28-30 August 2019
Copthorne Tara Hotel London Kensington, London, United Kingdom


By: Dr Karl Erik Olsen is the Principal Scientist at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

The airborne military radar domain has been particularly active over the last few years due to important ongoing programmes for Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCAs), along with helicopters and special missions aircraft.There is a great deal of research and investment going into radar technology as global demand for cutting edge detection and ISR capabilities rapidly increases.

Dr Karl Erik Olsen is the Principal Scientist at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) where he leads the radar group with one responsibility being advising on future research projects. He is one of the leading authorities on radar technology and his work at the FFI is helping Norway identify challenges and opportunities in the radar field. The FFI has the primary responsibility for defence-related research in Norway and is the chief adviser on science and technology to the Ministry of Defence and the Norwegian Armed Forces. The organisation focuses particularly on developments in science and military technology, which have an impact on political security and defence planning.

Defence IQ recently sat down with Dr Olsen ahead of the Military Radar conference (London, UK) to discuss the technical challenges for military radar in Norway and to get an insight into his research in this area and the new capabilities on the horizon. Here’s a transcript of the interview …

Defence IQ: Thank you for joining us today, Dr Olsen. To get us started could you please outline what you think are the key challenges Norway faces over the next decade with military radar technology?

Dr Karl Erik Olsen: With radar sensors being one of the most important military sensors, I could elaborate on this point for hours! However, the short answer is making systems work closer and better together through networking and burden sharing. Also, I think in near future we will see a change from operator driven actions to task oriented problem solving within sensors. This also includes sensors solving different radar tasks, like the more advanced multifunction radar of today, although these tend to be operator driven as well.

What is your research at FFI focusing on to work towards overcoming these challenges?

At FFI we strive to make research, development and military challenges meet. The work is inspired by our slogan “We turn knowledge and ideas into an efficient defence!” For radar systems, we try to bridge the gaps between the military and industry, working on the military side. This means we do research ranging from low level signal processing at academic and university standards to high level operational analysis of effectiveness of current as well as next generation systems.

What will be the biggest technological advances in the surveillance radar field ? How will this impact the use and effectiveness of radar for the military in the future?

As mentioned above, I think the biggest advances we will see will be in the different and complex tasks radar sensors are required to perform. Within the surveillance radar field, it is the coming of the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) and/or Digital Beam Forming (DBF) systems. These systems offer great flexibility, which we already see research making efforts to understand the reach of. Examples are scheduling, waveform design, detection and tracking, which combined quickly lead to adaptivity and cognition. However, on the civil side, radar is picking up fast, and we might see that the research there also may impact military systems. For military systems this means simpler maintenance and potential for fewer single points of failure since there is a larger number of transmitter modules compared to older systems which could have only one amplifier. Also, the dynamic range and stability of the system should be improved, which means that the military might be able to see weaker and slower targets.

What will be the most important factor in driving radar technology?

Looking at current research and the technological breakthroughs of transmitter/receiver technology we are heading towards more and more software based systems, where flexibility will be a driving factor. We are now seeing single radar systems capable of solving a range of different tasks, i.e. software reconfigurable. For years we have seen the effect of adaptivity in radar systems, and I look forward to follow closely the extension of the radar "perception-action" cycle with the research goals represented by the cognitive radar ideas.

What will your presentation focus on at the conference? What are you hoping to achieve at the event and why is it important for you to attend?

I will focus on the radar sensor from a military perspective. I will try to see the world through ‘radar eyes’ from a military viewpoint. I’m very much looking forward to discussing this with the audience

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