Troop protection via man portable radar, has arrived

Soldier Modernisation talks to Leo McClosky from Echodyne Inc about their innovative solutions

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Over history troop protection in the field has become a key area for those responsible for troop safety. The damage to morale by the return of wounded and dead comrades can’t be measured in the cost of training the modern soldier. So the chance to carry a lightweight sensor that can provide detailed multi-kilometre situational awareness of movement and activity in all environmental conditions is critical. This helps prevent blue on blue and allows more time to make mission critical decisions. Echodyne have created a rare breakthrough in radar technology.

Echodyne's EchoGuard

Echodyne's EchoGuard

Q: Throughout the year Soldier Modernisation has looked at technological advances to protect front line troops. With advancements in portable radar, Echodyne has a unique solution to add to this, could you explain more about how ISRs can be utilised?

A: From everything Echodyne is seeing and hearing in Ukraine, awareness of low altitude (>3km for Group 3 like Shahed 136, >1km for Group 1 & 2 like DJI Mavic) drone activity is essential for both warfighter safety and mission success. The one sensor that can detect every movement in the sky is Radar. It is an active sensor but operates outside the normal radar frequencies (at 24 GHz) and is designed for high performance with a small signature. Echodyne’s EchoGuard radar boasts ultra-low SWaP and is easily integrated with advanced communications solutions for ISR operations in remote and austere locations.

Q: Echodyne says the secret is in the antenna and MESA technology, could you tell us as much as you can in layman's terms?

A: The best type of radar is a phased array, which utilizes phase shifters to generate actionable situational awareness data, and the more T/Rx modules, the sharper the performance but also the greater the maintenance requirement. Moving parts that enable these radars can be small and well-packaged, but they still require care in handling, operations and maintenance. Echodyne’s breakthrough MESA technology creates an ultra-low SWaP, solid-state format that also has 5x the T/Rx capacity of similarly-sized radars. Essentially, we’ve reinvented the interior of the radar to create outsized performance in a commercial, attritable package.

Q: One question that is going through purchasers and programme managers heads is great solution, but how easy is it to carry and will it take power from standard field batteries, like Bb-2950?

A: The term “man portable radar” has often been something of a joke. High performance radars that are described as “man portable” often require a team of 4 or 5 to carry and assemble field radar. Echodyne has designed a Lightweight Deployment Kit (LDK) that can hold the radar, a tripod and mount, all cables, a Toughbook computer, 2x Bb-2950 batteries, and a solar collector for 24/7 operations that fits in one backpack, weighs less than 12 kg, and can be assembled/disassembled in <10 minutes.

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