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12/21/2010

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# RADAR RANGE EQUATION INTRODUCTION One of the simpler equations of radar theory is the radar range equation.

Although it is one of the simpler equations, ironically, it is an equation that few radar analysts understand and many radar analysts misuse. The problem lies not with the equation itself but with the various terms that make-up the equation. It is my belief that if one really understands the radar range equation one will have a very solid foundation in the fundamentals of radar theory. Because of the difficulties associated with using and understanding the radar range equation we will devote considerable class time to it and to the things it impacts, like detection theory, matched filters and the ambiguity function. One form of the basic radar range equation is

SNR =
where

PS PT GT GR λ 2σ = PN ( 4π ) 3 R 4kT0 BFn L

(1)

• •

SNR is termed the signal-to-noise ratio and has the units of
watts/watt, or w/w.

PS is the signal power at some point in the radar receiver – usually
at the output of the matched filter or the signal processor. It has the units of watts (w).

• •

PN is the noise power at the same point that PS is specified and has
the units of watts.

PT is termed the peak transmit power and is the average power when the radar is transmitting a signal. PT can be specified at the
output of the transmitter or at some other point like the output of the antenna feed. It has the units of watts

• • • • •

GT is the power gain of the transmit antenna and has the units of
w/w.

GR is the power gain of the receive antenna and has the units of w/w. Usually, GT = GR for monostatic radars.

λ is the radar wavelength (see (21) of the Radar Basics section) and had the units of meters (m).
square meters or m2.

σ is the target radar cross-section or RCS and has the units of

R is the range from the radar to the target and has the units of meters.

1

we will account for the fact that the focusing isn’t perfect by a scaling term. C.The purpose of the radar antenna is to concentrate or focus the radiated power in a small angular sector of space. as indicated in Figure 3. the radar antenna works much as the reflector in a flashlight. We will then include a scaling factor to account for the fact that the area of the rectangle is greater than the area of the ellipse. a radar antenna doesn’t perfectly focus the beam. Figure 3 – Radiation Sphere with Antenna Beam ©2005 M. Finding the area of the ellipse of Figure 3 is not easy. Abeam . Budge. In this fashion. the power density over Abeam is SR = Prad P L = T t w/m 2 . As with a flashlight. we assume that all of the radiated power is concentrated in an area. To get around this problem we find the area of the rectangle that contains the elliptical beam of Figure 3. Later. Jr 4 . However. Abeam Abeam (3) To carry (3) to the next step we need an equation for Abeam . This scaling factor will also account for losses in the feed and antenna. With the above. Therefore. for now we will assume it does.

Another note is that the development above makes the tacit assumption that the antenna is pointed exactly at the target. We define the beamwidth of an antenna as the distance between the 3-dB points1 of Figure 4. To visualize the concept of beamwidth we consider Figure 4 which is a plot of GT ( θ . The 3-dB points are the angles where GT ( θ . φ ) vs. 1. GT must be modified to account for this. φ ) is a means of saying that the antenna gain is a function of where the target is located relative to where the antenna is pointing. If the antenna is not pointed at the target. Specifically: • It accounts for the fact that the beam area is an ellipse rather than a rectangle.65θ Aθ B (11) In (11) the quantities θ A and θ B are termed the antenna beamwidths and have the units of radians. Some of it will “spill” out of the beam into what we term the antenna sidelobes. θ for φ = 0 . φ ) is 3 dB below its maximum value. or dB. We next want to address the factor K A in (7). The unit of measure on the vertical axis is decibels. C. In many applications. ©2005 M. With some thought. the maximum value of GT ( θ . Jr 6 .000 w/w o o θ Aθ B (12) where the two beamwidths in the denominator are in degrees. We do this by means of an antenna pattern which is a function that gives the value of GT at all possible angles of the target relative to where the antenna is pointing. φ ) is the antenna gain. With this we can write the antenna gain as GT = 4π w/w . • • It has been my experience that a good value for K A is 1. In this case we write the gain as GT = 25.65. you will realize that two angles are needed to specify any point on the sphere discussed earlier. It accounts for the fact that the antenna causes ohmic power losses. K A accounts for the properties of the antenna. With this we find that the antenna represented in Figure 4 has a 1 The concept of 3-dB points should be familiar from control and signal processing theory in that it is the standard measure used to characterize bandwidth. The expression GT ( θ . and is the common unit of measure for GT in radar applications. or GT . As a side note. θ A and θ B are specified in degrees. Budge. It accounts for the fact that not all of the power is concentrated in the antenna beam.

φ for θ = 0 and find distance between the 3-dB points was 2.5 degrees. C. We might call this θ A . If we have a device wherein the power into the device is Pin (in watts) and the power out of the device is Pout . We say that the gain of the device. in dB is ©2005 M. The standard use of dB that comes from control and signal processing theory relates to the gain or loss of a device.5 o degrees in the φ direction. We would then call this θ B . Jr 7 .000 = 5000 w/w or 37 dB . We would then say that the beamwidth was 2. 2 × 2. Suppose we were to plot GT ( θ . We would compute the antenna gain as GT = 25.o beamwidth of 2 degrees in the θ direction. φ ) vs. We want to digress to discuss this further. Budge.5 (13) BW 3-dB Figure 4 – Sample Antenna Pattern A TANGENT TO DISCUSS dB In the above paragraph we introduced the concept of dB.

Specifically. or dB relative to a square meter.  Pin  (14) If we were to relate input and output voltages or current. we often wish to express the power in the units of dB. or dB relative to a meter (note the potential for confusion in the double use of dBm). Jr 8 . we discuss the power relative to a power of 1 watt.  1 mw  (18) We also want to express area measures and distance measures in their dB equivalents. We can write the loss through the device. Specifically we write  P in w  P in dBw = 10log  . and the units for distance would be dBm. in dB.  1w  (17) We also often use the term dBm or dB relative to a milliwatt (or mw). it would likely be incorrect to use dBKm (dB relative to a kilometer) and dBm in the same equation. As with standard dimensional analysis. The appropriate equations are  A in m 2  A in dBsm = 10log   2  1m  for area and (19)  l in m  l in dBm = 10log    1m  (20) for length. the gain through the device would be V  I G = 20log  out  = 20log  out  Vin   Iin  . Budge.  Pout  It should be obvious that L = −G . C. the units in dB must be consistent. To do so.  (15) It should be noted that a tacit assumption of (15) is that the input and output impedances of the device are the same. Since we are referencing the power to 1 watt we use the units of dBw. as P  L = 10log  in  . (16) When working with the radar range equation we often have need to express the various parameters in their dB equivalents. The units for area would be dBsm. be careful to properly combine units of measure in dB. ©2005 M. As a caution. For example. The equation for it would be  P in w  P in dBm = 10log   = P in dBw + 30 .P  G = 10log  out  .

we want to turn our attention to the noise term. λ2 PT Gt GR λ 2σ (27) If we substitute (27) into (26) we get Pant = ( 4π ) 3 R 4 Lt . (26) It turns out that this equation is not usually very easy to use because of the Ae term. In fact. For now. With this we say that the signal power in the radar is given by PS = PT Gt GR λ 2σ ( 4π ) 3 R4 L (29) which is Pant with the additional losses added in. signal processor. We make this clarification of area because we don’t want to confuse it with the actual surface area of the antenna. According to antenna theory we can relate antenna gain to effective aperture by the equation GR = 4π Ae . etc. we can think of the antenna as an orifice that funnels energy into the radar. They would also include any losses that we want to associate with the receiver. Jr 10 . It turns out that the effective aperture is related to the physical area of the antenna. For now we will lump all of these losses with Lt and denote them by L .means opening or orifice. A more convenient method of characterizing the antenna would be through the use of its gain. For now we comment that they would include the losses associated with propagation through the atmosphere. In the above paragraph we said that PS is the signal power “in the radar”. Budge. We will save this discussion until later. we need to account for losses that we have ignored thus far. PN . Thus. we will discuss losses in more detail later. However. If we substitute (23) into (24) we get Pant = ( 4π ) PT GT σ Ae 2 R 4 Lt . C. displays. as we did on transmit. we didn’t say where in the radar. human operator. ©2005 M. That is Ae = ρ Aant (25) where Aant is the area of the antenna projected onto a plane placed directly in front of the antenna. in this context. (28) As a final step in this part of the development. which is often a paraboloid.