Hensoldt SA launches new naval surveillance radar


Hensoldt South Africa has announced a newly developed active electronically scanned array (AESA) surveillance radar for naval, land and air applications.

The ‘Quadome’ is a dual-mode, three-dimensional (3D), multi-mission naval radar for air and surface surveillance as well as target acquisition.

The radar was initially announced at Defence Service Exhibition International (DSEI) in London, UK on 15 September. The announcement was a build-up to the launch in South Africa, which took place today at Hensoldt South Africa’s head office in Irene. Opening the launch, Managing Director of Hensoldt South Africa, Rynier van der Watt, said, “With the development of this technology, the Hensoldt Group is making significant investment into Hensoldt South Africa and as such into South Africa through one of the largest radar development programmes in South Africa in recent history.”

Among the invited guests was Chief of the Navy Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane along with other high-level members of the SANDF, an Egyptian attaché and Executive Director of the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association of South Africa (AMD) Sandile Ndlovu.

Development of the new naval radar, van der Watt said, began with Hensoldt South Africa’s acquisition of Tellumat in late 2020 as the basis for the company’s new radar business unit. Then it was expanded with the launch of the Quadome Radar Development programme in close collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and key South African suppliers of defence electronics, with over 40 engineers collectively working on this product’s development since 2018. “Quadome is a result of many man-years of engineering effort to develop a world-class product that will revolutionise the radar landscape worldwide,” said van der Watt.

Quadome features two main operational (surveillance and self-defence) modes that simplify operator interaction and reduce operator workload. Surveillance mode is used for general surface, and air surveillance, while the self-defence mode is employed for high-threat situations and target engagement, with helicopter support continuously available in either mode.

It is currently one of the largest defence radar development programmes in South Africa and entrenches Hensoldt South Africa as one of the major players in radar in the country.

Hensoldt said the Quadome provides a clear picture of the environment to the commander of a ship. This picture includes targets, ships, aircraft, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The naval radar can acquire and track targets in 3D space as well as provide early detection of a high-speed target. The radar also has a small footprint, making it relatively easy to deploy and use.

Operating in C-band (for operationally advantageous reasons), the Quadome is a medium-PRF (pulse repetition frequency) pulsed doppler radar. Programme Manager of Hensoldt South Africa’s radar business unit, Jaco Botha, said, “We have specifically selected medium-PRF so that you can easily discriminate targets from the background clutter.” The radar also has an integrated Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) antenna. The software-defined radar has a configurable, flexible, and upgradable system. The Quadome’s high tracking accuracy is compatible with surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to support effective air defence operations, Hensoldt said.

The entire radar consists of five major systems: radar antenna, antenna pedestal, maintainer laptop, radar processing cabinet and conditioner cabinet. Above deck is the radar antenna and pedestal and below deck is the laptop and two cabinets. The radar antenna is comprised of a phased array antenna, an auxiliary antenna and a IFF antenna. It is water cooled to prevent overheating. The pedestal consists of a mechanical part, the rotary joint and the antenna rotator. The rotary joint is complex, taking signals from the below deck equipment to the above deck equipment. RF signals, data signals, a fibre optical joint, power signals, the water-cool system as well as air to keep to the antenna dry flow through the rotary joint. The radar processing cabinet, as its name alludes to, handles all the different processing that goes through the radar, and has an add-on for the IFF integrated option. The conditioning cabinet includes the power supply system, the liquid cooling unit and dry air conditioning unit. The maintenance laptop is used for report finding, maintenance and upgrading.

The Quadome is a gallium nitride solid-state transmitter that has a continuous 360-degree rotation. Its update rate is either four seconds (surveillance mode) or two seconds (self-defence mode). It has an AESA (active electronically scanned array) stacked beam with electronic stabilisation with elevation coverage up to 70 degrees. It has a range from 100 metres to 200 km and can process more than 1 000 air and surface targets.

Provisions are made for an interrogating IFF antenna that is Mode-5, Mode-S and ADS-B compatible. The radar can be deployed in global environmental operations, operating between -40 and 50 degrees Celsius (it can survive temperatures up to 70 degrees Celsius). The Quadome automatically detects countermeasures such as jammers and can counter those interferences and has full performance in sea state five (rough conditions).

In surveillance and self-defence mode, there is a helicopter support function that can be activated and in self-defence mode, there is a gunfire support (GFS) function. The GFS can have up to three surface targets designated for tracking by the operator and uses B-Scope-Video.

Botha said the key benefits of the Quadome radar are its ability to identify small surface targets, give a reliable air picture, effectively evaluate threats, and provide fast-track initiation. He said the radar gives enhanced kill probability and survivability, has a high reliability level, and has cyber-threat resilience.

The Quadome is aimed at the global market for tactical naval radar systems, mainly targeting offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), corvettes, light frigates, and support vessels. Because of its compact size, relatively low mass and price-performance ratio, the Quadome radar brings 3D air surveillance and air defence capabilities to vessels that that may otherwise only have been fitted with 2D target-detection capability.

“Quadome is designed to maximise system performance, while minimising acquisition and life-cycle costs,” said Bennie Langenhoven, chief executive of the Hensoldt South Africa radar business unit. Hensoldt South Africa seeks to start production of the Quadome in South Africa by the second quarter of 2023 and produce a land version that is 70% the same as the Quadome, a year later.