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An Overview of RADAR Technology

Radar is an object-detection system which uses microwaves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits microwave pulses . The reflection from any objects in it’s path is captured by a sensing unit.


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RADAR: Design & Systems

The modern uses of radar are highly diverse, including

• air traffic control

  • radar astronomy
  • air-defense systems
  • anti-missile systems
  • marine locating radars
  • aircraft anti-collision systems
  • ocean surveillance systems
  • extraterrestrial surveillance       and rendezvous
  • meteorological monitoring
  • flight control systems
  • guided missile targeting
  • geological ground-penetrating radar

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  A Brief but Compelling History of RADAR Warfare

A fascinating lecture by Steve Blank at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. He gives an overview of the flow of government capital seeded what we now call Silicon Valley with some of it’s first high tech startups – whose primary function was the development of RADAR based weapons and signal intelligence technology during the Second World War. Blank traces the evolution of RADAR intelligence and warfare well into the cold war and the era of ICBMs and fantasies of Star Wars.

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  Radar: Technical Principles

Early training newsreel for RADAR technicians outlining diagnostic procedures for RADAR sets of the era. Excellent general overview of operation of RADAR systems of the era.

NOTE: This is only the first part of a longer newsreel. Follow links on the linked site for the remainder of the newsreel.

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Basic Design of Primitive RADAR Systems


  above: Diagrammatic view of functional primitive RADAR ranging system. These are the basic components that make such a system possible. The antenna both receives and transmits the microwave signal, the duplexer determines the time sharing logistics for the send/receive signals, the syncrhonizer organizes the time sharing logistics and the display computer assembles the signal into a meaningful X-Y display that represents the physical space the unit is directed toward.


above: the raw signal sent out by the RADAR transmitter consists of regularly spaced pulses. The accuracy of the ranging system is dependent on the accuracy of these pulses. The particular way in which the returned (reflected) pulses contains information about the size, distance and orientation of objects being observed. It is only through watching the resulting data or display system that information about speed and direction of travel is captured.

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  The ‘Woodpecker’ – Soviet RADAR installation at Chernobyl

Even more impressive and powerful than Britain’s WWII Chain Home RADAR system they defeated the Nazis with, is the later USSR installation near Pripyat/Chernobyl, home of the famous nuclear disaster in 1986. The clip at left shows rare photos of the installation. Clearly audible is the Woodpecker’s powerful signal, which plagued HAM Radio operators all over the hemisphere.

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Wikidpedia’s Page on RADAR

RADAR System Components and System Design (PDF)

RADAR Systems Engineering (Basic Theory & Principles)

RADAR: A Technical Overview (PDF)

Radar System Engineering, volume 1 of MIT Radiation Laboratory Series (PDF)

MIT Radiation Laboratry Series


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