Is there a way to estimate the maximum effective range of a naval radar for air traffic control functionality, based on the radar's stated overall max range?

For instance, if a naval radar that has targeting functionality states that it can detect artillery fire at a maximum range of 75NM, is there a way to estimate its range for air traffic control purposes (e.g., a max range of 75NM translates to about a max functional range of 25NM for air traffic control?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this is an aviation question, but still: The radar you mean is a true radar, called primary radar on ATC jargon. These radar are not the main source for aircraft ranging in ATC. The main source is the secondary surveillance radar or SSR. SSR is barely comparable with a primary radar. Anyway the primary radar capability is dependent on its power and wavelength, and also the elevation of the target. So to allow a comparison you need to provide more elements regarding the naval radar. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ You may also be interested in Radar basics $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the info, and for this Radar basics website. Both very helpful. I think I have my answer, which is that there is no easy answer without considering additional parameters. $\endgroup$
    – Noel S.
    Oct 8, 2015 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Artillery shells are quite small compared to aircraft. It is easier to detect a non-stealth aircraft than an artillery shell. However making a general statement is difficult as there is quite some processing involved to filter out unwanted targets. You have to separate the technical capabilities of the radar hardware from the technical capabilities of the data processing. It may be that this radar detects aircraft at 100 NM, but after processing none will be displayed. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Oct 9, 2015 at 8:28

1 Answer 1


A radar system designed to track artillery shells is likely to be entirely useless as an air traffic control system.

To improve their utility radar systems reject signals outside their design parameters. This means that stationary elements (buildings, landscape features, etc.) are ignored, as are objects with velocities well outside the target range. There may be other optimisations.

The muzzle velocity of an artillery piece is typically well in excess of the speed of sound (Reference) A radar system designed to handle artillery shells may reject many subsonic traces, and thus ignore most aircraft that you might want to have some control over.

Of course, you could reprogram or repurpose the electronics, but then you wouldn't really have a naval radar anymore.

  • $\begingroup$ Without going too much into detail, it would not be wise to reject subsonic traces. A radar can determine the -relative- velocity of a target by looking at the Doppler shift. The relative velocity of an artillery shell may be within the range of aircraft speed. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Oct 8, 2015 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima I'm not a radar expert, so I've adjusted the wording to be less definitive. My point really is that a radar system designed for one application is likely to be very poor at another. FWIW, a naval radar mounted 30m above sea level will have a horizon at about 12 miles, so early detection of a shell at 75 miles will be impossible, and that's when the relative velocity is most likely to fall into the subsonic range. $\endgroup$
    – user11516
    Oct 8, 2015 at 22:19

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