Monitoring the high seas at high altitude

New airborne surveillance system patrols oceans for illegal activity

In some parts of the world, the sea is lawless, fraught with piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing.

To help navies and coastal authorities combat illegal activity, Raytheon Intelligence & Space has developed the SeaVue family of airborne radars, which detect small maritime targets such as illegal fishing vessels, go-fast boats and stateless ships—ships not registered to a country or government, on the high seas. RI&S engineers have added a new, upgraded radar to the family called SeaVue Multi-Role.

The radar works with RI&S’ AN/DAS-4 Multi-spectral Targeting System, an electro- optical/infrared sensor, to image the targets, providing operators with enhanced actionable intelligence.

“SeaVue and its predecessors have been used around the world for decades to interdict illegal activity on the open seas,” said Barbara Borgonovi, vice president of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems for RI&S. “DAS-4 is the latest iteration of our multi-spectral targeting system technology. These systems are imperative to maritime patrol for both civil and military applications.”

SeaVue is currently deployed on a variety of international manned and unmanned platforms. Raytheon Intelligence & Space is in discussions with several nations to equip their navies and coastal authorities with the new SeaVue MR.

The new SeaVue MR has expanded capabilities that include an increased small-target detection range, enabling the radar to operate on platforms that fly at higher altitudes.

“Previously, aircraft had to fly low, at about 1,500 to 5,000 feet, so legacy systems could get the best view of what was on the ocean’s surface,” said Craig Young, chief engineer for airborne multi-mode radars for Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Systems at RI&S. “If aircraft flew too high, there was the potential to mix-up wave patterns for targets. To meet the requirements of modern aircraft, SeaVue Multi-Role can detect small targets from much higher altitudes, up to around 35,000 feet.”

This capability increases search coverage for every flight hour, allowing for greater overall mission endurance.

SeaVue MR works by scanning the ocean’s surface for targets. Each of the targets it scans will have a symbol and tracking information. This information appears as a blip on a radar screen, which triggers the AN/DAS-4 MTS technology. The DAS-4 sensor provides the operator with full-motion HD video to identify and engage targets with pinpoint accuracy.

“It’s then up to the operator to decide if they’re looking at a friendly or hostile force,” said Young. “Our systems help operators see clearly enough to help make that distinction, providing them with actionable intelligence so appropriate action can be taken such as dispatching a Coast Guard cutter to intercept the target.”

This capability could help protect fleets, trade routes and access to the oceans.

“The military has large assets such as aircraft carriers and destroyers moving about the ocean at any given time,” said Young. “Having an aircraft surveilling from above can help call out if there are hostile forces approaching the fleet with the possible intent of doing them harm.”

SeaVue can also surveil trade routes for countries that depend on navigating the seas for their economy.

SeaVue MR delivers these enhanced capabilities all at lower size, weight, power and cost also known as SWaP-C.

“Where radars of this caliber used to require a dozen different boxes to achieve the same capability, SeaVue Multi-Role is a three-box radar,” said Neil Peterson, vice president of Radar Sensor Systems for RI&S. “Having a lower SWaP-C allows SeaVue to be installed on anything from an unmanned aircraft to larger jets.”

RI&S demonstrated SeaVue and DAS-4 on the SeaGuardian for the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and 12 other NATO member and partner nations as part of the Joint Warrior demonstration in the fall of 2021. Joint Warrior is a UK-led military exercise that takes place in the spring and autumn of each year.

The Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and British Army are joined by forces from 13 other allied countries, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.