DRDO UTTAM : Everything you need to know indigenous AESA Radar

The Uttam is an advanced active phased array radar (APAR) system being developed by Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) for the HAL Tejas and other combat aircraft of Indian Air Force. Development of Uttam started in 2008 and it was first unveiled at Aero India 2009. Uttam is slated to be a successor to hybrid passive electronically scanned array radar EL/M-2032 currently equipping LCA Tejas. Radar is currently being integrated with an LCA.

UTTAM has capabilities like, Identification friend or foe (IFF), electronic and communication support measures, C-band line-of-sight and Ku-band SATCOM datalinks, etc., similar to those on the AWACS and Conformal Airborne Early Warning & Control Systems (CAEW) systems.

The important modes of operation of the UTTAM radar system are the surface surveillance and the air surveillance. The sensor has the abilities to search, track-while-scan, priority tracking, high performance tracking, etc. In priority tracking, the targets will be placed in full track mode even if these cross the primary surveillance area. In high performance tracking, additional measurements are made to improve the tracking accuracy. Utilizing active aperture technology, the radar provides a fast-beam agile system that can operate in several modes concurrently.

Uttam features an active phased array (APAR) which gives it superior scanning performance over legacy passive phased array radar. Unlike most contemporary radars, Uttam features Quad TRM i.e. a single plank consists of 4 TRMs. It allows the array to be more densely packed. Each TRM is equipped with low noise power amplifier, built-in test facility, digital phase-gain, and side lobe control elements. The inert model displayed at Aero India 2015 had ~184 QTRMs i.e. 736 TRMs. The array temperature is controlled by a liquid coolant circulation system. The QTRM configuration makes Uttam maintenance friendly. The radar can be scaled up or down depending on antenna size requirement.

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Hardware has already been realized for this radar which has a range of 100 km against small fighter sized targets and rooftop testing has been completed. Though the Uttam AESA currently weighs 120 kg which is some 40 kg more than the current MMR, there will be no problem in integrating it with the LCA Mk-II which can easily carry a radar of this weight. It is a 3D radar for fighters, a MMR follow on, the Active Phased Array Radar (APAR) project aims to field a fully fledged operational AESA fire control radar for the expected Mark-2 version of the Tejas.

Recently DRDO published a brochure of the Uttam AESAR Fire control System which features the first image of UTTAM Aesa Radar undergoing installation process on LCA Tejas LSP-2 which has been deputed to carry out flight trials and integration of India’s indigenous Uttam AESA radar.

LRDE already has built Three Developmental Prototypes of UTTAM Aesa Radar which were intensively used and tested from Rooftop and Helicopters in different modes to evaluate the performance of the Radar in the past. LRDE now has developed Three more Radars which will be used for Integration and flight testing program which is likely to commence soon and will take 2-3 years to complete.

Defense Analysts predict it might take even 5-6 years from the date of commencement of flight trials to clear all modes and all weapons integration into the new indigenous FCR before it can be cleared for production. HAL already has selected ELTA’s EL/M-2052 AESA Radar for the upcoming upgraded LCA-Tejas MK-1A Variant since it was more or less confirmed that indigenous fire control radar was unlikely to be ready in time for MK-1A.

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LRDE reportedly also has been tasked to develop a more powerful variant for India’s 5th Generation AMCA Fighter jet in near future.

AESA in the LCAs will obviously have a lower range, but it will be well integrated within the IAF network, and give a quantum technology jump to IAF’s combat capabilities. Notably, the 36 Rafales being acquired by IAF in the Government-to-Government deal will also have the AESA radar, developed by Thales.

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