Who needs radar?

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 30 May 2007

Looking at the Head-Up Display (Hud) and the screens making up the SA Air Force's Hawk 120 Lead-in Fighter Trainer's (Lift) 'glass cockpit' during an air-to-air 'dogfight', it will be hard to grasp that the nimble fighter is not fitted with radar.

Instead it is fitted with a simulator, designed and perfected by Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE) of Midrand.

The Radar Simulation System (RSS) was tested at the SAAF's Test Flight Development Centre, located near Bredasdorp in the Western Cape, last year, and is now in use at 85 Combat Flying School at Makhado in Limpopo.

Initial results indicated the system was extremely stable up to ranges well within the required specification.

"The test pilot stated the tracked radar targets were displayed with acceptable accuracy in the Hud," says ATE director, Lorris Duncker. "The RF (radio frequency) data-link was checked down to ranges of 200m and performed extremely well at close range.

"All parties involved in the flight-testing were extremely impressed with the performance of the radar simulation, in particular BAE Systems - the prime contractor - who stated that the Lift RSS surpassed all existing radar simulations systems in performance and function in existence on its aircraft," Duncker says.

The need for such a system arises from the high cost of modern fighter radar systems. ATE argues that its system provides a cost-effective solution for training fighter pilots in the use of modern fire-control radar systems for air-to-air combat by using a radar simulation.

The RSS makes use of an RF data-link network established between Lift aircraft involved in the exercise, for the transfer of its own aircraft's positional data.

This positional data is then conditioned by the onboard mission computer on the co-operating aircraft in the network to render a real-time radar page; up to eight aircraft may be networked. Displayable on any of the six multifunction screens in the Lift's tandem glass cockpit, the radar page provides the pilot with radar target information, as if the aircraft was fitted with a real fire-control radar system.

All the major components were developed in SA.

The mission computers, on which the radar simulation software is hosted, were designed and built by ATE. The V/UHF radios used to establish the RF data-link network were developed by Reutech Defence Industries in KwaZulu-Natal. The audio management unit, which is a device that manages the V/UHF radios, was also developed by ATE, Duncker says, as was all software for the radar simulation, the dynamic symbols on the radar page and for the conditioning of data received from the RF data-link.

The RF data-link is based on a Saab Grintek-developed digital network protocol, which allows for the establishment of a digital network between suitable equipped military platforms, such as fighter aircraft, naval vessels and command and control centres. This digital network protocol is known as Link ZA and is the protocol used on the Lift radar simulation.

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