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Radar that provides continuous positional data on a target is called tracking radar. Most tracking radar systems used by the military are also fire-control radar; the two names are often used interchangeably.

Fire-control tracking radar systems usually produce a very narrow, circular beam.

Fire-control radar must be directed to the general location of the desired target because of the narrow-beam pattern. This is called the DESIGNATION phase of equipment operation. Once in the general vicinity of the target, the radar system switches to the ACQUISITION phase of operation. During acquisition, the radar system searches a small volume of space in a prearranged pattern until the target is located. When the target is located, the radar system enters the TRACK phase of operation. Using one of several possible scanning techniques, the radar system automatically follows all target motions. The radar system is said to be locked on to the target during the track phase. The three sequential phases of operation are often referred to as MODES and are common to the target-processing sequence of most fire-control radars.

Typical fire-control radar characteristics include a very high prf, a very narrow pulse width, and a very narrow beam width. These characteristics, while providing extreme accuracy, limit the range and make initial target detection difficult. A typical fire-control radar antenna is shown in figure 1-28. In this example the antenna used to produce a narrow beam is covered by a protective radome.

Figure 1-28. - Fire-control radar.


A radar system that provides information used to guide a missile to a hostile target is called GUIDANCE RADAR. Missiles use radar to intercept targets in three basic ways: (1) Beam-rider missiles follow a beam of radar energy that is kept continuously pointed at the desired target; (2) homing missiles detect and home in on radar energy reflected from the target; the reflected energy is provided by a radar transmitter either in the missile or at the launch point and is detected by a receiver in the missile; (3) passive homing missiles home in on energy that is radiated by the target. Because target position must be known at all times, a guidance radar is generally part of, or associated with, a fire-control tracking radar. In some instances, three radar beams are required to provide complete guidance for a missile. The beam-riding missile, for example, must be launched into the beam and then must ride the beam to the target. Initially, a wide beam is radiated by a capture radar to gain (capture) control of the missile. After the missile enters the capture beam, a narrow beam is radiated by a guidance radar to guide the missile to the target. During both capture and guidance operations, a tracking radar continues to track the target. Figure 1-29 illustrates the relationships of the three different radar beams.

Figure 1-29. - Beam relationship of capture, guidance, and track beams.

Q.41 Fire-control tracking radar most often radiates what type of beam? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.42 Tracking radar searches a small volume of space during which phase of operation? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.43 What width is the pulse radiated by fire-control tracking radar? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.44 Which beam of missile-guidance radar is very wide?answer.gif (214 bytes)


CARRIER-CONTROLLED APPROACH and GROUND-CONTROLLED APPROACH radar systems are essentially shipboard and land-based versions of the same type of radar. Shipboard CCA radar systems are usually much more sophisticated systems than GCA systems. This is because of the movements of the ship and the more complicated landing problems. Both systems, however, guide aircraft to safe landing under conditions approaching zero visibility. By means of radar, aircraft are detected and observed during the final approach and landing sequence. Guidance information is supplied to the pilot in the form of verbal radio instructions, or to the automatic pilot (autopilot) in the form of pulsed control signals.


Airborne radar is designed especially to meet the strict space and weight limitations that are necessary for all airborne equipment. Even so, airborne radar sets develop the same peak power as shipboard and shore-based sets.

As with shipboard radar, airborne radar sets come in many models and types to serve many different purposes. Some of the sets are mounted in blisters (or domes) that form part of the fuselage; others are mounted in the nose of the aircraft.

In fighter aircraft, the primary mission of a radar is to aid in the search, interception, and destruction of enemy aircraft. This requires that the radar system have a tracking feature. Airborne radar also has many other purposes. The following are some of the general classifications of airborne radar: search, intercept and missile control, bombing, navigation, and airborne early warning.

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