Moderated Discussion Areas
ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
|Author||Topic: RADAR Visibility|
posted 12-26-2011 08:27 AM ET (US)
I don't have any hands-on experience with modern ship RADAR units. From reading a lot of Tom Clancy books, I know that modern warfare tactics tend to rely on being stealthy. Not only doesn't a combatant want to give an opposing RADAR system a good target by providing a strong return signal, being stealthy means not emitting any RADAR signals yourself.
Small boat navigation is, of course, the antithesis. You want your boat to be visible to the RADAR of other boats. Unfortunately the RADAR profile of a small boat with a low profile and made of fiberglass is probably not very visible. In practice, many small boats will employ RADAR reflectors to increase their visibility of the RADAR of other vessels. This leads to my question:
Does having an operating RADAR on your small boat have any effect on the ability of other vessels to see your boat on their RADAR? Particularly with these newer marine RADAR sets that use a low-power frequency modulated continuous wave technique rather than a high-power burst method, will having your boat RADAR operating cause a strong signal on other ship RADAR sets?
I know in the Tom Clancy fictional word, emitting a RADAR signal will give away your position to the other combatants, but in the real world of present practice in small boat RADAR, does operating your set help other sets to see you?
posted 12-26-2011 09:30 AM ET (US)
The short answer is a simple and inexpensive radar reflector will provide a much more distinct target at a greater distance on the radar screen than any crosstalk from another active radar will. Navigation aids that have the perpendicular planes or the radar reflectors similarly constructed produce distinct radar signatures on the screen.
posted 12-26-2011 01:06 PM ET (US)
Peter's thinking is akin to mine. I think typical small boat marine RADAR sets are not the sort of "threat receiver" that Tom Clancy novels feature in their combatants vehicles, planes, or ships.
Regarding RADAR reflectors, there is a good report about the general ineffectiveness of many commonly sold devices from the United Kingdom, contained in a follow-up investigation to a nasty big-boat/small-boat collision at sea between the sailboat OUZO and the ferry PRIDE OF BILBOA. See
and in particular the section 2.6.5 RADAR REFLECTORS, where the radar cross section (RCS) of some commonly used reflectors is discussed.
For more details see the separate report on the RCS of many devices sold as reflectors:
Performance investigation of marine radar reflectors on the market
For all reports and annexes related to the OUZO incident see
posted 12-28-2011 09:55 AM ET (US)
From my RADAR display's manual:
There is a setting on my display that filters this sort of interference. When this setting is disabled, it is possible to determine if another RADAR is operating in range, but it is not possible to determine where the other RADAR is.
posted 12-28-2011 01:01 PM ET (US)
All US Navy ships are equipped with the AN/SLQ 32 shipboard electronic warfare system. This system can/will detect commercial surface radars in the I/J bands.
To my knowledge there is no commercial application for the use of electronic warfare equipment on merchants and small craft.
posted 12-28-2011 05:28 PM ET (US)
I can also tell you that small, fiberglass boats like ours do not make particularly good RADAR targets. If you want to be seen, a reflector or transponder is the best way to go.
posted 12-29-2011 10:13 AM ET (US)
Perhaps reflective of a U.K. bias, the investigation report (linked above) mentions active marine RADAR transponders made by SEE-ME:
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