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Saab and Ørsted tested an offshore radar concept with the GIRAFFE 1X 3D AESA radar system on the world’s largest operating offshore wind farm HORNSEA 1, 120km east of the Yorkshire coast in UK waters during September and October 2021, according to information provided by Saab. The tests were remotely managed from Sweden and monitored from Denmark by:

  • Saab
  • Ørsted
  • the Royal Danish Air Force
  • the UK’s NATS air traffic control.

The goal was to mitigate the interference from offshore wind farms on the recognised air and maritime picture. Another was to validate the performance in a coastal and offshore environment with parameters such as extreme weather conditions and the highest of wind speeds.

Radars such as GIRAFFE 4A are designed to continuously scan significant volumes of airspace every day 24/7 and detect airborne threats and anomalies. Over the last decade, the impact of offshore wind turbines on air defence early warning radars has also been recognised. Offshore wind turbines are large, numerous and they move. Each blade is approximately 70-100m long and wind turbine blades might be even longer in the future. Movement of the blades is picked-up by radar and creates unwanted clutter, reduction in performance and noise on radar screens. Offshore wind farms are moving further away from shore and the curvature of the earth is still a fact. This is at the same time as changes in the maritime environment.

Flexible Radar System

According to Saab, a short or medium range, high-resolution offshore 3D radar can be a flexible and affordable solution. GIRAFFE 1X reportedly combines multi-tasking capabilities and multi-role use for tracking up to 600 airborne and other types of targets simultaneously. The system also offers an Enhance Low, Slow and Small flying-target detection function. This technology and application is to enable and complements situational awareness in and around offshore wind farms. This can even be beyond the radar horizon of the ground-based long-range radars.

The successful trial results with GIRAFFE 1X in the world’s largest offshore wind farm will be shared with relevant government stakeholders in the next phase, the companies report. A standardised approach is planned to be developed to guarantee the coexistence of defence and offshore wind energy in the long term.