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Israel Aerospace Industries have taken in interesting approach regarding the architecture of their new EL/M-2138M ground-based air surveillance radar exhibited in model form at this year’s Eurosatory exhibition being held in Paris between 11 June and 15 June in using four fixed-panel AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) antennae to provide continuous, staring 360 degree surveillance. Company officials disclosed to MONch that this new radar will replace the firm’s existing EL/M-2106 ATAR and EL/M-2106NG L-band (1.215GHz to 1.4GHz) ground-based air surveillance radar, with the new EL/M-2138M S-band (2.3GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) offering an instrumented range of between 54 nautical miles/nm (100 kilometres/km) up to 97nm (180km). The decision to employ a fixed, four-panel antennae array for the EL/M-2138M is interesting, and is indicative of a trend witnessed in the naval domain towards fixed panel radars, witness the configuration of the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1 S-band naval surveillance radar. Fixed panel systems offer some important benefits compared to their rotating counterparts, not least of which is a reduction in moving parts, and hence a reduction in maintenance burden. From a surveillance perspective, the radar is also constantly looking at the sky for targets, rather than only looking at a section of the sky as the antenna rotates; a relevant analogy would an eye which remains constantly open looking at the environment, compared to one which blinks. Tactically, this translates into the ability to constantly monitoring the behaviour of threats; a particularly important capability regarding small and fast-moving targets such as rocket, mortar or artillery fire which may present a very small engagement window due to their short flight times.

IAI has developed the EL/M-2138M in two versions; namely full-sized and half-sized configurations. Both versions provide 360 degrees surveillance, an elevation angle of 60 degrees, and between 0.5 degrees and one degree of azimuth accuracy. The two versions differ in terms of their instrumented ranges; 180km for the full-sized version and 100km for the half-sized configuration, similarly the refresh rates for both radars are one kilohertz/KHz and 0.5KHz respectively, with respective power consumptions of ten kilowatts and five kilowatts. IAI officials told MONch that, while this new product is seen as a replacement for the EL/M-2106 family, both these radars will continue to be offered by the company. Furthermore, the officials disclosed that IAI had secured an undisclosed Western European NATO customer for the EL/M-2138M and that deliveries of the radar will commence in mid-2019.

Thomas Withington

A mock-up of IAI’s new EL/M-2138M ground-based air surveillance radar, with deliveries of this product to its first customer expected to commence in 2019. (Photo: Thomas Withington)

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