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Raytheon, NRL deliver digital radar testbed to ONR

Raytheon Missiles and Defense has confirmed the delivery of an experimental digital radar testbed to the US Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Built in partnership with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the Flexible Distributed Array Radar (FlexDAR) combines element-level digital beam forming, network co-ordination, and precise time synchronisation to enable multiple missions – such as surveillance, communications and electronic warfare – to be executed simultaneously with a single array.

Raytheon was originally contracted for FlexDAR in 2014 as part of ONR's Integrated Topside (InTop) programme: an Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) effort to demonstrate the advantages of network-linked, distributed sensors that would serve as a testbed to explore next-generation radar functionalities.

FlexDAR comprises two experimental phased-array radars equipped with digital beam forming, communications, and network-linked, distributed radar tracking. The first phase of the FlexDAR programme saw Raytheon design the radar front-end and demonstrate all critical components and sub-assemblies. Subsequently, the company has built two identical multifunction array antennas.

NRL developed FlexDAR's back-end subsystems, which were integrated with Raytheon’s front-end subsystems at the company’s Rhode Island facility. Further integration and testing occurred at the NRL’s Chesapeake Bay Detachment in Maryland before FlexDAR was delivered to ONR at its NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

FlexDAR implements technology designed to offer enhanced capability for future radar sensors including software-defined digital re-configurability at the foundational level. The radar aperture is capable of using a very large portion of its operating band at once. It can expand to include future software upgrades.

According to Raytheon, the programme “demonstrates both radar and radar-to-radar communications functions so as to implement bi-static exchange and control. This provides increased detection and firm-track range, and improved electronic protection relative to existing standalone mono-static radars”.

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