Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems division has upgraded its SeaVue maritime surveillance radar, incorporating a situational awareness package that has been fielded with the U.S. Navy and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and is now available for export. The SeaVue expanded mission capability (dubbed XMC) software upgrade enhances small-target detection and tracking in high sea states and significantly eases operator workload, according to Raytheon.
SeaVue is a family of lightweight, modular, X-band surveillance radars. They provide inverse synthetic aperture, synthetic aperture radar and moving target indicator modes as well as a weather detection and avoidance mode. The mechanically scanned system, consisting of a transmitter, processor and antenna, can be adapted to different fixed- or rotary-wing platforms, with nose-mount or belly-mount antennas.
“We try to maximize our system performance based on the constraints of the platform,” said Brad Hopper, Raytheon senior manager for business development in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems mission area.
The means to detect small targets in high sea states is a Raytheon strength, he said. The capability was developed for the U.S. Navy to detect “short exposure” periscopes during high sea states, a requirement of the Cold War era. The same technology proves useful today in detecting stealthy craft known as self-propelled semi-submersibles used to transport illicit drugs over thousands of miles, Hopper said.
The SeaVue XMC incorporates ocean surveillance initiative technology, including streaming digital video, developed by Raytheon with the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, CBP and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.Attributes include automatic detection and tracking of thousands of maritime targets simultaneously, an order of magnitude improvement over standard radars tracking hundreds of targets, Hopper explained. The radar tracks are correlated with ship automatic identification system (AIS) data tracks, allowing the radar operator to quickly sort out noncooperative targets from those using AIS–the maritime equivalent of the identification friend or foe system–to identify themselves.
The upgrade incorporates precision tracking algorithms designed to maintain tracks on small targets in congested littoral waters. “It’s critical in a very congested littoral environment, where there can be thousands of targets, to be able to track all of those quickly,” Hopper told AIN. “This is a significant issue for many of our customers.”
According to Raytheon, the XMC upgrade significantly reduces operator workload from a standard radar system. “It allows the operator to intelligently sort through the target field with attributes such as location of the vessel, heading, speed and ship length, to name a few,” Hopper explained. “This allows the operator to quickly locate potential threats in a given area and be able to sort through those and single out the things he really needs to look at.”
The CBP was the first to deploy the SeaVue XMC capability, completing flight trials in May 2010. The radar is operating on the agency’s Bombardier DHC-8 aircraft, P-3 Orion and marinized version of the General Atomics MQ-9 Predator B called the Guardian, which adds SeaVue radar and electro-optical/infrared sensor. The U.S. Navy has been using SeaVue on a classified platform.
The CBP’s office of air and marine branch operates 270 aircraft, including two Guardians and five Predator Bs. Following operational testing, the Guardian was to be deployed to “drug source and transit zones to support joint counter-narcotics operations.” The mission points to the versatility of the SeaVue radar, which can be applied for drug enforcement, border surveillance, exclusive economic zone monitoring, oil-spill detection, anti-piracy and other missions.
“There is an increasing need for homeland security, not just the ability to protect your own borders, but also as part of an international coalition,” Hopper said. “It’s the small vessels that go out and highjack the large ships. The ability to monitor and detect those in a vast ocean under high sea state conditions, that’s exactly where our systems play very well.”
The SeaVue XMC system used for the unmanned Guardian is divided into two parts, Hopper said. Some of the radar processing is done on the platform; the operator interface and some of the tracking algorithms are based at the ground station, controlled by the operator.
The XMC situational awareness package has been incrementally upgraded to the final configuration now being offered to the U.S. domestic and international markets. “It’s had a lot of operator input into its development,” Hopper said. Late last year, the SeaVue XMC was approved for export to Morocco.
Raytheon has delivered more than 1,900 maritime radars worldwide, fielded on a range of platforms including the U.S. Navy’s new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft with upgraded Raytheon AN/APY-10 radar, the P-3, Beechcraft King Air 350, De Havilland Canada DHC-8 and Predator Guardian. About 500 radars are still operating, including 150 SeaVue systems used by Japan, Mexico, Italy, Australia, the UK, Thailand, Norway, Pakistan and Taiwan. In Australia, SeaVue radar has logged 150,000 operational flight hours as part of that country’s Coastwatch program, operated by the Australian customs service.