C4iSR: Air

Farnborough 2018: Leonardo launches SPIDER COMINT system

20 July 2018

The SPIDER antenna array mounted on the baseplate. The array would be mounted on the belly of an aircraft, rotated through 180° from this view. Source: Giles Ebbutt

Leonardo unveiled its new Spider airborne communications intelligence (COMINT) system at the 2018 Farnborough Air Show.

SPIDER has been developed in the UK and operates in the 20 MHz to 6 GHz band, is designed to “detect, identify, analyse and geolocate” emissions.

Jan Boyes, head of ISR and air mobility sales, Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems, told Jane’s that the system is aimed primarily for use on fixed wing platforms similar to the King Air 350, on medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (MALE UAVs) and on helicopters.

SPIDER comprises a single antenna array mounted on a 1.4 x .4 m baseplate, which would typically be mounted on the belly of an aircraft within a fairing. Only two cable connections are required for power and RF. The onboard digital receiver and processing unit is mounted in a 4U 19-inch rack inside the aircraft or at the UAV ground station.

Boyes observed that the single antenna installation with minimum cabling considerably reduces the cost of airframe integration.

The system has an instantaneous digitised bandwidth of 100 MHz. Up to eight bands from across the system’s frequency spectrum can be viewed simultaneously, supporting detection of modern complex signals. It can perform up to 64,000 direction finding (DF) operations per second with a typical accuracy of 2° root mean square (RMS).

SPIDER includes adaptive digital beam-forming technology which enhances weak target signals despite the presence of stronger interfering signals.

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