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Australia investing in sapphire clock technology to boost radar performance

JORN at Harts Range, Alice Springs
A Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) transmitter site at sunset, Harts Range, Alice Springs. Photo: Australian defense ministry

The Australian government has awarded BAE Systems Australia and CryoClock Pty Ltd an A$4.8 million contract to integrate the “most precise clock in the world” at three Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) radar sites across regional Australia.

The integration of the sapphire clock, which is so precise that it gains or loses just one second every 40 million years, is expected to improve JORN’s ability to detect objects in a wider range of air and sea conditions around Australia’s borders.

“The sapphire clock is more precise than current available commercial timing systems. When used within a radar system like the JORN, it has the potential to improve detection performance across Australia’s northern approaches,” Australian defense minister Linda Reynolds said.

“CryoClock’s leading-edge technology also has the potential to be used beyond defense including in the communications, advanced computing and scientific research sectors.

“It is fascinating that this extremely precise timepiece, which was designed for improving clocks, radars and measuring systems, has the potential to be used in radar systems such as JORN.”

JORN is a vital strategic defense-wide area surveillance system that surveys the northern air and sea approaches of Australia out to a range of 3,000 kilometers.

It is remotely operated from RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, with three radar sites located in Longreach (Qld), Laverton (WA) and Alice Springs (NT).

“If successful, follow-on work is expected which will see a production and integration contract for the incorporation of the technology into JORN under Defence’s AIR2025 Phase 6 upgrade project,” minister Reynolds added.

The contract award coincided with CryoClock’s relocation into South Australia’s high-tech innovation precinct at LOT 14 alongside the Australian Space Agency and other Australian technology frontrunners.