As with many new technologies the public uses daily, many originally come from solutions to military problems. GPS made its big debut during Desert Storm/Shield in 1991. The Cold War prompted a need for the U.S. military to establish ARPANET, the beginning of the modern internet. Duct tape was developed in WWII to repair military vehicles and weapons and to seal ammunition cans.

Today, we use early military technology to manage speed on the highway and to prepare food. Microwaves are in nearly every kitchen and they are adapted from the radar technology used in the military. Radar usage has evolved greatly since Britain’s Chain Home Radar, the first early warning radar network in the world, which provided early warning of approaching German bombers during World War II.

What is Radar

A radar system operates by transmitting a high-frequency signal out toward a target. When the signal bounces off that target and returns, the radar can use the information received to identify the target’s relative position and speed. The military uses this technology as both a defensive and offensive tool.

Today’s military applications of radar systems range from aircraft navigation and attack to air defense, weather detection, and air traffic control. But don’t think radar is strictly air related. Naval ships around the world use radar to identify surface targets and weather, too.

Below we will breakdown seven military applications of radar systems:

  1. Detection/Search Radars
    Search radars use pulses of short radio waves to search large regions or air or surface to determine the approximate range, angle, or velocity of aircraft or ships. Search radar roles include early warning radar, target acquisition, surface, and subsurface radar.
  2. Targeting Radars
    Unlike the search radar that searches large areas, the targeting radar searches smaller zones more frequently to acquire and lock on a target. Ground-based targeting radars differentiate between a moving target, stationary targets, and clutter. Airborne radar also has to differentiate between the moving target, the ground, and the clutter. But because the aircraft carrying the radar is also moving, it has to compensate for the doppler frequency shift of the clutter.
    A few examples of search and targeting radars are the F-5 Tiger II APQ-159 and its replacement upgrade, the NEMESIS MESA Radar, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon APG-66/APG-68 and its replacement upgrade, the Delta Radar System.
  3. Instrumentation Radars
    These tracking radars function as a measuring device on military ranges and test facilities. They are employed by the military to measure metric performance data on aircraft, projectiles, missiles, and satellites.
  4. Fuzes
    Proximity fuses are used in anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) rounds. To have the AAA round detonate when it passes near a target and not just when it hits the target increases the chance it will hit a target and not just detonate above of below. Its optical ranging sensor sends pulses to a target and detonates a predetermined distance from the target.
  5. Weather-sensing Radar Systems
    A weather radar is a pulse doppler radar system that bounces microwave signals off a target like clouds and rain. These radio signals are sent out in a circular pattern from the doppler radar tower. The signals get scattered when they come in contact with precipitation, but some of the signals returned. The amount of returning signals depends on the intensity of the precipitation. Measuring the time it takes for the radio beam to return to the tower using the Doppler effect helps identify the distance and speed of the storm.
    Weather sensing radar is used by the military for both air traffic control and aircraft. Air traffic control needs to know what weather-related events are near the airport that will affect operations. Aircraft utilize weather radar to monitor weather along their path.
  6. Navigational Radars
    Navigation radars are like search radars but use a short wavelength that reflects off earth and stone. It is used by ships and aircraft for collision avoidance and navigation.
    Many general-purpose radars that function as navigational radars can differentiate between vehicles, land, and even stormy weather.
  7. Mapping Radars
    Mapping radars used in aircraft are synthetic aperture radars. These systems generate a 2D or 3D map rendering of the ground features and terrain ahead of the aircraft.
    Mapping radars can create the ground and terrain mapping unhindered by darkness, haze, or other factors that normally impact visual detection.

Radar Warning Receivers

Since a pilot needs to know if they are being targeted by a radar system, military aircraft employ a radar warning receiver. With the Radar Warning Receiver, there are multiple antennas situated around the external sections of the aircraft. These multiple wideband antennas listen for the radio emissions of radars and use a cockpit display to indicate to the pilot a relative direction and distance to the signal.

AN/ALR-69 Radar Warning Receiver

One of the most common RWRs found on aircraft like the B-52 Stratofortress, A-10 Thunderbolt II, AC-130 Spectre, C-130 Hercules, F-16 Fighting Falcon, HH-53, and the MC-130 is the AN/ALR-69 Radar Warning Receiver. Since the mid-1970s, this radar warning receiver has provided threat type, emitter mode, and threat angle-of-arrival (AOA) to a flight crew for situational awareness.

The ALR-69 is designed to warn the pilot via an audio alarm and graphically present on the RWR display the direction and nature of the threat it detects. It determines the identity of the radar signal by comparing its signature to a database of known threats in order to determine if the source is friend or foe. The ALR-69 will also activate the appropriate countermeasures response to address an immediate threat.


The ARGUS Radar Warning System is a highly affordable digital threat detection system designed for a variety of platforms and applications. Sensing integration allows the user to incorporate ARGUS into many different types of existing mission systems, or as a stand-alone system on its own.

An Affordable and Flexible Solution for a Radar Warning Receiver

argus radar warning receiver rwr

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