Secondary Surveillance Radar - Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar

Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar

The new Mode S system was intended to operate with just a single reply from an aircraft, a system known as monopulse. The accompanying diagram shows a conventional main or "sum" beam of an SSR antenna to which has been added a "difference" beam. To produce the sum beam the signal is distributed horizontally across the antenna aperture. This feed system is divided into two equal halves and the two parts summed again to produce the original sum beam. However the two halves are also subtracted to produce a difference output. A signal arriving exactly normal, or boresight, to the antenna will produce a maximum output in the sum beam but a zero signal in the difference beam. Away from boresight the signal in the sum beam will be less but there will be a non-zero signal in the difference beam. The angle of arrival of the signal can be determined by measuring the ratio of the signals between the sum and difference beams. The ambiguity about boresight can be resolved as there is a 180° phase change in the difference signal either side of boresight. Bearing measurements can be made on a single pulse, hence monopulse, but accuracy can be improved by averaging measurements made on several or all of the pulses received in a reply from an aircraft. A monopulse receiver was developed early in the UK Adsel programme and this design is still used widely today. Mode S reply pulses are deliberately designed to be similar to mode A and C replies so the same receiver can be used to provide improved bearing measurement for the SSR mode A and C system with the advantage that the interrogation rate can be substantially reduced thereby reducing the interference caused to other users of the system.

Lincoln Laboratory exploited the availability of a separate bearing measurement on each reply pulse to overcome some of the problems of garble whereby two replies overlap making associating the pulses with the two replies. Since each pulse is separately labelled with direction this information can be used to unscramble two overlapping mode A or C relies. The process is presented in ATC-65 "The ATCRBS Mode of DABS". The approach can be taken further by also measuring the strength of each reply pulse and using that as a discriminate as well. The following table compares the performance of conventional SSR, monopulse SSR (MSSR) and Mode S.

Standard SSR Monopulse SSR Mode S
Replies per scan 20–30 4–8 1
Range accuracy 230 m rms 13 m rms 7 m rms
Bearing accuracy 0.08° rms 0.04° rms 0.04° rms
Height resolution 100 ft (30 m) 100 ft 25 ft (7.6 m)
Garble resistance poor good best
Data capacity (uplink) 0 0 56–1,280 bits
Data capacity (downlink) 23 bits 23 bits 56–1,280 bits
Identity permutations 4,096 4,096 16 million

The MSSR replaced most of the existing SSRs by the 1990s and its accuracy provided for a reduction of separation minima in en-route ATC from 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi) to 5 nautical miles (9.3 km; 5.8 mi)

MSSR resolved many of the system problems of SSR, as changes to the ground system only, were required. The existing transponders installed in aircraft were unaffected. It undoubtedly resulted in the delay of Mode S.

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