U.S. Air Force's New Radar Height Finder
March 1955 Popular Electronics Article
from the photos of cool radar antennas, "Made by General Electric of
Syracuse, N.Y.," caught my attention because I actually spent a couple
years there (it was a different company by then) in the mid 1990s as
an engineer working with a design team for a weather radar for the FAA.
It was a kludge of left-over components and assemblies from other cancelled
programs. The phased array antenna came from a Navy shipboard program,
and the components for the RF, analog, and digital portions were cobbled
together mostly from parts that were in the company stock room inventory.
Very little money was budgeted for new parts or personnel (5 full-time
engineers and a manager, and an occasional technician if I recall correctly).
I handled all the RF and analog design and the equipment rack power
supplies, plus RF plumbing out of the building and into the phased array
antenna (2 other engineers handled the antenna assembly). One of the
coolest parts of the design was the waveguide. I wish I had pictures
of the rack and waveguide assemblies, but doing so was not permitted.
It was a grueling year and a half of simulation (on very slow old Unix
computers), documentation, building (I did almost all of most of my
own assembly and the rack cabling), testing, integration, more testing,
then moving everything out to the open air test site and testing again.
60-80 hour weeks were the norm. The guys I worked with on the digital,
software, and systems were incredibly brilliant; I was definitely a
dim bulb in their presence, but I managed to get my part working. After
moving on to another company, I later learned that a site maintenance
worker disconnected the lightning protection bonding cable to the equipment
building while plowing snow, forgot to re-connect it, and a lightning
strike fried a large portion of the rack. I'm glad I wasn't around to
have to repair that mess!
March 1955 Popular Electronics
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history
of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights
are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from
U.S. Air Force's New Radar Height Finder
Defense networks of the United States and its allies are being strengthened
by a powerful new radar height-finder.
Antenna for height finder needs its own room in Arctic radome
Height finder and search radars work as a team. Data is fed
from radars to this control center in the radome building, and
is then relayed to fighter bases.
Three versions of the height finder: unit at left is mobile.
Center unit is radome structure for fixed Arctic installation.
Unit at right is for fixed installation in temperate areas.
Made by General Electric
of Syracuse, N.Y., the new radar set furnishes high-frequency energy
which is concentrated in a narrow beam like that of a searchlight. This
beam detects planes three times as far as previous units of this type.
Its exact range is classified information.
An interesting sidelight
is that the energy radiated is so powerful, it can light fluorescent
lamps over a hundred feet away, and can ignite flashbulbs tossed in
the air in front of the antenna (see photo).
The radar height-finder
is being used in conjunction with search radar to detect high flying
aircraft and to provide information on distance, altitude; and flight
The new radar is being made in mobile as well as
fixed versions. A large quantity has already been supplied for use in
strengthening the "radar fences" that guard the North American continent,
and for defense posts in countries receiving aid from the United States
under the Mutual Defense Assistance Pact. Additional units are being
produced for similar use.
As shown in the photos, the complete
installation is a complex one, requiring the combined efforts of several
trained technical personnel for successful operation. In this set-up,
the height-finder and the search radars work as a team. The type of
data supplied by search radar (see article in Popular Electronics, November
1954) is combined with the data available from the height-finder. The
information thus obtained is fed to a central control room, where it
is evaluated and interpreted. Then, in turn, it is relayed to fighter
bases, from which points necessary action can be taken.
climates the radar is housed in a dome-shaped circular structure (see
photo) with a balloon-like radome made of woven glass fabric impregnated
with a rubber compound. The radome is supported by air pressure, about
a half pound per square inch, and can withstand winds up to 125 miles
per hour. The radome protects the radar antenna from Arctic weather.
Flashbulb tossed in air is ignited by energy from
powerful new radar set.
Posted February 3, 2014