Two of the key electronic functions of warfare—radar and surveillance—are undergoing transformations that are literally making the hardware for these systems disappear. Radar systems, which were once associated with building-sized vehicles on the battlefield or huge antennas riding along large aircraft carriers at sea, can now be made portable enough to fit in a backpack (as detailed in this issue’s cover story on SpotterRF’s portable radar solutions). Surveillance systems are also becoming more portable and remote, often being transported to an area of interest by means of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). Once deployed, they gather essential intelligence data without putting a human soldier in danger.

Radar systems, of course, represent a form of surveillance. And as they are made smaller, lighter, and more portable, they add new flexibility and dimensions to a troop’s surveillance strategies. Tracking enemy vehicles and troop movements no longer requires airborne support or the positioning of large radar/surveillance systems in the field. Many of these next-generation portable radar systems are small and light enough to be contained in a standard backpack, and can be set up quickly and easily almost anywhere in the field.

For example, each of SpotterRF’s M600C radar units measures just 8.75 x 10.125 x 2.25 in., weighs only 4 lbs, and consumes only 10 W power during normal operation. The company bundles a complete system together with two radar units, rechargeable batteries, antenna stands, and other accessories within a single backpack.

But SpotterRF is not alone in filling these growing battlefield demands for greater surveillance portability and flexibility. Another impressive portable radar system is the Blighter B202 Mk 2 from Blighter Surveillance Systems, a Plextek company (Fig. 1). This system combines the firm’s patented solid-state passive electronic scanning array (PESA) technology with a frequency-modulated-continuous-wave (FMCW) source and Doppler signal processing, providing effective surveillance capability from a small, lightweight system.

1. The Blighter B202 Mk 2 is a compact UAV capable of performing unseen surveillance functions for a variety of different markets.

Blighter B202 Mk 2 systems are designed to function under less-than-ideal weather conditions and in hostile terrain. They operate without moving mechanical parts and are even touted as being so reliable that they require no normal maintenance for five years. They can operate over land or water, and can detect an intruder within a scanned area in excess of 3000 km2. The movement-detection radar system can detect a human intruder to a distance of about 3.3 km and a vehicle to a distance of about 8 km. The Blighter radar system weighs about 15 kg and achieves high target detection with low-power operation, maintaining low power consumption to minimize probability of intercept by threat surveillance systems and to maximize run time. The Blighter B202 Mk 2 radar can run on batteries or even solar power.

This innovative portable radar/surveillance system include high-quality Doppler audio functionality to aid in recognition of difficult targets, such as soldiers crawling along the ground. In addition, for challenging applications such as border patrols, multiple Blighter radars can be linked to form ad hoc networks for continuous surveillance of long sections of border or other areas of interest.

For somewhat increased weight and size, somewhat more range is available from a portable radar system featuring the AN/PPS5-C Manportable Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar (MSTAR) from DRS Technologies. With a system weight of about 30 kg, it may be better suited for two-person transport. But what it brings to the battlefield is a much wider surveillance area than the smaller portable radar systems, with a maximum range of about 42 km. This is a system that has proven its worth over time in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan in terms of high performance and reliability.