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Australia’s radar network upgrades set in motion

12th August 2019 - 09:46 GMT | by Tim Fish in Auckland


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BAE Systems Australia has completed its first software release on the upgrade programme for the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN), which will look to digitise the entire network.

JORN is a high-frequency (HF) over-the-horizon radar operated by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that can conduct surveillance out to in excess of 3,000km.

The company told Shephard that the initial software release is a first step in the upgrade that will allow the integration of data into a distributed data system. It involved risk reduction of the software patches and converting it into a series of apps. BAE also said it has completed a system requirement review and is prototyping transmit component hardware items.

The JORN Phase 6 upgrade is a A$1 billion ($68 million) programme that will last 10 years with a scheduled completion set for 2028. Steve Wynd, JORN Phase 6 programme director at BAE Systems Australia, told Shephard that existing technology in the system is comparable to analogue phones of the 1990s and the upgrade will digitise the whole network.

‘If you think of an iPhone IOS or Android operating system, we are actually changing the software architecture to sit on a data backbone, which basically means JORN becomes a series of apps that plug into that data backbone,’ Wynd said.

‘You are in effect converting it to a pseudo-app base and then that allows us, as we write new software, [to] pull out the old bit and plug in the new bit. That means you reduce a lot of the integration risk,’ he added.

JORN is a massive set of antenna arrays across three sites at Longreach in Queensland, Laverton in Western Australia (pictured) and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. JORN monitors Australia's northern approaches, providing data to the Royal Australian Air Force. 

The Phase 6 upgrade will modify all the software and hardware components behind the antenna infrastructure and antenna cabling at all three locations.

Digitisation and moving to an app-based approach allows for continued spiral upgrades. Wynd said that the software is being built in five releases up to the beginning of the first radar site upgrade at Longreach in 2022, when the hardware insertion will begin and an additional release will follow.

‘The next major stage as we move to a modification readiness review, we will start to install the hardware in parallel with the first radar with the command-and-control centre and we will do some pre-integration work with that,’ Wynd said.

Integration and prototyping work is being conducted at a new HF laboratory at Adelaide University, which opened in May 2019, that is being provided with data and hardware to allow scientists to conduct testing and prove the system before it is deployed out to the site.

Digitisation offers better performance and, with a digital receiver, the radar can give more detail for each area that is being covered within a time slice and record more footprints by picking out more targets from the clutter. 

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