The French Air Force has successfully completed the first flight of a passive airborne radar using an experimental aircraft Air Base 701 at Salon-de-Provence, in south-eastern France.
The latest development follows initial ground tests of the complete system that was performed this spring.
Since 2013, the French Air Force Academy, Ecole de l’Air, has been carrying out research into detection by passive radar in a bid to produce the system for airborne carriers.
The new system will provide the capacity to detect potential air threats at low-altitude and low-speed, while remaining discreet.
The solution acts purely as a receiver and uses electromagnetic emissions already in the environment in order to exploits echoes created by civilian transmitters such as those of digital terrestrial television (DTT).
The first flight test was in the area around Salon-de-Provence-Orange-Aix-en-Provence-Marseille to benefit from the DTT transmitters located at Grande Etoile and Mont Ventoux.
According to the French Air Force, the research is a joint effort between the Centre de Recherche de l’Ecole de l’Air (CReA), the National Office for Aerospace Research (ONERA), and the SONDRA laboratory, a joint venture between ONERA and the Central-Supélec school.
For the test, which lasted two hours, the air force used the Busard motoglider aircraft belonging to ONERA and it was equipped with a complete reception system that was specially developed for the project.
Validating the electronic part of the system, the test assessed the data integrity.
Currently, the data is processed by the project team to further develop processing methods especially tailored to the airborne environment.
Image: Programme technicians work on the pod housing the airborne passive radar and fitted to the Busard powered glider belonging to ONERA. Photo: courtesy of French AF photo.