Sanders develops one antenna that does the work of 18

NASHUA, N.H. - Engineers at Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company, in Nashua, N.H., are designing a multifunction antenna system that will reduce the number, signature, and weight of shipboard topside antennas.

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By John McHale

NASHUA, N.H. - Engineers at Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company, in Nashua, N.H., are designing a multifunction antenna system that will reduce the number, signature, and weight of shipboard topside antennas.

The system will combine four functions - UHF transmit/ receive communications; Joint Tactical Information Distribution System transmit/receive; identification, friend or foe transmit/ receive; and combat direction-finding VHF/UHF system - and replace a multitude of antennas with a single, low-observable structure.

Sanders officials are working under a U.S. Navy contract that centers on the Multifunction Electromagnetic Radiating System (MERS) program.

The completed antenna will be able to send in 18 different radio frequencies, says Richard Powers, Sanders MERS program manager. The key features are its low weight, and small size, and elimination of co-site electromagnetic interference.

The device has no processor; it is completely analog and connects to an A-D converter inside the vessel. Early plans for the antenna see it being a six-sided pyramid and 7 to 8 feet high, say Sanders officials.

Navy officials plan to install MERS initially aboard an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG-51), and plan to deploy it on the Navy`s next-generation surface combatant (SC-21). If successful, Navy leaders may order MERS in retrofits to the DDG-51s and to Ticonderoga-class (CG-47) guided missile cruisers.

The technology is also applicable to the new San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD-17), and to the future Arsenal Ship, officials say.

"For more than 40 years, the number of mast-mounted topside antennas has increased to meet the communications, radar, and navigation requirements of modern ships," says Sanders`s Powers. "This creates mechanical, antenna, and electromagnetic interference design problems for current-generation ships and adversely impacts the low radar cross section objectives of future ships. MERS will address some of these problems by combining multiple functions into a single, composite antenna structure, reducing weight and signature, and making the ship more survivable."

The work will be at the Sanders Surveillance Systems Division in Hudson, N.H., and is scheduled for completion in September, 1999. The Naval Command Control and Ocean Surveillance Center Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Center is the contracting agency.

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The Ticonderoga-class cruiser is candidate for the new Sanders antenna.

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