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RE: Meaning of threatened <fwd>

I contacted a friend in the US Air Force (with air combat 
experience in the Gulf) on radars and threats to address 
Andrew Loucks' question of whether aircraft are always 
illuminated by radar. Here is his response:

Civilian radar's indeed "illuminate" aircraft all the time. 
They do this for air traffic control purposes.  However, they are NOT
threatening to our aircraft because they are using what we call "Search
Radar."  Civilian search radar is relatively low power and can NOT be used
to help guide a missile.  
Search radar does what the name implies: It tracks an aircraft in a
non-threatening way at a relatively low power, on specific radar
band-widths.  This radar is used to just get radar returns to follow an
aircraft for air traffic control purposes.  It is best used with
Transponders on an aircraft.  Transponders reply electronically to the
search radar in order to enhance the radar return and to pass information
(altitude, airspeed, call-sign, heading, stuff like that).
Nonetheless, we can also use this type of radar to find aircraft in a combat
environment.  [Please note-under current Rules of Engagement, getting
painted by "search" radar, civilian or military, is not sufficient
justification to shoot.]
You know, it is not a very efficient or smart to use civilian search radar's
in a combat environment because civilian search radar's are best used in
conjunction with transponders and in combat we TURN OFF our transponder.  We
become VERY difficult to find and, moreover, this radar information is NOT
data-linked to missile batteries.
Now, it is very easy to distinguish the radar band-width used for civilian
search radar's and the band-width associated with Surface to Air Missile
(SAM) radar. 
You see, we have systems on combat aircraft that can easily determine if the
civilian or military radar "painting" you is civilian or military "search"
or Target Tracking Radar (TTR).  This system on the aircraft is called
"Radar Warning Receivers-RAWR" 
TTR radar emissions cause all sorts of audio and visual cues that tell the
pilot that someone is either gonna shoot at you or already has!! (Remember
the rapid-beeping tones in the videos I played--TTR warnings!)  
By switching to TTR you upgrade the band-width and power-level.  By doing
this you are electronically signaling to the world that you are, in essence,
drawing, aiming and cocking a gun and starting to pull the trigger.  
Now, what was happening in Iraq was the bad guys were using a SAM radar
system not only in "search" mode, but switched to the more powerful and
threatening TTR.  They switched to TTR in to better illuminate the aircraft,
to refine the firing solution and to make the aircraft "brighter" so the
missile can follow the radar reflection to the aircraft.  
When you are flying and you get "hits" from a SAM search radar it raises the
hair on the back of your neck-it means the bad guys are looking at you.  It
is not, under current guidance and in reality, all that threatening.
However, once the bad guys switch to TTR, that action is very, very obvious
and unmistakable and clearly means they are about to shoot at you or already
pulled the trigger! TTR's are without question, VERY THREATENING.
You see, you do not switch to TTR unless you are going to fire. The reason
is simple. You go to TTR and YOU become the target and you better make sure
the time you are emitting TTR is very short because if you don't, you will
have a HARM missile knocking on your door shortly.  This situation can best
be compared to the old west quick-draw: he who can shoot first and score a
hit, wins.
Hope this helps.

Andrew Loucks wrote

> I'm no expert, but aren't civilian aircraft constantly 
> "illuminated" by radar?  Wouldn't a developed country 
> "illuminate" every airborn object that enters its 
> airspace?  I'm sure that the "first step" to firing on 
> someone is to locate that someone using radar, but it's 
> also the first step to a lot of things.  It's the only 
> step taken if the goal is to simply monitor one's
> airspace.

Dr. Eric Herring
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133

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