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20 September 2011

Tracking the Impossible

Groundbreaking radar pinpoints impact of rapid shell fire for US Department of Defense

Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology design and development firm, has successfully carried out trials tracking 5 inch shells travelling at over 1,000 miles per hour for the US Department of Defense (DoD). The groundbreaking radar developed specifically for this task was able to measure the trajectory and burst points of shells fired from a naval gun at a rate of one every three seconds - the first time radar has been used this way. The technology will eventually be used by the US DoD for training against attack by fast moving land and sea vehicles.

The terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, where a small craft was detonated alongside the ship killing or injuring 56 American sailors, reinforced the need for the US DoD to train against possible attack. With the high costs of live fire training proving unsustainable, the US Department for Operational Test & Evaluation commissioned Cambridge Consultants to use its radar expertise to develop a shell-scoring system. Following just 14 months of development, Cambridge Consultants unveiled the industry’s first holographic radar scoring system, the Land and Surface Target Scorer (LSTS).

Installed on high-speed land or sea-surface target vehicles, the system uses receiver array panels combined with high-speed signal processing to detect and track small projectiles in the presence of very large radar clutter, such as that experienced on moving land and sea surface targets. During trials at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren VA, the system successfully detected, tracked and located the point of impact of inert 5 inch projectiles, and was also able to plot the burst point of a high explosive round. Observers were able to see the results in near real-time on a laptop.

“Land and sea surface vehicle installations present a considerable challenge because the clutter return produced by the ground or water surface is considerably larger than the projectile to be measured. It is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Gary Kemp, Program Director at Cambridge Consultants. “Holographic radar offers the optimum solution in such difficult conditions as it extracts projectiles of interest from clutter using tracking algorithms while retaining the full sensitivity of the radar, rather than by raising thresholds and potentially missing critical data. During these trials we were able to produce raw data plots immediately and full trajectory reconstructions in just 15 minutes, under the scrutiny of our customer.”

The demonstration test took place with the radar system mounted on a tethered pontoon to prove its detection and tracking capabilities over a zone within the specified 360 degree, 1,000 foot coverage. The demonstration team then conducted a rapid-fire test, during which all rounds were tracked through to impact on the water.

Dae Hong, Head of Target Systems Division, Naval Air Warfare Center, commented: “To witness a successful proof of concept constitutes a significant milestone for our program. To have produced a working prototype from concept in just 14 months is testament to the depth of knowledge and skills of the team at Cambridge Consultants. We look forward to developing the technology further and enhancing the training capabilities we are able to offer our troops.”   

It is expected that development of the LSTS system will be taken to the next level during 2011, concluding with a full-coverage demonstration, installed on a sea target moving at high-speed with results being continuously produced in real-time over an extended test period.

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 700 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, oil and gas, and wireless communications.

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R&D services which offers its clients a new way to innovate. Altran works alongside its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. In 2015, the Altran group generated revenues of €1.945bn. With a headcount of more than 27,000 employees, Altran is present in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit

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