The U.S. Air
Force has successfully tested new software for its JSTARS ground surveillance
aircraft, that enables it to spot ships, and small boats, at sea. The new
software takes into account the wave movement, which created a lot of false
hits, until new signal processing software was developed which, in effect,
prevented moving water messing up JSTARS view of what was on the surface.
The JSTARS radar has two
modes; wide area (showing a 25 by 20 kilometer area) and detailed (4,000 by
5,000 meters). The radar can see out to several hundred kilometers and each
screen full of information could be saved and brought back later to compare to
another view (to see what has moved). In this manner, operators can track the
movement of ground vehicles, or ships. Operators can also use the detail mode
to pick out specific details of what's going on down there, like tracking the
movement of many small missile boats trying to rush an American warship. JSTARS can stay up there for over 12 hours at
a time, and two or more JSTARS can operate in shifts to provide 24/7 coverage.
A radar, similar to what
the JSTARS uses, is being installed in a Global Hawk UAV. The navy is planning to use UAVs for a lot of
its future maritime patrol work.
Scanned Array (AESA) radar consists of thousands of tiny radars that can be
independently aimed in different directions. A recent improvement in the JSTARS AESA radar enables them to spot
smaller, man sized, objects. AESA type radars have been around a long time,
popular mainly for their ability deal with lots of targets simultaneously, and
produce a more accurate picture of what is out there. Production versions of
the open water JSTARS radar software won't be installed in deployed aircraft
until next year.