Unmanned Systems

Air Force tests new Predator radar warning receiver against air defenses

General Atomics Aeronautics has demonstrated a new, high-tech radar warning receiver (RWR) on its Predator drone as a response against newer generation enemy air defense systems, company officials announced.

The new RWR technology is engineered to widen the threat aperture in which the drone can operate, an important capability in the current global technological environment, which includes increasingly higher tech air-defense systems.

Newer air defenses, such as the Russian built S-300 or S-400 use improved computer processing power, are more networked to one another and can detect aircraft at farther distances on a greater range of frequencies.

These newer surface-to-air missile systems would not only make it more difficult for stealth aircraft to operate in what Air Force officials call a “contested environment,” but also complicate drone operations.

As a result, GA-AIS’ Predator test was aimed at assessing the aircraft’s ability to operate in these new high-threat environments.

In various flight profiles, the pod was able to validate RWR performance which met or exceeded current thresholds for both air and ground radar threats, developers said.

The demonstration, which took place at a GA-ASI facility near Palmdale, Calif., showed “the utility of the aircraft in conducting missions in the proximity of threat radars and enemy air defenses,” said Claudio Pereida, executive vice president, Mission Systems, GA-ASI.

Also, the RWR information proved useful for triggering flight crew action, such as manually cross-cueing to other onboard sensors to validate threat information, GA added.  

GA-ASI plans further RWR demonstrations later in the year to include integrating with a data-link known as Link 16.

The Raytheon-built ALR-69A RWR, carried in a standard payload pod, is designed to give aircrews and air element command and control units real-time information about potential attackers, a GA-ASI statement said.

“The ALR-69A provides improved detection range and accurate, unambiguous identification in dense signal environments,” said Paul Overstreet, ALR-69A program manager, Raytheon.

Development and testing of the RWR for the Predator is currently being conducted under GA-ASI internal research and development funding, with the goal of partnering with potential customers in the near future, company statements said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn is a former editor of Defense Systems.

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