General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) of California belatedly revealed that its Lynx multimode radar had been flown successfully on an aerostat during a U.S. Air Force exercise last July.
The exercise was held at NAS Oceana, Va., and was designed to explore whether aerostats could perform maritime surveillance in a littoral environment. Aerostats have been increasingly favored as a means of low-cost, persistent surveillance over contested land areas, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
GA-ASI president Linden Blue said that the Lynx integration with a near-stationary aerostat “presented many navigation system challenges.” But the exercise “validated the robustness of the Lynx Maritime Wide-Area Search [MWAS] mode and demonstrated that this capability is ready to transition to the military and border-patrol users on various types of manned and unmanned aircraft.”
The Lynx radar is carried on GA-ASI Reaper UAVs, which are normally employed on overland missions. The MWAS mode has been developed with algorithms optimized for detecting small vessels. Together with an improved GMTI mode, and a new SAR-aided alignment mode, the MWAS mode has now been added to American-operated Reapers, GA-ASI said.
Colorado-based SkySentry delivered the 28,000-cu-ft aerostat used in the July exercise to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battlelab last March. It was tethered at 1,000 feet and also carried an EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) sensor and the maritime automatic identification system (AIS). Operators used Lynx radar imagery and AIS responses to cue the EO/IR camera to targets of interest.