Radio Science

Applications of high-frequency radar


  • J. M. Headrick,

  • J. F. Thomason


Efforts to extend radar range by an order of magnitude with use of the ionosphere as a virtual mirror started after the end of World War II. A number of HF radar programs were pursued, with long-range nuclear burst and missile launch detection demonstrated by 1956. Successful east coast radar aircraft detect and track tests extending across the Atlantic were conducted by 1961. The major obstacles to success, the large target-to-clutter ratio and low signal-to-noise ratio, were overcome with matched filter Doppler processing. To search the areas that a 2000 nautical mile (3700 km) radar can reach, very complex and high dynamic range processing is required. The spectacular advances in digital processing technology have made truly wide-area surveillance possible. Use of the surface attached wave over the oceans can enable HF radar to obtain modest extension of range beyond the horizon. The decameter wavelengths used by both skywave and surface wave radars require large physical antenna apertures, but they have unique capabilities for air and surface targets, many of which are of resonant scattering dimensions. Resonant scattering from the ocean permits sea state and direction estimation. Military and commercial applications of HF radar are in their infancy.