Navy researchers need help to upgrade software-defined radar for wide-area search

Feb. 1, 2018
U.S. Navy researchers are asking for industry's help to upgrade an advanced software-defined radar system designed for wide-area search and obscured target detection.

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. - U.S. Navy researchers are asking for industry's help to upgrade an advanced software-defined radar system designed for wide-area search and obscured target detection.

The MP-SAR radar has been tested aboard a Navy NP-3D four-engine turboprop research aircraft to detect potential IEDs and other threats over swaths nearly eight miles wide.

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) officials at Stennis Space Center, Miss., have issued a sources-sought notice (NRL-18-WR03) for the Synthetic Aperture Radar Development-Resources project to enhance the capabilities of the Northrop Grumman multi-band synthetic-aperture radar (MB-SAR).

Northrop Grumman developed the MB-SAR and delivered it to the NRL in 2010. The Navy has used the system for a variety of advanced-detection projects such as Arctic sea ice mapping, counter-IED operations, downed World War II aircraft location in the Pacific and in Greenland, and special target imaging.

NRL researchers want to develop new capabilities in the MB-SAR's radar and optical data acquisition, processing, and analysis, and integrate these technologies aboard Navy aircraft for use in the field. On NRL's agenda is developing and improving SAR data acquisition, signal-processing and -exploitation algorithms, data screening and compression techniques, and ways to disseminate this information to military users. This requires developing hardware, software, and algorithms to exploit active and passive signals to detect, track, image, and identify targets within permissive and contested areas using either a single or distributed RF architecture.

The MB-SAR system has benefits to the military. Legacy radar systems typically have been designed with specific applications in mind which limited the information from the sensor data.

The software-defined MB-SAR, however, offers more flexible RF sensing and multiple exploitation layers over a wide area from one sensor stream. In contested environments, moreover, the system may present opportunities to exploit passive sensing using signals of opportunity.

This upgrade project will involve improving the MB-SAR radar antenna subsystem to extend its range and cover additional portions of the frequency spectrum. NRL researchers also want to reduce the MB-SAR's size, weight, and power (SWaP) requirements for use in unpressurized aircraft compartments or pods.

NRL also wants to develop and test new detection algorithms for single-look, coherent, and non-coherent change detection. Researchers are interested in geolocation, and tracking moving targets such as move-stop-move, low-velocity movers, and low-radar-cross-section objects.

NRL also is interested in new algorithms for advanced SAR imaging for targeting, classification, interferometric SAR, video SAR, ultra-fine resolution imagery, and 3D volumetric imagery - particularly in congested and contested environments. Also of interest is new software for compression, data integration, and visualization to preserve SAR change detection and target identification quality. NRL wants deep-learning and neural network capability for the MB-SAR to automate different system functions.

NRL officials plan a five-year project to upgrade MB-SAR capabilities.

More information is online at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Military Aerospace, create an account today!