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Radar Breakthrough

This looks like a pretty slick technology:

Lockheed for the first time has been testing a digital beam array to locate and track live targets--in this case, commercial and military aircraft coming in and out of the Philadelphia area. "The hard part was how we combined all the data ... to form the individual beams," Scott Smith, program manager for the radar system at Lockheed, tells PM. Commercially available high-speed digital electronics and advanced signal processors have become advanced enough to allow this data processing to occur, and that in turn has enabled digital beamforming to become practical for use outside a lab.

It will be helpful for ATC, but it has obvious military applications:

Digital beamforming radars will likely find their first homes on ships that track missile threats to U.S. fleets. Those threats will come from ballistic launches hundreds of miles away or from high-speed missiles launched from submarines or warplanes. The Russian government has been busy selling sea-skimming, antiship missiles to China that are designed to overwhelm the U.S. fleet's radars, so the ability to track multiple, fast-moving threats could become vital in the Taiwan Straits. But a digitized phased array radar can handle many incoming signals at once, and should be able to discern real threats from bits of metal or shaped decoy balloons.So somewhere a Chinese admiral is frowning at Lockheed's news, and a Taiwanese general is smirking.

Expect the usual suspects, any minute, to claim that it is "destabilizing" (a phrase they use any time the US comes up with a better way to defend itself).


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Leland wrote:

The article itself mentions the destabilizing aspects. I think the issue is whether that really is bad from a US standpoint.

Sam Dinkin wrote:

I think the destabilizing effects are illusory and the advance is useful, but minor. One still has to use something other than radar signature to identify warheads from decoys and one still has to shoot down the warheads. Or still has to shoot down all of the anti-ship missiles. That is, tracking capacity going up is piece one in a many-piece puzzle that may still be moot if the number of targets is doubled yet again. That may reduce the question to one of whether the technology costs less to deploy than the countermeasure that would defeat it.

Even as a minor advance, the sum of all minor US advances appears to indicate we are expanding our lead versus the rest of the world's militaries, but not enough to impose our will over others' vetoes except occasionally in an Iraq-sized part of the world.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on January 29, 2008 12:02 PM.

Space And Nanotechnology was the previous entry in this blog.

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