The Next Generation OTH Radar
Physics, University of Newcastle
Department of Electronic Engineering, La Trobe University
Last modified: August 1, 2011
Australia is a leader in the development of over-the-horizon HF radar systems for surveillance (e.g. JORN) and for research (e.g. the TIGER and Unwin SuperDARN radars in Tasmania and New Zealand respectively). The latter scan a narrow beam across 52o in azimuth in 16 steps, with a complete scan taking about 1 minute. The transmitting antenna array consists of 16 log-periodic 10 element antennas supported by 15 m towers. Echoes are detected by the same array, while an auxiliary 4-antenna array provides elevation angle estimates. The first generation radars of this type, widely used by the international SuperDARN consortium, are analogue systems. More recently some radars, including Unwin, provide the capability to transmit two frequencies concurrently, and utilise some digital hardware. A new radar currently being deployed at Buckland Park, Adelaide, is fully digital and will provide unprecedented performance and flexibility of operation, since all aspects such as beam width, range and time resolution, frequency and mode of operation will be fully programmable. This radar will also use simpler bow-tie antennas than current SuperDARN systems. This paper discusses a concept proposal for a further radical development in OTH radar technology, based on a fully digital radar with a unique antenna array providing a field of view covering all of Australia. This would be a world-first facility which, when combined with the existing SuperDARN radars, will provide high resolution data on the coupled magnetosphere/ionosphere/thermosphere system from the auroral to equatorial regions, plus information on sea state returns. This would be an important asset to SKA and space weather studies.