Friday, April 13, 2012

The vulnerability of AESA radars

This piece from Aviation Week brings up some interesting vulnerabilities about AESA radar systems and their support appliances.

There are ways to attack an AESA radar on a dedicated one-to-one basis, says Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for operations. However, that vulnerability can be mitigated by the fusion of multiple radars. If several aircraft with ­AESAs network themselves together, the radar being attacked can shut down and rely on information available on the network. Another option is to switch to infrared or electro-optical sensors.

Great idea. That is, if the network (which can be jammed or geo-located) is even running. And, you might not be too stealthy if you are an emitting network node.

As for infra-red, that is one of the reasons the Navy is fielding a hybrid center-line fuel tank with an infra-red search and track sensor on the front of it for the Super Hornet. The output from this sensor will be fused in the cockpit display.

The F-35 should have some infra-red capability as stock equipment. If it works. However, the F-35 has other survivability issues.

As for the vulnerabilities of radar systems in general, I don't know. This can be an interesting read which goes over some of the science behind radars in fighter aircraft.

2 comments:

NICO said...

I know very little about AESA radars and how they network but if one radar gets "hacked" or gets a virus, wouldn't that one contaminated radar communicate with the other radars in the formations and "contaminate" them? How does being in a network really be that advantages, aren't you assuming the "contaminated" radar shuts down and only works in receiving mode and doesn't transmit any info to the other radars?

It seems to me that USAF is just assuming that since you are in a network that guarantees safety, sure doesn't work like that on the internet!

Distiller said...

I have not 1% of the knowledge neccessary to say anthing clever here. Just wonder what exactly in AESA makes it more vulnerable than a conventional antenna with DSPs in the back? And I'm also not sure how an "echo" can be exploited (I hope they randomize their signals and use all the aspects of LPI). Where I can certainly see a vulnerability is the use of AESA as datalink. Maybe the issue is the already old APG-77?
But the good side: I'm all for putting IRST on F-22!