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Holographic radar tracks 1,000 mph shells

Cambridge Consultants' holographic radar system can track 5-inch naval gun shells. It may help defend against attacks by small, mobile craft.

Cambridge Consultants

Technology development firm Cambridge Consultants has created a military targeting system that can track 5-inch shells traveling more than 1,000 mph, allowing gunners to improve their shooting.

The system, which the company calls the first of its kind, is based on a 3D holographic radar known as the Land and Surface Target Scorer (LSTS). It can track highly mobile targets in a cluttered radar field.

In recent trials at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the radar system was mounted on a tethered pontoon to track projectiles in a 360-degree, 1,000-foot coverage zone.

The LSTS tracked the trajectory and burst points of inert projectiles fired by a naval gun at a rate of one per three seconds. A laptop showed the results in near real time.

The system uses algorithms that separate small projectiles from intense radar clutter. The Department of Defense had commissioned Cambridge Consultants to develop the shell-scoring system to defend against rapid, small-craft attacks and help reduce the cost of live-fire training.

"Prior to the LSTS system, the only way to know how effective shots were was if they sink the boat using high explosive rounds during live fire training," says Gary Kemp, Program Director at Cambridge Consultants.

"The LSTS system will enable the military to use inert rounds that cause less damage," he continued. "Once fully deployed, the LSTS will provide data without loss of equipment, which will help better train the U.S. military against fast-moving attack vehicles, while saving millions of dollars in the process."

The company says the technology may help defend against attacks like the one that hit the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 U.S. sailors, but it must be further developed.

"The next stage of development is a full-coverage demonstration, with the LSTS installed on a sea target moving at high-speed," Kemp says.

"Results will be continuously produced in real-time over an extended test period. A demonstration of the system's ability to detect and track 50-caliber shells will also be conducted."