VADER radar to thwart roadside bombers

New technology will be tested aboard manned and unmanned aircraft

U.S. forces will soon have yet another tool in their growing arsenal of counter-improvised explosive device technologies with the introduction of recently developed man-hunting radar, reports William Matthews at Defense News.

Developed by Northrop Grumman in 18 months and then subjected to 22 months of testing, the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar is powerful enough to see individuals from an altitude of about 25,000 feet. Its purpose on the battlefield is to spot individuals planting deadly IEDs.


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VADER borrows extensively from existing radar technology and the company’s 30 years of radar-building experience, said Brian Reise, Northrop Grumman’s VADER program manager.

The radar is similar in concept to the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System that the company developed in the 1980s to spot and track large targets such as tanks, other vehicles and mobile missiles. More recently, the U.S. military has used JSTARS to track dismounted forces.

However, VADER eclipses its predecessor when it comes to tracking people. During test flights, the VADER system was able to scan a wide area and detect and track individuals moving about on foot, company officials said. If mounted on an Army Warrior drone, it can provide surveillance for a 36-hour period.

“The VADER system incorporates extensive improvements made to ground moving target indicator and synthetic aperture radar sensors,” said W. Richards Thissel, a science and technology adviser at the Defense Department’s Joint IED Defeat Organization.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency helped fund the man-hunting radar.

VADER’s sensors feed data to an onboard processor that uses “exploitation algorithms” to "detect, discriminate, and track vehicular and dismounted suspicious activity in near-real time," Thissel said.

Northrop Grumman designed VADER to operate in two modes: as a synthetic aperture radar for collecting high-resolution still images of targets and as a real-time ground moving target indicator for spotting moving targets.

In general, ground moving target indicators work by detecting the Doppler shift that moving objects produce in radar return signals. With VADER, processed signals are transmitted from the drone to ground stations, where operators can see either still synthetic aperture radar images that look something like high-contrast black-and-white photos or moving targets displayed as dots superimposed on a map, Reise said.

The VADER system is contained in a pod about the size of a Hellfire missile. DOD intends to deploy VADER on manned and unmanned platforms in the next several years for operational testing.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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