Aside 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!
U.S. Air Force's New Radar Height Finder
Antenna for height finder needs its own room in Arctic radome
Defense networks of the United States and its allies are being strengthened by
a powerful new radar height-finder.
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.
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
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.
In Arctic 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
Posted November 17, 2021
(updated from original post on 2/3/2014)