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Airborne radar: its beginnings in World War II

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1 Author(s)
Brown, L. ; Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Instn. of Washington, DC, USA

Although not realized at the time, the defeat of the German Air Force in the summer of 1940 was one of the crucial battles of World War II. The narrow margin of victory can be ascribed to Britain's air-warning radar, Chain Home (CH), consisting of the 15-meter CH and the 1.5-meter CHL. The skillful use of this equipment by the Royal Air Force made daylight bombing unsustainable; the Luftwaffe then turned to night attacks, generally called "The Blitz." These were not effective in destroying military and industrial targets and depended on the hope of reducing the population's will to fight. Chain Home was of little use except to observe the attackers arrival, as it had almost no ability to follow the attackers as they proceeded inland. This eventuality was reckoned with before the outbreak of hostilities and had called for radars mounted in night fighters capable of guiding the pilot close enough to the target for him to open fire visually. The electronic techniques used at 1.5-meters were adapted to planes capable of carrying the radar and its operator. But there were three important design constraints: 1) the antennas had to be restricted to sizes that were practical for installation on aircraft, which for meter waves gave them low gain and large side lobes; 2) the set's maximum range was limited by the fighter's altitude as a result of the huge ground returns from the side lobes. British antiaircraft artillery, the stepchild of their arms, was too ineffective to drive the bombers to extreme altitudes; and 3) a minimum range had to be held until the flier could see his target, which strained the pulse techniques of the time.

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:19 ,  Issue: 7 )

Date of Publication:

July 2004

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