C4iSR: Maritime

Face facts: Sea Fire multifunction radar takes shape for FTI frigate

21 October 2018

Key Points

  • Thales is developing the Sea Fire multifunction radar for the French Navy’s FTI frigate
  • A first fully populated AESA antenna face has begun tower testing at Limours

Thales Land & Air Systems – France has commenced far field antenna testing of its new Sea Fire S-band solid-state multifunction radar at its Limours integration and production facility southwest of Paris.

Sea Fire is being produced by Thales under a full-scale development and production contract for the French Navy’s five-ship Frégates de taille intermédiaire (FTI) programme. It is a scalable, software-controlled 3D multifunction radar using four fixed active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna panels to provide full 360° coverage in azimuth and 90° in elevation. Providing an update rate of up to 10 Hz, and a maximum instrumented range of 350 km, the system is designed to perform various tasks including volume search, low altitude surveillance, air/surface target tracking, environment mapping, fire control, full uplink support for Aster missiles, and kill assessment.

A first Sea Fire antenna panel is undergoing test at Limours. (Thales)A first Sea Fire antenna panel is undergoing test at Limours. (Thales)

Based on gallium nitride (GaN) high-power amplifier technology, Thales says that Sea Fire is the culmination of several years of research into new radar technologies and architectures conducted with the support of the Direction générale de l’armement (DGA). “We have in the past received a number of studies through [the] DGA,” said Remi Mongabure, Thales’ multifunction radar bids director – surface radar. “The two most important were for the development of the GaN power amplifier, for the analysis of digital beamforming techniques.”

Sea Fire is based on a modular, liquid-cooled AESA antenna design, which can be scaled according to the platform type and mission need. For FTI, each antenna face comprises 12 assemblies each hosting eight boards with eight transmit/receive channels for a total of 64 channels per assembly. “Each channel is independent and fully digitised, all under software control,” said Mongabure.

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