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Author Topic: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk  (Read 18485 times)

Offline Harrier

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Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« on: December 21, 2006, 06:16:27 am »
Does anyone have any details of the Blue Vixen radar? I have some old Jane's/Flight articles, and the 1994 GEC Review one, but I am curious as to its modes of operation as well as any updates it received in service. As it is the basis for Captor, similar to PS-05, and now out of service, it is strange that it is so mysterious.  And is it true that Blue Falcon was simply the breadboard version?

In addition, what happened to Blue Hawk? I have a Janes Defence Weekly article from 1992 on it, and web refs saying it was COTS based, but did any get built beyond rigs? And how did it compare to Blue Vixen (were they related?)?

Seems Blue Vixen was a real success story. Is that why it is little known???!!!
« Last Edit: March 29, 2007, 04:36:44 am by harrier »
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Offline PaulMM (Overscan)

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2006, 09:40:04 am »
It was certainly an extremely successful radar design.  In fact, you have to go back to Blue Fox Mk 2 to get the full picture.

Blue Fox (ARI 5982) was largely an adaptation of the Seaspray radar to form an "off the shelf" fighter radar. Design was prematurely frozen in 1982 for the Falklands War. In 1984, upgrades (Blue Fox B?) were made to the processor, scanner and receiver which significantly improved it. The radar was extremely reliable; some Blue Foxes operated right through to the MLU in 1992 without repair. The next stage in development was Blue Fox Mk 2; essentially this was mostly pre-development work which fed into Blue Vixen and CAPTOR because Blue Fox was withdrawn soon after upgrading to Mk 2 was completed. Blue Fox Mk 2 incorporated two ECCM technologies, ILIC (In Loop Interpretative (or Integration) Control) and Anderwave (after the designers, Anderson & Waverley) which were subsequently used on Blue Vixen and ECR-90. This system was top secret; after Blue Fox Mk 2 was withdrawn from service, all systems had to be physically scrapped, despite intense overseas interest. All drawings were burnt.

Blue Vixen (ARI 50019) was a superb radar design. It hadn't been possible to make Blue Fox a lookdown/shootdown pulse doppler radar due to time constraints and a lack of suitable industrial and knowledge base. Armed with money and experience from Blue Fox, Ferranti  started the Blue Falcon demonstrator program. This became the prototype for Blue Vixen.

For Blue Vixen, Ferranti eschewed the simpler high PRF route which Marconi were following with AI24 Foxhunter and went full speed into medium PRF pulse doppler radar. This gave excellent all-aspect lookdown performance. In terms of rival radar designs, it is ahead of APG-65, more comparable to the (heavier, larger) APG-73. While Blue Vixen was initially required to track 12 targets, Ferranti aimed (and achieved) for an internal target of 28.

Don't have anything on Blue Falcon unfortunately.

Regarding Blue Vixen modes, it depends a lot on how you classify between mode and submode. 11 major modes sounds about right.
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Offline Harrier

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2006, 01:16:39 pm »
Very interesting. I knew Blue Fox had some post-Falklands updates, using some of the experience from the conflict (bombing from IP mode and others IIRC) but was unaware of a Mk.2. Seems a pity they were scrapped - surely one or two were kept somewhere?

For Blue Vixen, I read online it got added A-G capability beyond its initial real beam mapping, with a fair SAR capability added. Is that the case?

The 1994 GEC paper says Blue Falcon was renamed Blue Vixen as the RN wanted to keep the Vixen name going, although I have found references to Blue Vixen as XR201 (UK project code) 'based on Blue Falcon', which appears to indicate a less direct link.

Is it the case that John Roulston was the key person behind all this? He seems to be one of those all-round engineers with leadership and management skills that such projects need.

Pity Blue Vixen's technical success was not reflected in sales to Australia etc.

BTW, tried to PM you back Overscan but the verification image/sound does not work, on either computer I use. Any tips? I can read yours though - thanks for that. I will send the full reply when it works.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2007, 04:37:19 am by harrier »
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Offline Harrier

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2007, 12:23:47 pm »
Found Blue Hawk info, from International Defense Review, 8&9 1992.

X-band, high, medium and low PRF pulse-Doppler radar. 44nm look up range, 27nm look down. Ground mapping 120 degree sector to 80nm. Air cooled, 107kg weight, 2.5kVA prime power output, waveforms transmitted at 8kW peak and 160W mean from ring bar TWT, PRF 800Hz-90KHz. Four LRUs, plus planar antenna with three direct drive DC motors. Separate programmable signal, data and display processors (RDP 68020) using 'C' language for data and display processing and assembler for signal processing. 1553B databus and HOTAS compatible.

Modes - look up, look down, velocity search, HUD FOV, single target track, DBS, freeze display, surface track, two sea search modes. Could be expanded to include AMRAAM, TWS, GMTI, NCTR and TA.

Aimed mainly at retrofits, no antenna size given but seems similar to Grifo/Elta 2032 so I assume it could be tailored to fit applications. I assume it was aimed at the same market Ferranti's 4510 HUD, MED 2060 and FINAS sytems were aimed at - Mirage III/V, F-5, Mig-21, Skyhawk etc, plus new light aircraft such as Hawk 200. Expected to be ready for service in 1995 - the articles include pictures of a space model and an antenna on test.

Also found a recent online mention of it being currently considered for Pakistan's FC-1 fighters, but assume the new Selex Vixen 500E is more relevant.

So, it seems to fill the gap between Blue Fox and Blue Vixen, but no sales it seems.
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Offline PaulMM (Overscan)

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Offline PaulMM (Overscan)

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2007, 12:39:57 pm »
Here's info from Jane's Avionics 1999

Quote
Blue Hawk radar
The Blue Hawk is a new I-band lightweight, coherent, multimode pulse Doppler radar designed for both new lightweight fighters and for the upgrade market. It employs low-, medium- and high-PRF waveforms and offers multiple functions for air interception, close air combat, air-to-ground and anti-ship operation. Aimed at today's typical threats, Blue Hawk has substantial processing capacity to allow it to be matched to a customer's particular requirements, and to adapt to future changes in the threat.
    Blue Hawk weighs 107 kg and consists of four main elements; transmitter, receiver/exciter, combined display and data/signal processor, and the antenna. The modular design allows flexibility of installation, especially in platforms where space may be restricted. Blue Hawk is fully compatible with MIL-STD-1553B databus and may be integrated readily with a total avionic system. It is compatible with a wide range of current weapons and ordnance. A major feature of the design philosophy is the wide use of standard components and conventional manufacturing technologies. Blue Hawk employs a fully programmable digital unit comprising signal, data and display processing, with 50 per cent spare throughput and 50 per cent spare memory capacity for growth. It is optimised for HOTAS control. A number of inherent design features minimise the effects of ECM.


Specifications
Frequency: I-band (9.6-9.9 GHz) frequency agile over multiple channels
Antenna: planar-array mechanically scanned +60 in azimuth and +60 in elevation. Antenna size can be varied to suit installation
Receiver/exciter: 2-channel receiver plus frequency generator
PRF: wide range from (low PRF) 800 Hz to (high PRF) 120 kHz
Power output: 8 kW peak; 160 W mean, a 400 W option is available
Detection performance: 51 n miles in look-up mode; 30 n miles in look-down mode; out to 80 n miles in ground-mapping mode
CW illuminator: can be offered as an integrated option for MRAAM control
Weight: 107 kg
Power requirements: 2.5 kW, 400 Hz, 3 phase


Operational status
Blue Hawk has completed the ground proving stage of development and has undergone a flight trials programme within the UK.

Contractor
Marconi Electronic Systems, Marconi Avionics Limited.
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Offline PaulMM (Overscan)

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2007, 12:41:57 pm »
It appears to be based on ECR-90/CAPTOR technology.
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Offline Harrier

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2007, 12:53:42 pm »
Interesting to hear it flew, and with only a few changes it seems.

I assume it had all the best 'bits' omitted for export, e.g. on Blue Vixen the antenna was scanned electronically in roll, but Blue Hawk seems to use 3 axis mechanical scan. I would expect an amalgam of Blue Fox/Vixen/Captor technology plus COTS.

I wonder if Blue Vixen was updated in service to make it 'Super' (e.g. SAR modes)?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2007, 04:35:49 am by harrier »
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Offline nova10

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2013, 01:32:39 am »
Overscan mentions a 1984 update of Blue Fox and a Blue Fox Mk2.  A repackaged Blue Fox known as Red Fox was proposed for the JF-17 Thunder in the early stages of the programme. Most intriguing.  Does anybody have any further information on these Blue Fox variants?  Also, what does IP stand for in relation to radar mode? Is it Initial Point?

Nova
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 01:47:46 am by nova10 »

Offline Harrier

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2013, 06:21:10 am »
Aah, my first ever post and thread on the forum come back to life...

Red Fox was simply Blue Fox re-packaged for aircraft other than the Sea Harrier.

IP does mean initial point.

Attached is an old document (a bit squirly due to several computer changes) I did in 2007 when trying to sort this all out. Has errors and omissions no doubt, but may be useful for some.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 06:24:49 am by Harrier »
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Offline nova10

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2013, 01:25:05 pm »
Most interesting.  I always thought PS/05A was a development of Blue Vixen rather than Blue Falcon.

Online JFC Fuller

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2013, 01:43:59 pm »
Blue Falcon history seems to be all over the place, I have seen it said that the programme started in 1975 and 1980 though the latter seems to be the consensus. Apparently it was never built as a complete set but rather it seems to have been an evolving engineering prototype core that became the grand-daddy of the latter Ferranti family with technology apparently being used in Blue Kestrel as well as ECR-90, Blue Vixen and the Ericsson PS-05. Super Vixen is said to have been a developed Blue Vixen as a fall-back solution for ECR-90 rather than a direct predecessor to it and thus a Blue Falcon grand-child? Work on Blue Hawk, based on the fact that when it was announced in 1992 was said to have been going on for three years, must have begun in 1988-89 and I would suggest that there is little if any Blue Fox in it- likely almost all Blue Falcon in it's lineage. Blue Hawk, along with the Marconi Apollo EW system and the Alenia ASPIDE was supposedly chosen at one point (around 1992) for the Chengdu Super-7. The GEC-Marconi Super-Skyranger was eventually chosen for Pakistani J-7Es with the original Skyranger used in earlier variants. Blue Falcon seems to have started as a private venture though there was certainly some government research contracts given along the way and Blue Hawk was also a private venture. 
« Last Edit: January 08, 2013, 08:08:25 am by JFC Fuller »

Offline BlackBat242

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2015, 03:11:24 pm »
Here is a mid-late 1980s Jane's Weapons system entry for Red Fox & Blue Kestrel:

Offline zen

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2016, 09:43:55 am »
Medium PRF systems offered the possibility of avoiding the problems with high PRF sets very limited range discrimination, limited capability against retreating targets and relatively high probability of transmitter pulses obscuring or eclipsing target returns.
MEASL and Ferranti both proposed lightwieght PD AI radars for a successor to the Jaguar and Harrier in '76-'77. Trials ran from May '82 to start of '84 and where fed into Blue Vixen.

Offline r3mu511

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Re: Ferranti radars - Blue Falcon/Vixen/Hawk
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2016, 05:37:42 am »
Medium PRF systems offered the possibility of avoiding the problems with high PRF sets very limited range discrimination, limited capability against retreating targets and relatively high probability of transmitter pulses obscuring or eclipsing target returns.

chapter 4 on "Pulse Doppler Radar" in Skolnik's "Radar Handbook, 3rd ed" has a pretty good treatment on medium vs. high prf pros and cons:

medium prf advantages:

- performance at all target aspects
- good ground rejection
- measures radial velocity
- less range eclipsing than high prf

medium prf disadvantages:

- performance limited by sidelobe clutter
- range and velocity (radial) ambiguity resolution required
- low antenna sidelobes necessary
- ground target sidelobe returns rejection needed

high prf advantages:

- allows thermal noise-limited detection of targets with high radial velocity
- single doppler blind zone near zero velocity
- good ground rejection
- measures radial velocity (unambigious doppler)

high prf disadvantages:

- limited low radial velocity target detection
- range eclipsing
- range ambiguities preclude pulse delay ranging
- high stability required due to range folding

in radars with the requisite mixed prf capability the chapter describes the advantage of the use of high prfs for forward-aspect search at extended ranges for closing targets, while using medium prfs for all-aspect search, and doing them in an interleaved fashion in order to use the advantages of one prf to complement the other prf...