecond. The hydrogen gas in this big tube glowed violet when it was working. A "delay line" circuit was used to help limit the length of the pulse.

This modulator tube took about 15 minutes to warm up properly. (Every thing else in the Nike system warmed up adequately in 5 minutes or less.) A 15 minute timer prevented the tube from being used during this warm up period. (There was a timer over-ride circuit so that it could be used sooner in a "battle emergency".) One night during the beginning of a routine alert, the captain got impatient waiting for this timer and activated the over-ride switch after about 10 minutes. The tube seemed to work just fine, the radar worked fine, nothing bad seemed to happen.

The Nike tracking radars had physically smaller (higher frequency) components with about 1/4 of the peak power (250,000 watts) and 1/5 the pulse width (0.18 microseconds).

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the Klystron another microwave source

In 1937, just before World War II, a device called a klystron was developed by the Varian brothers in California. In 1939 a handy form of "klystron" called a reflex klystron was developed in England by Robert Sutton.

During World War II, the klystrons were primarily the reflex type and were used primarily as low power (milliwatt) oscillators in test equipment and radar and microwave receivers.

By the 1950's, there was a considerable demand for high power (kilowatt average power) microwaves, but with more precise control than could be generated by magnetrons. The customers were communications, medicine, science including particle accelerators, and radar. The Varian brothers, with the patents and the skills, did very well. Soon klystrons with average powers of 50 kilowatts and peak powers of 50 megawatts were available. To achieve the high current electron beam densities at these powers, powerful magnets (usually electromagnets) surround the tube. To get the most power from each electron in the beam, very high (100,000) voltages are typical.

These powers were impractical with magnetrons. The klystrons could deliver both the higher powers and also could amplify low level precise signals to these high powers. The klystrons were much larger (up to 2 meters long) and with their magnetic solenoids quite heavy (500 kilograms) and more expensive ($50,000), and more troublesome to keep running (required vacuum pumps) but they could be much more powerful and precise than magnetrons.

Power klystrons, such as described above have power gains (output signal/input signal) of over 10,000. As a comparison, typical power transistor in your stereo has a power gain of 20.

The Nike HIPAR radar transmitter used a powerful klystron. 57 K Bytes. Image from Rolf Goerigk This one is about 5 feet tall 18 inches in diameter (including a focusing magnet - solenoid), and could output 10.4 megawatts peak pulse power - average power was 26 kilowatts. To help get that peak pulse power, 210,000 volts were used. This voltage gives more powerful X-rays that your doctor's office machine - yes - the tube was surrounded by a lead shield. The cooling system included 60 gallons of mixture of ethylene glycol and water (anti-freeze).

This class of tube does not sit happily in a glass tube and run unattended for years. The vacuum needed to be very high, and needed to be attached to a very good vacuum pump while in operation.

Because of possible rapid and precise changes of the frequency, amplitude, and phase of the output radar waves, very interesting receiver options are available to increase receiver efficiency (detect less reflective or further targets) and also to help suppress the effects of jamming (ECM).

Reflex klystrons were used as local low power ( 0.1 watt) microwave oscillators in many of the Nike radar receivers and test instruments.

Radar (microwave) waveguides

Wave guides (some times called "radar plumbing") are simple and complex at the same time. Radio waves can travel inside of a conductive (copper) pipe as long as the inside circumference of the pipe is longer than 1/2 of the wavelength of the radio wave. (Low frequency radars require larger wave guides.)

Radar waves can go through the convenient coaxial cables (similar to your cable TV lines). However there are several problems:

Wave guides greatly reduce the above limitations and provide some interesting advantages:
For the above reasons, wave guides are very popular in radar units, even though they are more expensive and bulky and much less physically flexible. The cross section for the LOPAR antenna is about 1.5 inches by 3 inches (about 3.5 cm by 7 cm). The cross section for the X band tracking antennas is about 0.5 inches by 1 inches (about 13mm by 26mm).

To provide better control of the various internal transmission modes, wave guides are usually constructed with a rectangular cross section. This limits some of the undesirable electrical modes possible in circular cross section wave guides.

All of the radars in the Nike system used wave guides. Almost all of the radars you have ever seen use wave guides. (The little radar receivers used to detect police speed radar "guns" use other methods.)

Most large acquisition radars have the magnetron in a fixed location. How do you get the radar waves from the fixed wave guide to the rotating wave guide if the radar "dish" is going round and round, and the magnetron is sitting in a fixed place?
A very practical question. The answer is a rotating microwave joint. At the center of rotation, the rectangular wave guide merges into a circular wave guide. The circular wave guide forms the center of the rotation. There is a trick used so that the copper of the rotating part does not need to touch the copper of the fixed part. Up in the rotating part of the antenna, the circular waveguide converts again to a rectangular wave guide and on to the feed horn (the part that lets the radar waves out into the air - or back again into the wave guide).

For various reasons, Nike tracking radars have the magnetrons and receivers in the rotating part of the antenna. Later when we discuss "How The Tracking Radar Points at an Object", these rectangular wave guides will split the energy from the feed horns, rotate the waves, combine the waves in a subtractive way, do some more electronic tricks, and get antenna pointing error information. Just like magic.

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Crystal Mixer

Most radios (including your AM/FM, TV, cellular phone, and radar set) convert the received radio waves to a fixed frequency for amplification. This conversion is actually much simpler than trying to tune about 5 high gain stages through the desired frequency range. This group of about 5 high gain amplifier stages is formally called the Intermediate Frequency Amplifier or more commonly called the IF Amplifier. This technique saves many "big time" amplifier design, fabrication, and adjustment headaches.

The usual frequency in most radar sets for the IF Amplifier is about is about 30 megahertz (give or take 10 megahertz). To convert an example input radar signal of say 5,000 megahertz down to say 30 megahertz for the IF Amplifier you generate a signal 30 megahertz away from the input radar signal (in this case 5,030 megahertz is fine). The unit to make this extra frequency is called the "local oscillator" or "beat frequency oscillator".

Put this "local oscillator" signal, and the input radar signal together into a "mixer". The output of the mixer will contain all of the input frequencies plus the sum of the input frequencies (10,030 megahertz, which is not used) and the difference of the input frequencies (30 megahertz) which is amplified by the IF Amplifier.

The local oscillator at radar frequencies is usually a little reflex klystron .

The mixer can be a radio tube below about 1,000 megahertz, but above this frequency the radio tube is too inefficient and noisy. A "crystal" mixer was used in almost all of the radar sets during the 1940s and 1950s, (and is still in common use today in many commercial radar sets). (During the 1960s, a "traveling wave" tube was developed which could be made to have even lower noise than the crystal mixer. This is used in some demanding military, space, and research receivers, and was used in the Nike HIPAR radar receiver.)

So - in 1939 the invention of the magnetron permitted reasonable radar above 1,000 megahertz, and reliable, rugged crystal mixers were developed as low noise mixers to handle this higher frequency range. The research at Bell Labs that helped create those crystal mixers led directly to the invention by Bell Labs of the transistor a few years after the war and to the continuing semiconductor revolution and to your computer.

We adjusted the local oscillator power going into the crystal to give a crystal current of about 2 milliamperes. Too little power gave lower mixer efficiency, too much power gave more local oscillator generated noise.

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Radar Receivers

Radar receivers are very similar to your usual TV receiver, and in many ways simpler because we don't have to play such interesting games processing the audio and color video. So we will just consider the TV "front end" through to the beginning of the audio and video (throwing out about 3/4 of the TV electronics.

All of the components are similar in function, and most are almost interchangeable with a radar set. The big difference is the front end where the incoming frequency is much higher. We will see that we quickly reduce the frequency to TV IF (intermediate frequency) and any TV repair person can take it from there.

Tuned Circuit 60-500MHz 9000-10,000MHz reduce undesired frequencies
Mixer a tube
or transistor
a crystal output difference between signal and oscillator
Oscillator 87-527MHz 9030-10,030MHz produce "beat frequency" for mixer, could be a klystron
Auto Freq Control same same (AFC) controls frequency of oscillator
AFC gate tracks sync pulse tracks magnetron pulse track only transmitted signal
IF strip 27 MHz . increase signal to desired voltage using single frequency
. . 30 MHz (acquisition radar) this lower frequency reduces noise
. . 60 MHz (tracking radar) higher frequency to increase range resolution
Auto Gain Control same same control gain of IF strip
Gain Gate tracks sync pulse tracks target control gain of desired object
Detector same same convert intermediate freq to video

More correctly, military radar receivers are somewhat different from your TV in internal details to increase ruggedness, testability, maintainability, and to reduce the effects of various forms of enemy jamming. The field is large and complex and is beyond our scope here.

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Building Your Own Radar Set

We have described many of the interesting radar components above. If we could visit a radar component supermarket (close out sale today), we could select components and build our own radar. Actually millions of people assemble components for their IBM clone computers and survive about the same complexity. There is a big difference in size, weight, voltage and powerful microwave radiation hazard. The general schematic would be:

The components and their uses are:
Component Comments
Start_Pulse_Generator One pulse a few microseconds before each radar pulse
Power Supply 18,000 volts, otherwise a bit boring
Modulator Sends a powerful 1 micro second pulse to the magnetron
Magnetron Makes powerful radar waves (for 1 micro second)
TR Tube Keeps most of powerful radar waves out of the receiver
Receiver Amplifies the returned radar waves, giving video
Display Tube Shows the return radar waves/video to the operator (PPI) (A scope)
Tracking Unit Helps follow the selected signal in range, azimuth, elevation

I must apologize to designers of military radars who add many small enhancements to reduce the effects of enemy jamming (and accidental friendly jamming). These enhancements may include:

And the above list is for magnetron oriented pulse radars. This is the usual radar for private use, boats and ships, etc. The klystron based radars are not so common outside of military and research (such as imaging asteroids) use. Anti-jamming using these radars can be even more can be even more exotic.

Or you can WOW your neighbors and buy major Nike system components, see How to get Nike Parts? .

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Acquisition Radar (the wide eyes)

The Acquisition Radar is a most interesting looking radar. It is large and has motion, going round and round. It is often called a "surveillance" radar, providing the slant range and azimuth (direction) of all the radar visible objects in the area 5 to 10 times a minute.

Usually surveillance radars have a longer wavelength than the tracking radars, as minimum beam width is less important. In the case of Nike, the LOPAR surveillance radar had a wave length of 10 centimeters (about 3,000 megahertz). (The Nike tracking radars had a wavelength of 3 centimeters or less.)

The HIPAR surveillance radar had a wave length of 23 centimeters (L-band, about 1,300 megahertz) and an effective range against large high-flying non-stealth aircraft of about 200 miles. The HIPAR radar had a large control building. There was very sophisticated pulse generation, and multi-channel receivers with unique moving target indicators (MTI) and great deal of anti-jamming capability. It was made by General Electric.
A Nike HIPAR radar antenna with out protective radome, image is 74 K Bytes
(Photo credit - page 303 "Jane's Radar and Electronic Warfare Systems", 18th edition.) There is information that this picture does not include: 1) an anti-jamming antenna at the top of the main antenna, 2) two small antennas on each side, 3) an IFF antenna.
A Nike HIPAR FAN radar antenna , image is 53 K bytes.
(Photo credit Rolf Goerigk
A Nike HIPAR radar antenna with protective radom, image is 60 K Bytes
(Photo credit - adapted from Bill Benson ,
Note that the HIPAR antenna is high on a pedestal. There are 2 main reasons,
1) have the high power beam safely above any near by personnel
2) to gain a little range over the curvature of the earth.
Drawing of HIPAR Station image is 71 K Bytes
Image from Rolf Goerigk

From Rolf Goerigk, Specification for the HIPAR include:
Polarization horizontal
Antenna Gain CSC2 antenna = 34.8 dB = 3020 ("CSC2" stands for co-secant squared, a vertical pattern optimized for aircraft detection at low and high altitudes and ranges)
FAN antenna = 29 dB = 790
Beamwidth 1.2 deg Azimuth at 3 dB
1.3 to 7.1 in elevation
FAN 1.35 deg at 3 dB
Vertical Coverage 0 to 60 deg., 46 km height, 425 km length
Antenna Speed 6.6 and 10 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)
Azimuth Accuracy > 0.25 deg.
Noise max. 6.5 dB (1005 deg. Kelvin)
Reflector Dimensions height 6.3 m (20.6 ft.), width 13.11 m (43.0 ft.), 82.6 sq. m (900.9 sq. ft.) - BIG
Pulse Width 6 microseconds
RF Freq Range 1350 - 1450 MHz (10 channels)
RF Power: nominal: 10.4 MW / 26 kW average

The HIPAR radar was very expensive, and was only used at selected Hercules sites. The other Hercules sites had "Alternate Battery Acquisition Radar"(ABAR) radar which was not so sophisticated, not so long range, and not so expensive. There were three models called "ABAR", the models were identified as AN/FPS-69, 71, and 75.

A catalog description of the AN/FPS-71 included the following phrases:

Peter DeMarco wrote about the AN/FPS-75

The ABAR we had in Alaska was the AN/FPS-75. I can't compare it to HIPAR but it had a range of about 200 miles and the ECCM equipment on it was very sophisticated. There were 6 different radar presentations I could view at the same time. Lots of buttons and lights.

LOPAR Radar Photo credit, the Greek magazine "Modern Air Force & Navy", April 1998, Leonidas Blaveris (Nike articles by Pericles Zorzovilis) (49 K bytes)

The LOPAR radar was very much like the original Nike Ajax (and M-33 gun) acquisition radar but with reduced pulses per second to match the longer range HIPAR radar or the ABAR radars mentioned above. It provided another "eye to the sky" and another problem for enemy jammers.

From Rolf Goerigk, Specification for the LOPAR include:
Polarization horizontal
Antenna Gain CSC2 = 32 dB = 1600 ("CSC2" stands for co-secant squared, a vertical pattern optimized for aircraft detection at low and high altitudes and ranges)
Beam Angle 1.4 deg Azimuth
2 to 22 deg. Elevation
Antenna Speed 5, 10 and 15 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)
Azimuth Accuracy 1 deg.
Noise 7.5 dB (1341 deg. Kelvin)
Overall Noise 8 - 9 dB (1540-2014 deg. Kelvin)
RF Freq. Range: 3.1 - 3.4 GHz
RF Power average 650 W, peak 1 MW
Pulse Width 1.3 microseconds
Band Width IF = 4 MHz, Video=2 MHz
Reflector Dimensions height 1.32 m, width 4.57 m, 5.6 sq. m

From Rolf Goerigk "As I first worked on site (1961). I was able to change the elevation by operating the ELEVATION switch on the ACQ control console and some hydraulic control under the ACQ-RADOM. During the early 60s the control was modified to electromechanic. It was possible to change elevation between 0 to 391 mils and to change the elevation mode too. Actually controlled was the point in mils when the cosecant-rods were driven in or out the lower part of the reflector, i.e. changing from pencil beam (long range) to cosecant (great height)."

Acquisition Radar Displays and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF)

The information from surveillance radar is customarily displayed with the "Plan Position Indicator" tube, abbreviated to "PPI scope". This is the big round CRT (TV) tube with the sweep going around all the time. Basically, you and the radar set are in the middle of this big round map, and the radar us showing you what is going on around you.

The "IFF" (Identification Friend or Foe) is basicly a series of coded pulses sent out at the same time and same direction as the surveillance radar pulse. It was sent out by separate IFF equipment. A "friendly" unit was equiped to respond to the coded pulses with another set of coded pulses. These were received by the IFF equipment, and usually displayed with the surveillance radar display. The system resembles the methods FAA aircraft controllers use to track commercial and other suitably equiped aircraft.

Enemy or accidental jamming can/will cause many other interesting displays on the tracking scopes. Go to jamming for more information.

The tube that turned on the pulse of current to the magnetron in the LOPAR Acquisition Radar Modulator (see above) took up to 15 minutes to warm up to operate reliably and not risk damage. There was a 15 minute timer to prevent operation (with a switch to override the timer in case of emergency).

The operator has a number of controls, the following are of special interest:

A PPI display with planes and jamming image is 35 K bytes.
(Photo credit Rolf Goerigk

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There are various unverified stories that in practice combat between the Air Force with their jamming equipment, and the Nike with their anti-jamming equipment, that the Nike successfully tracked the Air Force planes and would have had successful intercepts with the Hercules missiles. This was reputed to be true even when the Air Force used their best jamming equipment to try to confuse the tracking.

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Radar History
The following is from "Radar Technology", edi. Eli Brookner,
(C) 1977 ARTECH HOUSE, INC. ISBN 0-89006-021-5

Brief History of Radar
1886-1888 Heinrich Hertz demonstrates generation, reception, and scattering of electromagnetic waves
1903-1904Christian Hulmeyer develops and patents a primitive form of collision avoidance radar for ships
1922 M.G. Marconi (in acceptance speech for an honor) an angle-only radar for ship collision avoidance
1925 First short pulse echoes from the ionosphere are observed on CRT by G. Breit and M. Tuve of Johns Hopkins University
1934 First photo of short pulse echo from aircraft made by R.M. Page of Navel Research Lab.
1935 First demonstration of short pulse range measurements of aircraft targets, by British and Germans
1937 First operational radar built - the Chain Home in Britain, designed by Sir Robert Watson-Watt
1938 Signal Corps SCR-268 becomes first operational anti-aircraft fire control radar; 3100 sets eventually produced, Range, > 100 mi.; freq, 200 MHz
1938 First operational shipboard radar, the XAF, aboard the battleship USS New York, 12 mi ships, 85 mi aircraft
1941-DecBy this date, 100 SCR-270/271 Signal Corps early warning radars have been produced. One of these radars, located (near) Honolulu, detects Japanese planes approaching Pearl Harbor ...

This site shows further radar history Spotted by Donald E. Bender.

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Radar Frequency Bands
"Old style" naming convention
Band Frequency(MHz) Wave Length Comments & common usage
VHF 214- 236 130 cm ?
P 300 100 cm ?
UHF 425- 610 60 cm BMEWS (ballistic early warn)
L 1250-1380 23 cm Airport Surveillance, Nike HIPAR acquisition
. 1,421 21.11 cm Hydrogen (Radio Astronomy)
. 2,450 12 cm (magnetron in your microwave oven)
S 2700-3900 10 cm Sage, DEW line, Nike LOPAR acquisition
C 5300-5520 5 cm Height Finder, Patriot
X 9230-9404 3 cm Precision Approach, Nike Target Tracking (TTR)
Ku 16,000 18 mm Nike Target Ranging Radar (TRR), Mortar-location
K 20,000 15 mm ?
. 22,000 13.6 mm minor H2O absorption line
. 31,500 10.5 mm (Cosmic Background - "Big Bang")
Ka 35,000 8.5 mm nominal upper limit of traditional radar
40,000 7 mm used in outer space
. 60,000 5 mm major O2 absorption line, fog (clouds) becomes a major problem
Wavelength in cm = 30,000 / frequency in MHz

Although the higher frequencies permit much smaller antennas to get the same beam width, the higher frequencies suffer increasingly from from moisture in the air absorbing the radar waves. And also rain drops reflect them more giving an effect similar to chaff. The choice of radar frequency range for a particular application is a complicated compromise involving many factors.

Radio Frequency Naming Convention since 1969 from Rolf Goerigk
Band Frequency(MHz)
A 0 - 250
B 250 - 500
C 500 - 1000
D 1000 - 2000
E 2000 - 3000
F 3000 - 4000
G 4000 - 6000
H 6000 - 8000
I 8000 - 10000
J 10000 - 20000
K 20000 - 40000
L 40000 - 60000
M 60000 - 100000

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Range vs. Stealth
Notes on detectable range and "stealth" aircraft

Accidental Jamming - Pulse Radars (used in Nike)

There are many friendly sources of radar interference. Most folks worry about other friendly radars. However, these are not a big problem at a typical Nike site, or even a group of Nike sites very close together such as a Nike range at Red Canyon or McGreggor.

How can this be? Radars "shouting" all over the place, and no problem? Unbelievable! But oddly enough, there is no big problem. Here is why.

  1. Unlike human shouting, which spreads all over the place, (omi-directional ;-), there is a big attempt to build antennas to get most all the power of radar transmitter directed in a narrow beam, like a search light, or a narrow fan.

    The attempt is not perfect, but usually about 95 % of the energy gets directed as desired.

  2. Unlike human listening, which is gathered from all directions, the radar antenna is designed to be very sensitive to radar waves from the same narrow beam or fan, and to be as insensitive as practical to radar frequencies from other directions (very useful in reducing accidental or intentional interferrence).

  3. Unlike human shouting and listening, radars are sensitive to the very limited frequency to which they are tuned.

    Nike radar magnatrons tune over a range of +- 5% from their center frequency. And the receivers are tuned to be sensitive to roughly 0.1 % of that range.

    In effect, about 500 radars in one band (+- 5% ) could be tracking one target and not interfer with eachother with respect to frequency.

  4. And a number of radars using the same frequency, but somewhat different pulse repition rates could be looking at the same target and not cause much trouble. The pulse returns of the asychronous other radars appear and disappear at different ranges (seemingly at random or indicating improbably high speeds). Only the returns from your your radar appear are relatively constant or steadily changing in range.

Summation: Accidental jamming was not a significant problem in Nike sites, even when located close together as in firing ranges.

Except - Nike site SF-59 was reported to be jammed by the TV Channel 2 transmitter a half mile away.

Radar Jamming, Electronic Counter Measures (ECM)

The target may not wish to be observed, and/or may wish to reduce the effectiveness of the radar attempting to observe it.

One way to reduce the effective range of the radar is to reduce the reflectivity (ratio of energy reflected back) of the target. This is called "stealth" and is for aircraft designers, not us.

"Jamming" or "Electronic Counter Measures" (ECM) is a term used to describe active means of trying to prevent the radar system from working as well as intended. And of course radar designers actively try to defeat the ECM. It is a great (but deadly) game of radar counter measures, counter-counter measures, counter-counter-counter measures, played with very serious intent.

We will very briefly mention a few popular forms of jamming:

There are whole groups of techniques for each of the above. And there are many operational and equipment techniques used by the radar to try to counter the jamming techniques. Jamming and counter jamming is an overwhelming complex field, lets basically leave it alone in this introductory session. Just turning on your radar transmitter and radiating can give the enemy interesting information for present or future use. This game of cat and mouse is very interesting, and it is not always certain who is the cat.

Some of the nomenclature found by Don Bender include:

And thanks to Robert Noakes for nudging me into further reading and quoting the above book sections.

A web site involved with jamming is EW Tutorial, Table of Contents

A book recommended by Aidan Fabius via newsgroup sci.military.naval and Patrick Tufts recommends
... excellent book on the subject called "An Illustrated Guide To The Techniques And Equipment Of Electronic Warfare" by Doug Richardson (An ARCO Military Book) which has tons of info on that kind of thing. My copy is pretty dated (1985) but there's probably a newer version of it by now. There's about 20 pages on different jamming techniques and a really good introduction explaining how radar works and all the different types of radar. The book has plenty of pictures and diagrams, and is really easy to understand. I highly recommend it."
Patrick Tufts then found an almost local (for me) copy the book via Advanced Book Exchange.

For further information, see "An Illustrated Guide To The Techniques And Equipment Of Electronic Warfare"
and if that is not enough see "Radar Electronic Counter-Countermeasures" should provide more than enough.

There is a T1 manual on-line at T1 AN/MPQ-T1 (another site)(.zip -> .pdf files)(10 files totaling 6 Mbytes)

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Anti Radar Missile (ARM)

The ability of a target aircraft to carry and launch a missile to follow down your radar beam to your radar (and you) was just a future possibility in 1956. To put a useful radar tracker into a missile small enough to be handy is an interesting design and production challange.

In principle the aircraft being illuminated by the radar permits one of the aircraft's ARM missiles to lock onto that radar, and the aircraft can then "launch and forget" the ARM missile. The illuminating radar may be able to see the very small "radar cross section" of the missile at closer ranges, especially if the missile is currently in the major lobe of the radar.

I understand that that ARMs were used successfully in the Gulf War, if not previously. Unfortunately, at the present time I know nothing about them.

And then Bill Cahill responded to the above:
The actual category of weapons is called ARMs (Antiradiation Missile) while the HARM (High Speed Antiradiation Missile) refers to a specific weapon, the AGM-88. ARMS were first used in the Vietnam War in Mar 1966 by Wild Weasel 1 (F-100F) aircraft carrying the AGM-45 Shrike, the first ARM in the US inventory.

The Shrike, built by Texas Instruments, had different variants designed to home in on different frequencies. If the radar went off the air, the missile went stupid. The Shrike was essentially an air launched version of a semi-active radar homing surface to air missile, homing in on the target radar instead of a target illuminated by a host radar. Shrikes were effectively used by the US in Vietnam and Israel in the Middle East.

The AGM-78 Standard ARM augmented the Shrike in 1968, providing greater range and mission flexibility. The Standard was improved over the next 10 years, with many variants entering service with the USAF and USN.  Unlike the Shrike, the Standards can 'remember' where a radar is even if it ceases transmission. The ultimate (to date) ARM, the HARM, entered service in the mid 1980s. This high speed, maneuverable missile is currently in inventory with the USAF and USN and has replaced the Shrike and Standard.

And then Nicholas Maude responded to the above:
I just read the update, at the bottom you assert that the HARM is the best ARM around ,that is only partly correct. You are correct if you saying it is the best American ARM around. The best ARM around is the british aerospace ALARM, not is it more modern, it is half the weight of a HARM and is flexible since if it does not immediately detect its target ,it climbs to 70000Ft and deploys a drogue shute. It can stay in this mode for 15 minutes, if detectsthe target during this period it cuts lose and literally drops in detonating when it is beside the target in a vertical dive.

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Artillery Talk - yards, mils

Various groups use measurements of historical or practical significance. Examples are the jeweler's use the "carat" for weight and American's use of the old "English" system of measurements.

U.S. Artillery also uses measurements of historical significance. These units were in use 40 years ago.
unit S.I. (mks, metric) name an "English" name Artillery name
length meter yard yard
volume liter gallon gallon
force newton(*) pound pound
mass kilogram slug(*) .
plane angle radian degree or radian(*) mil(**) (equals milliradian)
time second second second
temperature degree Celsius or Kelvin(*) degree Fahrenheit degree Fahrenheit
(*) Units that only scientists or engineers love.
(**) The angle included by 1 unit at a range of 1000 units. 1 mil equals about 0.0573 degrees. This strange sounding unit is very handy in aiming and estimating errors in gun artillery and missiles. An azmuth error of 1 mil at a range of 25,000 yards is a miss by 25 yards. A tracking radar pointing error of 0.1 mils (0.00573 degrees) at range of 132,000 yards (75 miles) yields a "miss" of 13.2 yards. (A Nike warhead exploding 13 yards from a flying aircraft will instantly turn that aircraft into a falling pile of junk.)

In 1997, I asked Col. Moeller - - if these units were still in use. He kindly responded as follows:

"The only change that I can see would be that we seldom use yards any more, but describe that unit of measure in terms of meters. That ties in with our use of military grid overlays on maps which are done in meters and kilometers. Altitude is still done in thousands of feet, just like commercial airliners use, "Ladies and gentlemen, our cruising altitude today will be 30,000 feet." Mils are still used in the artillery as a more precise measurement than degrees, although degrees are used also. We still use pounds and gallons for measurement."

and "We us standard US weather lingo, definitely F, not C."

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Radiation Safety, Radar

J.P.Moore found this:

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Other sources of information

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If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen

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Updated March 29, 2002