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NATO develops drone to test its air defense radars against ballistic missiles

Ballistic missile emulating drone
Photo: NATO

NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) has developed a new way of testing NATO air radars’ ability to track ballistic missiles, as a way of responding to the continued proliferation of ballistic missiles.

The testing system consists of a radio controlled and programmable quadrocopter and a radar transponder, a specially designed radio communication device that repeats the radar signal and thereby simulates the missile trajectory.

An NSPA team of engineers operates the transponder and analyses the data to offer an accurate picture of the radar’s ability to detect incoming missiles.

The new capability will enhance NATO nations’ ability to perform test campaigns against ballistic missile threats on their air defense radars, without incurring high costs or time-consuming processes, NSPA said.

“This would have previously required the costly and resources-consuming physical relocation of the radar to a specialized missile firing range and the launching of missiles. However, using a drone to fly the projected missile trajectory and a transponder to produce the appropriate radar returns allows for a highly cost efficient and adaptable testing campaign,” René Rothmann, NSPA Air Surveillance & Air C2 Systems Group Manager, commented.

This service is available to all NATO Nations and it can be performed wherever the radar is located. Tests can be repeated and vary within a wide range of programmable parameters, without the need to use multiple missile launches.

NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence (NATO IAMD) is an essential mission in peacetime, crisis and conflict that safeguards and protects the alliance territory, populations and forces against air and missile threat and attack. Through its Communications, Air and Missile Programme, NSPA contributes to this collective effort offering testing capabilities for a varied number of radar types.