Fire-control radar

Fire-control radar image

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A fire-control radar (FCR) is a radar that is designed specifically to provide information (mainly target azimuth, elevation, range and range rate) to a fire-control system in order to direct weapons such that they hit a target. They are sometimes known as targeting radars, or in the UK, gun-laying radars. If the radar is used to guide a missile, it is often known as an target illuminator or illuminator radar.

A typical fire-control radar emits a narrow, intense beam of radio waves to ensure accurate tracking information and to minimize the chance of losing track of the target. This makes them less suitable for initial detection of the target, and FCRs are often partnered with a medium-range search radar to fill this role. In British terminology, these medium-range systems were known as tactical control radars.

Most modern radars have a track-while-scan capability, enabling them to function simultaneously as both fire-control radar and search radar. This works either by having the radar switch between sweeping the search sector and sending directed pulses at the target to be tracked, or by using a phased-array antenna to generate multiple simultaneous radar beams that both search and track.

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Operational phases

Fire-control radars operate in three different phases:

Designation or vectoring phase The fire-control radar must be directed to the general location of the target due to the radar's narrow beam width. This phase is also called "lighting up". It ends when lock-on is acquired. Acquisition phase The fire-control radar switches to the acquisition phase of operation once the radar is in the general vicinity of the target. During this phase, the radar system searches in the designated area in a predetermined search pattern until the target is located or redesignated. This phase terminates when a weapon is launched. Tracking phase The fire-control radar enters into the track phase when the target is located. The radar system locks onto the target during this phase. This phase ends when the target is destroyed.

Performance

The performance of a fire-control radar is determined primarily by two factors: radar resolution and atmospheric conditions. Radar resolution is the ability of the radar to differentiate between two targets closely located. The first, and most difficult, is range resolution, finding exactly how far is the target. To do this well, in a basic fire-control radar system, it must send very short pulses. Bearing resolution is typically ensured by using a narrow (one or two degree) beam width. Atmospheric conditions, such as moisture lapse, ...read more

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