MBDA, working in conjunction with the University of Birmingham, is exploring a novel bi-static sensing technique for future long-range anti-ship missile systems that would use communications satellite constellations as ‘transmitters of opportunity’ to improve target localisation at range.
Initial experimentation has been performed under the recently completed Passive Missile-borne Radar (PAMIR) II study, part of the French/UK Materials and Components for Missiles Innovation and Technology Partnership (MCM IPT) programme. The technique has been identified as a candidate technology for the projected French/UK Future Cruise Anti-Ship Weapon (FCASW).
Over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles typically fly out steering to a commanded heading, using inertial mid-course guidance, but must then switch to a homing seeker in the latter stages of flight so as to acquire and home onto the intended ship target. For the majority of weapons this terminal phase function is performed by an active radio frequency (RF) seeker operating in either the I-band or J-band. However, the drawback of this approach is the loss of discretion when the active RF seeker is switched on.
The year-long PAMIR II study set out to examine whether a bi-static sensor could provide a complementary capability to localise surface targets (with a radar cross section of ~1,000 sq m) by comparing the direct signal from a transmitter of opportunity with indirect signals (reflections), and thus ‘collapse’ the search area/attack boundary for a terminal RF or electro-optical (EO) seeker. The approach adopted for PAMIR II makes use of satellites as ‘illuminators of opportunity’ (IOO), exploiting the significant increase in space-based transmitters to potentially provide near worldwide coverage, and an acceptable power budget for the reflected signal.
The PAMIR hypothesis has identified navigation (GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS) and communications (both low Earth orbit [Iridium, Globalstar] and geostationary Earth orbit [Inmarsat]) satellites as potential IOO. All these transmit in the L-band (1-2 GHz) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
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