Monday, December 14, 2009

Foreign RCS Ranges


Radar cross section (RCS) measurement facilities are integral components in designing a modern combat aircraft. With the proliferation of advanced SAM systems capable of engaging reduced- and possibly low-RCS targets, such as the Russian S-300P series, attention to an aircraft's radar signature is becoming increasingly important to the success of a major air combat operation. This article will detail known foreign RCS measurement facilities, as well as providing an update to a previous feature on American facilities.


Many of the world's major combat aircraft are designed and built in Western Europe. It should come as no suprise that there are RCS measurement facilities located on the grounds of British Aerospace, EADS, and in France.

BAe Warton

BAe Warton is home to an RCS facility comparable to many of those seen in the United States. Supporting BAe's work on low-RCS designs, such as the Replica, and potentially aiding the Eurofighter program, the RCS range is situated on the grounds of BAe Systems' Warton airfield. A retractable hangar allows for test articles to be hidden from view, while a possible secondary measurement platform allows for objects not fitting inside the hangar to be evaluated.

BAe Warton's RCS facility can be seen in the image below:
EADS Manching

A much simpler RCS facility exists on the grounds of EADS' Manching airfield in southern Germany. This facility consists of a relocatable radar array and a pedestal or tower for mounting test objects. This facility likely supports signature reduction work for the EF-2000 and other European aircraft programs. The relatively "unhidden" facility suggests that it may be used for evaluating existing airframes, with more sensitive designs being tested elsewhere.

EADS' Manching RCS facility can be seen in the image below:

France's SOLANGE RCS facility is an expansive, fully indoor RCS measurement complex. SOLANGE is operated by CELAR, part of the French Defense Ministry, and is large enough to mount a full-scale aircraft or test article indoors. SOLANGE is significant as it was employed in 2005 to test a model of Japan's ATD-X stealth demonstrator.

France's SOLANGE RCS facility can be seen in the image below:

The Swedish Defense Agency (FOI) is believed to operate an anechoic chamber at Linkoping AB for conducting RCS evaluations. It is not known if the facility mounts full-size aircraft or reduced-size test articles, but the positioning of a facility which may be the RCS measurement complex in question suggests that an aircraft such as a Saab Gripen could be taxied into the chamber.

Sweden's Linkoping possible RCS facility can be seen in the image below:

Two large outdoor RCS measurement ranges currently exist inside of Russia. It is not currently known if individual manufacturers are affiliated with a certain facility. A former RCS measurement ranges were located at Aralsk, Kazakhstan, but is no longer believed to be active and has not yet been located.


The Tver RCS range, formerly known as the Kalinin RCS range during the Soviet era, is located northwest of Moscow. This facility is interesting as it appears to be constructed to measure the RCS of objects suspended between two large gantries. The gantires are separated by approximately 400 meters, with the attachment point for the test object roughly halfway between them. Various exapmples of land-based radar systems are located at the western end of the large clearing housing the measurement range.

The Tver RCS range can be seen in the image below:

Voronezh in southwestern Russia houses a second RCS range facility. The Voronezh facility, previously identified in an Image of the Week, is similar to the northern facility at Tver insofar as it employes a large cleared area for radar propagation and a battery of land-based radars for signal generation. However, while Tver seems to be designed for measurement of suspended test articles, Voronezh appears designed for measurement of surface or pylon-mounted articles. The circular platform where test articles would be mounted also appears to contain a rotating central area, allowing for signatures to be measured at different aspect angles without having to completely reinstall the test article.

The Voronezh RCS range can be seen in the image below:

China operates a large RCS measurement facility in Beijing. This facility is co-located with a test facility for numerous new radar systems, including the HT-233 guidance radar for the HQ-9 SAM system. This expertise potentially provides the RCS range with numerous qualified personnel to accurately measure test articles, as well as a facility for evaluating the performance of new radar systems. The test articles themselves may be mounted on a platform at the southern end of the radar pathway, or could theoretically be mounted underneath a crane located south of the measurement platform. An old MiG-15 airframe located near the crane platform may be employed as a calibration device for the radar range.

The Beijing RCS range can be seen in the image below:

Brazil's Aeronautics and Space Institute in Sao Jose dos Campos operates a small outdoor RCS range. The range consists of a pylon for mounting targets of up to 2000 kilograms, and an adjustable radar array capable of being adjusted in both elevation and azimuth. The range is used to measure small objects, and to evaluate the effects of radar-absorbent materials.

Brazil's RCS range can be seen in the image below:

The first feature detailing American RCS ranges and other classified test facilities was published in August of 2007. Since then, higher resolution imagery of two locations has been made available, and a new facility has been located.

New imagery of both the RATSCAT and Boardman RCS ranges can be seen below:

BoardmanThe new facility is located near Walnut Springs, Texas, and is believed to be a former Lockheed Martin RCS measurement facility. The Walnut Springs RCS range consists of a retractable hangar for mounting test articles and two radar positions. A possible secondary facility may be located southeast of the main range.

The Walnut Springs RCS range can be seen in the image below:

Feel free to discuss the content of this article at the IMINT & Analysis Forum in the discussion thread found here. You must be a forum member to view the thread.


-Overhead imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Soviet Reactions to Stealth, SNIE 11-7/9-85/L, accessed via the CIA's FOIA site

SOLANGE and Japan
EADS Manching RCS Range
Brazilian RCS Range (.pdf file)

-All information contained in this article is sourced from the public domain, principally the World Wide Web, and is not intended to imply the dissemination of, nor does it contain, restricted or classified material.


PS860 said...

I think you have located the RCS range in Kalinin, Russia. It probably refers to the site in Tver, beacuse this city was called Kalinin between 1931 and 1990. There are multiple smaller places in Russia still bearing the name "Kalinin", but I find it plausible that the site in Tver is the one you mention. But, I may be wrong and there is another site out there...

Sean O'Connor said...

I figured as much, but after spending over an hour examining all of the "Kalinin" locations that popped up in the search bar, I called it quits. I've edited the article to refer to Tver as being formerly known as Kalinin.

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

Anonymous said...

According to the Boeing link above, you can decipher these ScanEagle Compressed Carriage (UAS) flight operations happened at Boardman RCS Test Facility.

At 0:22 in the video, the Lat and Long is displayed for the vehicle and target. When you plot the GPS reciever location on satellite imagery, you see it they ran flight operations at Boardman.

Anonymous said...

i'm new... expectancy to despatch nearly more time after time!

Stan said...

Sean, i've been told that the Linkoping facility is indeed an EMP facility.