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Cluster Radar in the specialist area for Command and Control Systems

The Cluster Radar in the specialist area for Command and Control Systems procures systems to cover the requirements of the Armed Forces as regards air surveillance, aircraft control and air traffic control. The Cluster Radar systems will be presented in various articles and their possible applications explained.

Dr. Bagnoud Maxime, Specialist Area Command and Control Systems, Competence Sector Command and Control + Reconnaissance Systems

Symbol Image of a radar system

Active radar is the term used to describe systems for detecting objects and determining their distance by emitting and receiving radio waves, which function independently of atmospheric conditions. A distinction is made between primary and secondary radar. Depending on the task and the required range, various different electromagnetic frequency bands between 1 and 10 GHz (Gigahertz) are used.

Two types of radar detection methods

Primary radar

Detects all targets with radio waves which are unknowingly reflected from targets.

Secondary radar

Only detects what is known as cooperative targets, which receive the coded pulse waves from the secondary radar, decode them and return them with additional position and identification information.

The Cluster Radar in the specialized service for Command and Control Systems deals with the procurement and development of sensor systems based on radar technology, but these are not its only responsibilities. It is generally responsible for all associated systems in the processing chain of radar data, from the antenna mast to the users’ monitoring screens, mostly military air traffic controllers. This includes:

  • signal and radar data processing
  • the communication system via which the data is transported to the computer centres
  • multi-sensor data fusion, which correlates the targets of the individual sensors and combines them into a common operational picture
  •  presentation of the identified air situation, generally known as «recognised air picture»
  • the functions for interception (tactical guidance of own fighter aircraft to their mission target) and air traffic control.

In a broader sense, this also includes other functions necessary for air defence and air traffic control, such as:

  • data communication via tactical data links: Link 16, including the transmission of radar targets, which are captured by other systems such as a combat aircraft or a ground-to-air defence system
  • static and dynamic airspace management in cooperation with civilian air traffic control.

The ground-to-air radio communication is also one of these core functions, but will be incorporated and presented in the Cluster Special Projects of the specialized  service Command and Control Systems due its completely different technology.

Standard air surveillance radar on an altitude sitel with primary and secondary radar antennas.
Standard air surveillance radar on an altitude sitel with primary and secondary radar antennas.

The Radar Cluster consists of two main groups relating to the separation of the airspace in the upper airspace (known as «en route» traffic) and the lower airspace (approach and control zones in the surrounding area of civilian and military airports and airfields). The upper airspace will be controlled by the air surveillance and operational command system FLORAKO with its stationary long-range radars FLORES and the tactical medium-range radars TAFLIR. The FLORAKO system and its various components as well as the TAFLIR system and its follow-up project Tmob Radar MR will be presented in future armasuisse Insights articles in more detail.

The lower airspace is the domain of the Approach Control System MALS Plus. This consists of:

  • an airfield surveillance radar
  •  a precision approach radar
  •  a direction finder to determine the direction of a flying object through the triangulation of radio waves
  • a flight control system to display radar data and control aircraft for air traffic controllers with associated voice communication systems.

The MALS Plus system will also be the subject of a separate article.

Airport surveillance radar at the Torny site, Payerne airbase.
Airport surveillance radar at the Torny site, Payerne airbase.

Mobile tactical radars

The Patriot radar during testing in 2019 at Menzingen (ZG).

A recognised air picture in Switzerland and in the surrounding area of interest is the basic condition for the effective and successful conduct of the engagements of the air force to ensure protection of the airspace.

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Air navigation radars at the military airbases

Airport surveillance radar at the Torny site, Payerne airbase.

With the installation of the last of five airport surveillance radars armasuisse achieved an important milestone in the project «Military Approach Control System Plus (MALS Plus)».

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