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1. The radar transmitter will affect the overall performance of the radar and as
such is a major component of any radar system. The choice of radar transmitter
determines the signal parameters, maximum and minimum ranges and range

Purpose of a Radar Transmitter

2. The purpose of a radar transmitter is to convert the input pulses from the
modulator, which is direct current (dc) electrical energy, into short, high-power pulses
of radio frequency (RF) energy. The radar transmitter is usually a large part of a
radar system’s overall cost, size and weight. It also requires the major share of
available power and maintenance.

Types Of Radar Transmitters

3. An oscillator is required to convert dc electrical energy into RF energy. A

radar transmitter may use one of 2 basic oscillator processes to generate high power
RF pulses: non-coherent or coherent.

a. A non-coherent transmitter creates a succession of RF pulses in which the

phase of the generated pulses is unrelated (see Figure 1). This process is
achieved by switching a power oscillator on and off at the rate determined by the

Figure: 1 Non Coherent Transmissions

b. A coherent transmitter creates a succession of pulses that are related

in phase (see Figure 2). This is achieved by using a continuously running
low-powered oscillator, often called the stable local oscillator (STALO). The
output of the STALO goes through a number of amplifying stages. In this case
the modulator is used to switch the amplifiers on and off.

Figure 2: Coherent Transmission

4. The invention of the magnetron in the 1940 made pulsed radar possible.
Since that time however a number of developments have improved the performance
and capability of subsequent radar systems Examples of types of radar transmitters

a. Magnetron. The magnetron is a non-coherent transmitter that has

been used extensively in ground and airborne radar systems as well as
jammers. The magnetron is an oscillator that converts DC pulsed power into
microwave power by means of a standing wave structure. A high voltage
pulse applied between the cathode and anode accelerates electrons from a
heated cylindrical cathode radially. A magnetic field parallel to the axis of the
cathode causes electrons to follow a curved path. With the correct magnetic
field, the majority of electrons return to the cathode where they release
secondary electrons that repeat the process. Basic magnetrons produce a
single fixed frequency in the C band, with tuning bandwidths of approximately
5%. Average power ranges from 100 W to 50kW with transmitter efficiency in
the order of 80%.

b. Klystron. A basic klystron operates as a coherent transmitter. It

comprises an electron gun and a collector mounted in a tube. The tube also
contains a number of cavities. The electron beam is modified by the power
input and cluster at the cavities thus producing pulses of energy at the
collector at the desired frequency. The design can be modified to operate as a
non-coherent transmitter. This is called a reflex klystron and is used in some
radar receivers. Klystrons operate in D Band and can only be tuned over a
limited range of frequencies (+ 5 MHz) but can produce average power
ranging from 1 to 300 kW.

c. Travelling Wave Tube (TWT). The TWT is a coherent transmitter that

can be used for frequency agile radars. It differs from the klystron in having a
wider bandwidth, but produces less power. Typical power are between 15 and
70 Kw. Operating frequency is in the D band but have been extended to the
20/30 GHz region for commercial applications. Major improvements have
been made in various parameters like reliability and efficiency that currently
stands at approximately 70%.

d. Solid-State Devices. Solid-state devices form the basis of integrated

circuits that have a variety of electronic, optoelectronic, and magnetic
applications. There is an increasing demand for very high-speed devices for
radar systems and more recently for all-optical devices. These devices can be
used in coherent or non-coherent transmitters, replacing electronic
components in a single block of material. Solid-state devices have the
advantage of requiring lower operating voltages, are small and can be made
to withstand the EM effects of a nuclear explosion. Individual solid-state
devices are not very powerful, but are combined in parallel to deliver high
power levels.

Radar Range

5. A basic pulse radar can measure the range, azimuth and/or elevation of a
target. The range of a target is calculated by measuring how long the radio waves
take to reach the target and return. The time is usually measured from the centre of
the transmitted signal, to the centre of the received echo (centroid ranging). Radio
waves travel at essentially a constant speed; the velocity of light. Therefore a
target’s range is half the round-trip transit time, multiplied by the speed of light. The
range measured by all radar systems is termed slant range; can differ from the plan
range, (that is the range as seen from directly overhead).

6. A radar is unable to receive radar echoes whilst it is transmitting and during

the recovery time. Therefore the minimum range of radar depends on the time the
transmitter was operating (i.e. pulse width (PW)) and the recovery time (RT) of the

7. To provide accurate range measurement, the shape of a RF pulse should be

rectangular or square. However, in reality a pulse does not rise instantaneously to
maximum amplitude, but has a rise time. This leads to uncertainty into the precise
position of the leading edge and inaccurate range measurements.

Figure 1: Range Accuracy and Pulse Shape

Transmitter Power

8. Radar transmitter power levels vary according to individual designs, radar

function and user requirements. There are 2 different measures commonly used to
describe transmitter power Peak Power and Average Power.

a. Peak power determines the voltages that must be applied to the

transmitter and the intensities of the EM fields generated. If these fields are
too intense corona and arcing may occur. Therefore, there is an upper limit on
the acceptable level of peak power.

b. It is average power that is the key factor in determining the radar’s

potential detection range. Average power also affects the amount of heat
generated by a radar transmitter this in turn determines the amount of cooling

required. The higher the average power, the larger and heavier the transmitter
tends to be.

Figure 2: Average Power

9. There is a third measure of power that is used to describe a radar's power

output and that is the Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) This is the
arithmetic product of the power supplied to an antenna and its gain.

10. To maximise a radar’s detection range, average power may be increased by:

a. Increasing the peak power.

b. Increasing the pulse width.

c. Decreasing the PRI (increasing the PRF).

Radar Resolution

11. Resolution is defined as the ability of radar to separate or resolve closely

spaced targets and display them as separate contacts. With pulse radar we are
concerned with range and angle resolution.

12. Range resolution depends upon the radar's pulse width (PW). If the distance
between targets is less than ½ the pulse width, the radar echoes will merge and be
displayed as a single target. If the distance between the targets is greater than ½
the pulse width, the radar will display separate contacts (See Figure 5).

Figure 4: Range Resolution

13. Modern radars use a receiver process known as pulse compression to
increase range resolution in many long-range types of radar.

14. Angle Resolution is defined as the ability of radar to separate targets that are
at the same range, but on slightly different bearings. It is determined by the
beamwidth of a radar antenna and the range of the targets. (This is because the
width of the beam increases with range.) Angle resolution applies to azimuth and
elevation angles, expressed by the values of horizontal and vertical beamwidths.

Figure 3 Angle Resolutions

15. The Radar Resolution Cell can be described in terms of both range and angle.
This is a 3-dimensional volume in which targets will not be separated. It is
dependent on ½ the pulse width and the horizontal and vertical beamwidths.

Maximum Unambiguous Range

16. The greatest range at which a radar system can correctly detect radar echoes
is called maximum unambiguous range. To display the range correctly, the echo
from the first pulse must be received before the second pulse is transmitted. If the
echo from the first pulse is not received until after the second pulse is transmitted,
the range calculation based on the time between transmission and reception will be
in error. This is called range ambiguity and depends on the PRI or PRF.

Figure 4 Range Ambiguities

CW Radar

17. Pulse radars measure target range, azimuth and elevation. To do this they
use a single antenna that both transmits pulses and receives the weak target
echoes. However, pulse radars have a number of disadvantages:

a. They cannot transmit and receive simultaneously.

b. To achieve an adequate average power high peak powers are


c. They have a minimum range.

d. They have a maximum unambiguous range

f. They are complex.

g. They cannot measure velocity.

18. CW radar has the following advantages over pulse radar:

a. They transmit their peak power continuously. This means power levels
can be as high as the transmitter and waveguide limitations will allow.

b. Their maximum range is limited only by peak power and receiver


c. They have no minimum range.

d. They have no synchroniser, modulator or duplexer.

e. They can measure a wide range of velocity without ambiguity.

f. They can provide Moving Target Indication.

19. The Disadvantages of Continuous Wave Radar are:

a. They require separate transmit and receive antennas.

b. They cannot measure range.

Military Uses of CW Radar

20. The military make use of Continuous Wave devices in a number of ways
these include:

a. Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave Radar. By using FMCW,

CW radar can measure range. FMCW radars are used for radio (or radar)
altimeters, OTHRs and some air-to-air applications such as proximity fuses.

b. CW Illuminating Radars. CW radar can be used to illuminate airborne
targets for missile guidance. Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or air-to-air
missiles (AAMs) can then home on to the reflected energy. Examples include
the Russian SA-6 Gainful, American I-HAWK SAM, Russian AA-10A Alamo
and American AIM-7 Sparrow AAMs.

Pulse Doppler (PD) Radar

21. PD radar combines the advantages of pulse radar with the advantages of CW
radar. This allows the range and velocity to be measured using a single pulse-form.
PD radars are commonly used in modern fighter-aircraft as air intercept (AI) radars.

22. The Pulse Doppler radar has a relatively long pulse width compared with
ordinary pulse radar. The duty cycle is relatively high; generally around 45 to 50%.
The pulses are also coherent, which allows for the velocity of the target to be
calculated. PRFs can range from a few hundred Hz to several hundred kHz and the
choice of PRF affects the type of ambiguities occur with a PD waveform.

23. Pulse Doppler gives rise to Range and Velocity Ambiguity.

a. Range ambiguity is related to the Pulse Repetition Frequency (PRF).

Accordingly a PD radar must use low PRFs when unambiguous ranging is
required, such as air-to-air gunnery, ground-mapping and close-range air
combat (“dogfight modes”).

b. PD radar determines a target’s velocity by measuring the shift in

frequency caused by the relative movement of a target away from or towards
radar. This is called the Doppler Effect and will be explained in later lessons.
Unfortunately velocity ambiguities occur in PD signals at low PRFs, making
target velocities ambiguous. At high PRFs, target velocities become
unambiguous. The use of high PRF also gives high average power, making
high PRF ideal for detecting high-velocity closing targets, targets at maximum
range and look-down-shoot-down modes.

24. The choice of PRF is crucial for PD radar. Modern PD radars overcome
range and velocity ambiguities by switching between different PRFs.


25. The purpose of a radar transmitter is to convert the dc input pulses into short,
high-power pulses of RF energy. These pulses can be coherent or non-coherent,
depending on the type of transmitter amplifier. Average power is the key factor in
determining the radar’s potential detection range and may be increased by
decreasing the PRI, by increasing the pulse width or by increasing the peak power.
In a basic pulse radar system, range resolution and minimum range are dependent
on the PW. PRF affects the maximum unambiguous range and the range and
velocity ambiguities that arise in PD radar.

26. The use of CW radar is increasing as it offers a number of advantages over
pulsed radar. The application of Pulse Doppler or Frequency Modulated carrier
Wave is becoming increasingly more evident.