Thales has unveiled a new dual-axis multibeam active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar designed to provide surveillance and target indication for small warships, offshore patrol vessels and amphibious/afloat support shipping.
Designated NS50, the rotating, single-face X-band system is the latest addition to Thales’s family of 4D AESA radars (the company uses the term ‘4D’ to characterise radars able to provide Doppler measurement as well as bearing, range and elevation information). Sharing significant commonality with the company’s NS100 and NS200 S-band air surveillance radars in terms of software and architecture, NS50 is being positioned to replace the Variant radar in the Thales radar portfolio.
Smaller warships and amphibious/auxiliary vessels have typically been fitted with 2D radars limited to providing range and bearing information only. This necessarily limits the quality of air/ surface detection, tracking and classification performance provided to the host ship.
“We are launching NS50 to address this market, and provide small ships and support vessels with the benefits of a true 4D AESA multifunction radar,” said Serge Adrian, Thales’s senior vice president for surface radar. “So NS50 will bring similar performance benefits as our other 4D AESA radars, albeit with a lower range.”
He continued: “The new 4D technology we provide increases dwell time on target and gives our users the access to a level of information that wasn’t accessible before.
Furthermore, our 4D technology provides a combination of surveillance and weapon support functionality.”
The principal innovation being introduced with NS50 is an ‘ultra-thin’ AESA antenna made up of a number of XARA (X-band active radar array) tiles, Each XARA tile comprises 16x16 transmit/ receive elements.
Two NS50 variants are being offered to market. The NS54, which uses eight XARA tiles, is seen as a direct replacement for Variant, while the NS58 (featuring 16 XARA tiles) is a more powerful radar that would provide corvettes with a range capability similar to the previous MW08 C-band radar.
NS50 features two operational modes. In standard air/surface surveillance mode, the antenna rotates at 15rpm. In defence mode, the rotation rate is 60rpm to increase the update rate and provide track quality sufficient for fire control against surface targets.
Another advantage touted by Thales (Hall B, Stand B56) is the software-defined functionality of NS50. According to the company, its radar product ‘road map’ will enable the introduction of new techniques and waveforms through life, and allow NS50 to leverage new software-based modes transposed from the larger NS100 and NS200 systems.