Paris Air Show

Galileo’s Seagull takes flight

 - June 12, 2007, 9:27 AM

Galileo Avionica, the Italian division of Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems, is showcasing a new family of airborne sensors named “Gabbiano” (Italian for seagull). The modular airborne surveillance radars tap the combined expertise of the Finmeccanica group’s newly combined Italian and UK sensor businesses, which in the past have developed light maritime radars such as the RDR 1500 and the APS-717. The new systems will be adaptable to a variety of platforms ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to maritime patrol aircraft.

The Gabbiano is an X-band pulse Doppler radar that can provide medium-range maritime detection capability, as well as offer search-and-rescue (SAR), intelligence, surveillance and airborne reconnaissance (ISAR) modes and a ground moving target indicator (GMTI). The system’s core is a receiver exciter processor that can be coupled to transmitters of varying capacity and to antennas of increasing diameter.

To maintain the highest operational flexibility, Galileo Avionica decided to exploit the X band, which provides optimal maritime performance. In the SAR/ISAR modes, it ensures a submeter resolution, avoiding the dramatic performance decrease in adverse weather conditions typical of millimeter wave radars such as those in Ku-band.

The design parameters for the Gabbiano were the result of company market analysis carried out in 2004. The program received a green light the following year and the research-and-development team currently is about halfway through the development process.

The basic version of the Gabbiano family is starting the integration process and will progressively receive operational software releases, most of which are based on technologies developed by Galileo Avionica with its long radar heritage. This process should allow first customer deliveries to be made in the second half of next year.

The T20 version of the Gabbiano is based on a 20-watt solid-state emitter, with its low emitting power ensuring low detectibility. It also employs a mechanical-scanning 29-inch belly-mounted antenna, which provides a 360-degree surveillance range over about 80 nm (and twice as far in weather mode). When the radar is used in the GMTI mode, the lower side lobes typical of a mechanical-scanning antenna provide better protection against ground clutter than an electronically scanning antenna would.

According to Galileo Avionica, the Gabbiano will offer a distinct edge in terms of weight, dimensions, power absorption and cooling needs. Tapping the family’s modular design, two more versions are being considered, both based on traveling wave tube transmitters–the T200, with a power of about 200 watts, and the T500, with more than 500 watts.

To fully exploit higher emitting power, bigger antennas–such as those developed for the European Navy Radar used on board the NH-90 naval helicopter–can also be used as part of the Gabbiano concept. In addition, a nose version of the antenna is planned, which will provide a scanning range of approximately 90 degrees.