A limitation to the system could be the transfer of large, wide-area, high-resolution, synthetic aperture radar maps and electro-optical images. A way to address that bottleneck is to put four to six operators onboard the aircraft for imagery exploitation, so that the mass of data does not have to be transmitted from the aircraft. Part of the map is assigned to an intelligence expert onboard who knows virtually every stone of the area he or she is assigned to analyze.
Moreover, improved data processing and analytical tools are on the way from Elta's research and development centers. For example, as new radar technology is developed, it can be blended with signals intelligence, communications and electronic warfare capabilities.
Aircrews want to “keep in touch with the area they are scanning all the time,” Landa says. “We call it persistent coverage or staring radar. In order to cover that much, we want a narrow beam to provide as much power as possible to an area of interest. You need to concentrate energy. As the field of view becomes narrow, the resolution and accuracy become better.”
Another advantage to the narrow beam is that it is difficult to intercept and exploit. But to cover the necessary area at least to some degree, there needs to be a multi-beam radar with each beam operating as a separate radar with its own signal and radar processor.
“Many' means hundreds or even thousands,” Landa says. “We call it new-generation multi-mode AESA radar. We start with an antenna that has many transmitting and receiving elements. The computer can manipulate the data infinitely, and the memory in the computer will pay attention to items of interest and continuously check them [for new or changing information].”
IAI also is looking at offering more unmanned options for the next generation of intelligence-gathering aircraft.
“More and more platforms will be UAVs,” Reshef says. “Since they can't carry big payloads, there will be several working in parallel, all communicating to one central point that gathers the information and produces one combined picture of the theater we are working in.”