Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) have become the platform of choice for many maritime forces tasked with monitoring and protecting territorial waters, including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In fact, with budgetary constraints and fuel prices on the rise, these versatile, cost-effective vessels are increasingly preferred over larger, more expensive front-end vessels such as destroyers, frigates and even corvettes. Well over 1300 OPVs are currently in operation worldwide and more than 200 are expected to be built in the coming years. Examples include Batch II RIVER in the UK, HTMS KRABI in Thailand, and the US Coast Guard’s Legend class cutter.
These ships constitute the backbone of littoral operations, guarding against a wide range of threats, including terrorism, smuggling, drug trafficking, illegal fishing and illicit immigration. They also play an important role in search & rescue, environmental protection, and in securing critical maritime infrastructure such as offshore oil drilling platforms. To effectively carry out their duties these ships require the accurate 3D situational awareness picture achieved with high performance ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) sensors, especially radar.
However, the deployment of sensors on these vessels is challenged by available space, payload, power and budgeting. So despite the increasing reliance on OPVs, the limited ability to equip these vessels with the requisite ISR solutions has impacted their effectiveness. OPV commanders often face the challenge of performing the same missions as larger, more comprehensively equipped vessels; yet in many instances, the radars fitted to their vessels are commercial systems with rather limited performance.
In response, Israel Aerospace Industries’ subsidiary, ELTA Systems Ltd., has leveraged its rich technological heritage and culture of innovation to field the STAR-X 3D multi-function digital radar system, delivering military grade performance in a smaller, lighter package with lower power consumption and space requirements in comparison to legacy systems.
Operating in X Band, this powerful radar is able to simultaneously track over 1000 surface and aerial targets, has an instrument range of 150 km, and the ability to detect low visibility targets with a very low RCS. STAR-X performs wide area scans of the sea surface out to dozens of kilometers while simultaneously carrying out effective air and surface surveillance. In fact, an integrated IFF antenna and the unique capability to automatically detect, track, and classify low flying threats and high-flying targets at long ranges, enables STAR-X to deliver superior air surveillance. Moreover, with its ability to perform splash spotting, the easily integrated radar also offers an efficient interface to gun system fire control. Finally, its ability to perform air surveillance against drones and UAVs is especially important given the increasing presence of these threats in the littoral arena. In contrast, commercial 2D radars lack these important capabilities. They simply are not designed to perform the tracking, classification or air surveillance required on modern OPVs.
STAR-X leverages the latest GaN technology to maximize performance while minimizing size and weight. It also features AESA capabilities, including beam forming in elevation and superior ECCM features. In addition to offering class leading features and performance, this radar is also the most flexible with regard to growth potential and upgradeability; mainly through software-only updates to address new threats. Maintainability is another strongpoint. STAR-X incorporates ELTA’s proven, advanced, Single Module Radar (SMR) technology, guaranteeing high reliability and effective long-term support extending to twenty years and beyond.
For over fifty years ELTA has continued to combine extensive design & development effort together with the operational experience of users worldwide. Delivering unprecedented capabilities to OPVs and other compact ships at an attractive cost, STAR-X is proof positive of the virtues of this approach.