On the 767-200 image I see no SSR antenna, but since that TCAS uses the transponder I guess that are sharing the same antenna. Am I right ?![enter image description here]1


1 Answer 1


Short answer

The SSR antennas are labeled ATC L and ATC R (two at the top, two at the bottom).

enter image description here

Both SSR and TCAS systems use the same communication protocol and use the same frequencies (1030 and 1090 MHz). They could well use the same antennas. However for best performance, SSR antennas are omnidirectional and TCAS antennas favor some sector, usually by beam forming.

enter image description here

On this B767-200 picture, TCAS antenna is the flat one at the front, and the yellow SSR antenna is a bit behind (only one):

B767-200: TCAS and SSR/ATC antennas
B767-200: TCAS and SSR/ATC antennas
See the full and higher quality photo by Ramon Jordi

Another airframe with two SSR antennas:

B767-200: TCAS and SSR/ATC antennas
See the full and higher quality photo by Temo Madrigal

I was not able to find a good view of the SSR antenna on a B767-200, but on this A320, the two side yellow SSR antennas are more visible (as well as the single DME antenna behind):

A320: SSR antennas A320 SSR antennas, source

Use and needs are different

I guess that are sharing the same antenna. Am I right?

As said, you could be right as SSR and TCAS operate on the same L-band frequencies, and can't time overlap. But they have actually dedicated antennas, because they need different radiation patterns:

  • Transponder initial function consists in responding to SSR interrogators on the ground, and now in broadcasting ADS-B squitters in addition. The bottom SSR antenna is of some omnidirectional type, commonly a quarter wavelength monopole), Because the fuselage is not a perfect ground plane, the radiation pattern doesn't peak at the horizontal as one would expect, but has a privileged direction at 30° (source) below the aircraft plane, a low gain in the horizontal plane, and is nearly blind on its nadir.

  • TCAS on the contrary need to have a good reception in or close to the horizontal plane and around the nadir. They are the directions where the most immediate threats are coming from.

This is why the TCAS antenna is designed differently. Let's see the backside of the TCAS antenna shown earlier:

TCAS antenna array inputs

Hum... not one antenna connectors, but four!

The flat shape of the TCAS radome (sometimes round) contains a 4-element phased array antenna which can be set to cover an hemisphere, but which can also focus on a quarter of this hemisphere. Example of design using a switched beam-forming network (SBFN):

TCAS switched beam-forming network
Source: Microwaves & RF

The four outputs labeled A1..A4 are connected to the four individual connectors under the radome.

TCAS uses the steering obtained with the array to select which direction to send interrogations and to listen to responses, in order to reduce synchronous garble from close mode C transponders responding simultaneously to the aircraft (1.7 NM radius), and FRUIT from all aircraft responding to a ground ATCRBS interrogation.

TCAS reverts the bottom antenna to the omnidirectional mode (same phase on the four antennas) and decreases RF power in landing and takeoff phases, to prevent radio spectrum overload.

For a Mode S transponder aircraft, we would have this kind of configuration:

TCAS, transponder and their antennas

Note there is a connection between TCAS and SSR to inhibit each other when they are using the frequencies and protect their RF input. If I remember well, SSR mode has the priority (at least when the TCAS is not in a TA/RA phase).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Collins Aerospace developed an integrated system for the B787. The ISS-2100 combines TCAS, XPDR, WXR and TAWS. The WXR and TAWS only share packaging and I/O with the TCAS/XPDR which is truly integrated. The integrated TCAS/XPDR is now available as the TSS-2100 (without the WXR or TAWS). The integrated TCAS/XPDR operates with just two specially designed antennas. They are a hybrid design that supports both omni (for XPDR) and directional (for TCAS) operation. So if you check out B787 you will find just 1 top and 1 bottom ATC/TCAS antenna. The 2 installed ISS share the antennas via relays. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Dec 6, 2019 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry. Thanks, this is an important information. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Dec 6, 2019 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @mins The purpose of Mode S transponder antenna is to respond to interrogations from SSR (Ground) and ADS-B Squitters. It is understandable that placing the antenna at the bottom of the aircraft serves the purpose of communicating with the ground antenna well, but what is the purpose of placing the Mode S transponder antenna at the top ? $\endgroup$ Dec 21, 2022 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @KrishnaKanth Reason for top transponder antenna: At least 4 reasons: 1/ On the ground, the bottom antennas are ineffective, so one antenna must be elsewhere for SSR and ADS-B transmissions. 2/ Space-based ADS-B, 3/ To answer ACAS interrogations coming from above, because ACAS delegates 1090 MHz transmissions to mode S transponder (more) 4/ Even without TCAS, mode S is still capable of replying to ACAS interrogations, which may originate from an aircraft above. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jan 19, 2023 at 17:16

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