AESA: A Sensor Suite For Advanced Threats
The AESA radar is a huge advancement from earlier mechanical radars which were more prone to “jamming” and other mechanical errors and failures. Emphasizing on the difference in the principle of operation between the two radars, Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd.), Additional Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies, says in an interview that one of the biggest advantages of the AESA radar is that it uses an array of TRMs (Transmitter-Receiver Modules) allowing more range and adding more speed.
AESA stands for Active Electronically Scanned Array and means that, in contrast to older generation radars, it has not only one antenna but a full array of small antennas, called elements. This means that the radar can simultaneously and independently track different targets, and also track targets independently of search volumes.
Development of today’s Electronic Warfare (EW), radar, and communications functionality are done keeping air-superiority in mind. What makes Gripen E an air-to-air superior fighter is the integration of the latest generation precision weapons, targeting sensors, and an AESA radar that ensures superiority in situational awareness as well. The AESA radar was integrated to Gripen for the first time during a flight test program in 2009 which was focused on the tactical systems of the multi-role aircraft.
With AESA, Gripen E also features a repositioner which allows the AESA radar to gain another 40 degrees of scanning ability to either side of the aircraft’s nose.
In the words of Major General Ravi Arora (Retd.) Chief Editor, Indian Military Review, “…you need to empower the fighter to carry out surveillance… and also carry out many other functions in an environment which is full of electronic measures, ‘jammers’ which are preventing you from functioning.”
The AESA radar can drastically reduce the enemy’s jamming capability. This is done by a radar technique called “frequency-hopping” where the frequency at which the radar is transmitting can be changed with every pulse. In addition to that, the radar also has the ability to distribute frequencies across a wide band even within individual pulses, this radar technique is called “chirping,” also known as “pulse compression.” A detailed account on the AESA radar by Biley technologies also talks about the techniques and advantages of the system.
In the older mechanical radars, if the transmitter or the receiver stops operating, the radar stops operating. An electronic radar however, is made up of an array of TR modules where each unit or module functions independently, which means that a failure in a single module will not have much of an effect on the entire radar’s system. This gives the radar high sustainability and durability.
“The benefits of the AESA have become inescapable,” adds Major General Ravi Arora. Biley technologies also says- “Countries around the world are adding AESA radar into their military aircraft and vessels, and contractors around the world are rushing to meet the demand.” Further speculating on the future of AESA radar, it adds that AESA radar will become “more widespread as time goes on.”