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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

18 September 2015

DSEI 2015: Thales' SEARCHMASTER - "The 5-in-1" package

Thales has its latest SEARCHMASTER airborne multi-role AESA surveillance radar on display at DSEI. Operating in the X-band, the versatile SEARCHMASTER is capable of conducting multiple missions including ASW, ASuW, maritime surveillance, ground surveillance and mapping, and air tactical support. However, in the air-to-air mode, it does not give the altitude of the targets that are being tracked which according to Oliver Ageorges, a former TACCO on the French naval air arm's Atlantique 2 (ATL2) aircraft and now an operational advisor to Thales, is perfectably explainable as AEW&C use optimised radars in order to achieve this. This is why SEARCHMASTER will complement other radars such as SEARCHWATER for instance. In the ground surveillance role, the new radar has ground moving target detection and tracking functionality as well as a strip SAR mode.

The radar's ISAR mode provides its operators with excellent imagery of potential targets at ranges well in excess of those provided by EO/IR cameras. IFF capability is integrated into the radar's architecture with four antennas being used for this purpose. Selected as a part of an upgrade programme for the ATL2, SEARCHMASTER is also compatible with smaller aircraft such as UAVs and the ubiquitous Beechcraft twin prop special mission aircraft due to its weight of 77kg. Typical features of the surveillance radar include its ability to scan 360 degrees or a specific sector, its multi RF channels for high accuracy tracking and the fact that it uses digital waveform generation with a high throughput COTS processor being used. Thales gives a a maximum range of 200nm for Searchmaster while the company indicates that the radar can deal with up to 1,000 tracks simultaneously, although it appears this would be reduced to 100 when pursuing land targets. Thales also touts its low probability of intercept while the MTBF is given as around 2,000 hours.

SEARCHMASTERis set to undergo its first flight in late 2015 or early 2016 according to Ageorges who when speaking to MT indicated that this very much depends on the speed with which the software needed to accommodate SEARCHMASTERon the ATL2 is being developed. However, this falls outside the scope of Thales' activities as this is being done under auspices of the French defence procurement agency DGA.
Pieter Bastiaans

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