Edwards Air Force Base, California, USA, 10 August 2006: Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully designed, built and flight demonstrated one of the world’s first synthetic aperture laser radar systems.
Under Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funding, the Synthetic Aperture Ladar for Tactical Imaging (SALTI) program transfers synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technologies, proven in numerous radio frequency radars, into the laser radar domain, providing unprecedented resolution at significantly improved standoff ranges.
“This is an historic milestone: an airborne laser radar has successfully demonstrated the SAR technique,” said Chris Patrick, Northrop Grumman’s SALTI Program Manager. “Until now, all optical systems and laser radars were limited in resolution by the size of their aperture. Now, much higher resolutions are possible. The diffraction limit has been surpassed.”
The tests, held March 31 – April 3 at Edwards Air Force Base, proved that SAR works at optical wavelengths, enabling high-resolution, nearly photographic quality imagery at distances much further than current electro-optical systems can provide.
The tests included a series of flights on board a Northrop Grumman BAC 1-11 test aircraft, which were supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the 412th Test Wing. “Synthetic aperture laser radar technology is aimed at satisfying the critical need for reliable long-range Battlefield Awareness,” said Dr. Jennifer Ricklin, DARPA’s program manager for the SALTI program.
“SALTI combines the long-range day/night access afforded by conventional SAR with the interpretability of high-resolution optical imaging, along with the exploitability of three-dimensional imagery.”
Synthetic aperture radar can enhance mission effectiveness across the spectrum of air assets, from fighters and bombers to surveillance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. To help explore these potential applications, Northrop Grumman has been asked by DARPA to continue testing this new capability at additional ranges and under various environmental conditions.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With more than 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.