Raytheon moves ahead with its new passive airborne ELINT/ESM gathering system

Raytheon has performed test flights of its ARDS airborne ESM/ELINT system in California using an MQ-9 UAV. The pod can be seen here mounted on the aircraft’s ventral fuselage. (RAYTHEON)

By Dr. Thomas Withington, EW Europe, Stockholm – During the EW Europe conference and exhibition being held in Stockholm between 14 – 15 May, Raytheon’s German subsidiary outlined the progress the company has made on its ARDS (Advanced Radar Detection System).

The ARDS is an ESM/ELINT (Electronic Support Measure/Electronic Intelligence) gathering system which the company has based on its Emitter Locator System (ELS) equipping the Aeronautica Militaire (Italian Air Force) and Luftwaffe (German Air Force) air defence suppression aircraft.

The ARDS covers a one gigahertzGHz to 20GHz waveband, although company sources stated that this can be extended to 40GHz. Using a five-channel input and an interferometric approach, the ARDS can be used for ELINT collection at the tactical and operational levels.

The ARDS is capable of performing fast direction-finding and geolocation of emitters of interest. The accuracy of these capabilities can be improved still further through the use of a Radio Frequency (RF) datalink which allows two or more disparate ARDS mounted on individual platforms to be networked.

ELINT collected by the ARDS can either be shared in real time or recorded for future analysis. The datalink also allows new firmware or software to be uploaded during a sortie.

Raytheon sources continued that one useful aspect of this is that it enables the ARDS to take into account the changing local electromagnetic environment.

For example, if a new surface-to-air missile system has been detected moving into an area of interest the ARDS can be supplied with the necessary data to search for emissions from its accompanying ground-based air surveillance or fire control radar.

Aside from the datalink connecting two or more ARDS, the apparatus can share its data with other air and sea platforms, and land-based installations, using standard tactical datalinks like Link-16.

Raytheon has designed the ARDS to equip a wide array of platforms. These can include medium/high altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), business jets and combat aircraft. While the ARDS has a high degree of autonomy and can be used by single seat fighters, company officials recommended its employment on two seat jets due to the additional workload that the ELINT and ESM missions can sometimes impose.

by Dr. Thomas Withington