Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thoughts after Memorial Day Movie Madness

My youngest child loves those old war movies, which (I confess) I don't mind watching either. Last weekend, AMC ran a full day of the classics and we sat down and watched some of them before heading out to enjoy the breaking New England weather. The two of us watched the classic George C. Scott movie "Patton" and "The Battle of the Bulge". While we only caught parts of each, the two major scenes we did see involved the Army's and Air Force's inability to function during bad weather. Somewhat like me and my son waiting for the sun to come out.

The lack of air support due to winter weather for Patton was so bad, that he ordered his chaplain to write a prayer for good weather (one of the movie's more memorable moments). Remember that scene? The situation in the Battle of the Bulge was equally dire, although it was not portrayed with the same humor. At the time, it got me thinking about how fortunate we are to have developed radar that would allow pilots to see through inclement weather. Its "awesome" that engineering can be applied to remove almost any obstacle. With this in mind, this little news item from Wednesday May 27th grabbed my attention.

EADS Defence & Security (DS) will equip the German Armed Forces with a new kind of ground surveillance radar – Bodenüberwachungsradar (BÜR) – for detecting movements on the ground and at low altitudes with unmatched precision. Initially Defence Electronics (DE), an integrated activity of DS, has handed over the first of two system demonstrators to the German Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB) for evaluation by the Bundeswehr’s Technical Centers.

The delivery of approximately 80 BÜR systems is scheduled to start in 2012. They are intended to close the gap in capabilities of the German Armed Forces in the area of intelligence gathering and reconnaissance. A modified version of this radar destined for civil applications such as surveillance of border regions or industrial facilities is currently under development.

The BÜR system is based on Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) electronic scan control technology, which opens up new possibilities for detection and surveillance. Thanks to delay-free electronic beam control, the radar can perform multiple reconnaissance tasks at the same time, thus achieving a much greater level of efficiency and reliability in comparison to mechanically scanned radars. Each BÜR system can therefore assume the tasks of several conventional radars.

With old war movies fresh in my mind, I can only say - good thing this technology was not available when Messerschmitts and Stukas dominated the skies of Europe.

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