Leonardo Reveals New Lightweight Surveillance Radar

 - May 3, 2016, 12:01 PM
The three flat-panel antenna locations for the Osprey radar on the AW101 helicopter are indicated here. (photo: Finmeccanica)

Italy's Leonardo group (the new name for Finmeccanica) is marketing a multimode surveillance radar that electronically scans 360 degrees without using a "spinning" antenna. The company says the new product, named Osprey, is the world’s first lightweight e-scan system with no moving parts. The first radar has already flown on the first of 16 AW101 Merlins destined for search and rescue duties with the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The company has secured two more undisclosed customers in the U.S., for fixed-wing applications. 

The X-band Osprey is a development of the Seaspray series of maritime radars (including e-scanning versions) that have been widely sold from Leonardo’s Edinburgh, UK facility. But the Osprey processor also incorporates algorithms from the company’s Vixen air-to-air and PicoSAR air-to-ground radars. The Edinburgh location is now part of the Airborne and Space Systems Division of the mainly Anglo-Italian company that is being renamed Leonardo.

“We have been developing the Osprey for over three years using company funds,” said Brendan Nolan, the Edinburgh-based vice president, sales. “It complements the rest of our portfolio. It is easier to mount, having air-cooling and no pressurized waveguides.” On the Norwegian AW101, three antennas are separately located in the nose and on either side of the helicopter. The company says that space requirements are minimal, and with no need for a belly-mounted radome, the helicopter’s ground clearance is maximized “for challenging rescue landings on rough terrain.” 

The antenna distribution is via a multi-array interface, while the radar’s other two black boxes are the receiver/exciter and the processor. Two- and four-antenna configurations are also possible. Each antenna weighs 11.3 kg (just under 25 pounds) and contains 256 Gallium Arsenide transmit/receive modules.