New Developments on ASTOR Front

Following the selection of consortia led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon E-Systems (RES) as final bidders in the UK’s Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) competition, new details have emerged concerning the proposed radars. Lockheed Martin is proposing an entirely new radar, which is being developed by the UK’s Racal Radar Defence Systems (RRDS). The equipment is specification compliant and is being developed in close collaboration with the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). According to Lockheed Martin, a major element in the effort is the design of an appropriate antenna. RRDS has been pursuing work in this direction since 1990 and the associated processing capability stems from the generic processor technology the company has developed for use in its Searchwater 2000 maritime surveillance radar. Certain US technology in the design (reportedly sourced by US contractor Texas Instruments) is being employed as a cost- and risk-reduction measure. In terms of the system’s software, RRDS has validated approximately one-third of the necessary housekeeping and operational code, work that is being performed in cooperation with the DERA.

RES tentatively calls its radar the ASTOR Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARS)-2 Plus equipment. Based on the ASARS-2 radar, which is operational currently aboard U-2 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the US Air Force, RES characterises the ASTOR iteration of the design as a considerably modified variant that incorporates recent major upgrades in processing capability, exciter and receiver technology, and a new phased-array antenna. Assisting RES in the development of ASTOR ASARS-2 Plus are Hughes, the radar’s originator; UK contractor GEC-Marconi; and the DERA. GEC-Marconi is contributing synthetic aperture radar antenna expertise together with processing and electronic counter-countermeasures technology while the DERA is providing its processing algorithm capability. RES notes that the proposed system meets all UK Ministry of Defence specifications regarding performance, cost and risk, and that all the sensitive US technology inherent in the design is licenced fully for supply to the UK and, possibly, for potential North Atlantic Treaty Organisation customers.

In general terms, both competitors see the main problem inherent in the ASTOR requirement as subsystem integration rather than technology development. Again, both consortia stress that their solutions incorporate the growth potential necessary to maintain the system’s operational validity throughout a planned 25-year service life. In addition, the integration of an electro-optic long-range oblique photography subsystem into the ASTOR air vehicle is now reportedly a possibility, allowing the platform to meet the ASTOR radar surveillance requirement and the UK royal air force to replace its current fleet of Canberra PR.9 optical reconnaissance aircraft.

As scheduled currently, best and final bids from the competing consortia are due for delivery in July. The winner will receive a final development/initial production contract in early 1998. A major aspect of the best and finals process involves efforts to reduce overall programme costs. Options under consideration include deleting the air vehicle’s defensive aids system (which currently includes electronic support measures/radar-warning, dispenser, missile-warning and towed radar decoy subsystems), reducing the number of air vehicles procured, dispensing with an in-flight operator crew (with raw data being downlinked to a ground station for processing) and contractorising aspects of the programme such as training and/or system support.

Philips Develops Next-generation Automobile Key Immobiliser Systems

Netherlands contractor Philips Semiconductors has launched its Security Transponder (SECT) next-generation automobile key immobiliser technology, which utilises a cryptographic transponder embedded in the key. Within the system, the key and the automobile cryptographically process a random number (generated by the automobile initially); access is granted only if the results are the same. Any attempt to monitor the RF transmission between the key and the automobile reveals a string of random numbers and the specific system code sequence (which is stored in both the automobile and the key) is never transmitted. Accordingly, it is impossible to deduce the correct entry code from the data flow. For user convenience, SECT technology on an individual vehicle can be programmed to recognise a number of key codes and ultimately will be able to recognise the driver and optimise the vehicle’s mirror settings, seating position and driving performance to match the particular needs of the identified individual.

Philips plans to incorporate SECT technology in two distinct systems designated as SECTPLUS and Passive Entry. SECTPLUS provides the user with locking/unlocking facilities within the key that are similar to current RF or infrared systems. The key used is fitted with a battery power source that is recharged while the key is in the ignition (using an inductance loop), and the complete system is resynchronised regularly to overcome possible malfunctions. The Passive Entry application operates within a one-and-a-half-metre radius of the vehicle. Locking is effected by the operator moving out of the detection zone around the vehicle. Further security is provided by an integral driver authorisation zone, which covers the driver’s seat. Philips notes that this variant is equally applicable to keys and other devices such as watches and/or smart cards. As envisaged currently, the base line SECT IC (designated as the model PCF79735) uses a standard stick transponder package and retails at approximately $2 in volume production.

Marconi Instruments Launches Application-based Multisource Signal Generator

UK contractor Marconi Instruments Ltd. has launched its model 2026 multisource RF generator that reportedly solves many problems associated with such equipment through the use of an application-based man-machine interface (MMI). The equipment supports either two or three signal sources (identified as sources A, B and C), each of which is a 2.4 GHz signal generator supporting frequency, phase and amplitude modulation with independently programmable modulation sources. Each source can be switched to an individual RF output or to the unit’s integral combiner. RF calibration is handled by the equipment’s internal software, which is capable of optimising the RF connection system for each path. Combiner performance is guaranteed to a specified level.

For two- or three-tone amplifier intermodulation measurement, the MMI offers an amplifier intermodulation mode to set up the required interaction automatically and provide the user with the correct measurements. The operator needs only to input the carrier frequency, separation frequencies between carriers, RF level for each tone and whether or not the measurement will be two or three tone. A second application covers receiver selectivity measurement (with the operator setting the required receiver input frequency and level relative to the desired signal together with the interferer’s level and its frequency offset) while a third application covers intermodulation testing of receivers. Here, the operator inputs the receiver’s input frequency and level, and the interferer’s relative level and offset frequency. All application options are menu based.

Anglo-American Team Formed for Future Reconnaissance Vehicle

UK contractors GEC-Marconi and GKN Defence have teamed with US companies Texas Instruments and United Defense to form the Lancer team, which will compete for the next-generation Anglo-American armoured reconnaissance system. Dubbed TRACER in the UK and the Future Scout and Cavalry System in the US, the requirement calls for a survivable forward reconnaissance and scouting vehicle equipped with a multispectral, integrated, all-weather sensor suite capable of data communication with other surveillance assets and command, control, communications and intelligence networks.