RADAR tutorial | Tutorial on radar basics

This radar tutorial covers radar basics, types of radar and radar applications. This tutorial on radar also covers radar classification based on functions, pulsed radar, CW radar basics and radar range equations.

Radar Basics

Radar Tutorial

As we know that RADAR is the short form derived from RAdio Detection And Ranging. It is mainly used to determine or detect that some object lies at so and so distance away. This object is the one which can not be observed visually by the eye. In the radar system, radar unit or radar station transmits high frequency RF signals, which gets reflected from the target. This reflected signal(referred as 'echo') is received by the radar station helps determine distance of the target from radar station. It also helps determine direction, azimuth,elevation of the target. The same concept is illustrated in the figure.

Equation for the distance to the target is D = T/12.36

Where, D is the distance between radar station and object in nautical miles. T is the total time from transmission of the signal and reception of the signal in micro-sec. In most of the radar applications, Nautical mile is used in place of statute miles for the measurement purposes. A Nautical mile is equal to 6076 ft.

The radar can see through the medium consisting of fog, snow, rain, darkness, clouds etc. Radar signal can penetrate and see through insulators. It can help find out following parameters of object or target viz. Range, Angular Position, Location of Target and Velocity of Target. It can distinguish fixed as well as moving target types.

Types of Radar

radar types

As part of radar tutorial let us understand different types of radar. These radar types depend upon techniques used for the measurement of radar parameters such as range, azimuth, elevation and velocity. Radars fall into two major categories referred as primary radar and secondary radar. The main type of radar is primary radar. These radars transmit Continuous Wave(CW) as well as pulse. The reflected CW and pulse received are processed by the radar to determine range, velocity, elevation and azimuth. The examples of primary radar are the one used for ground penetrating radar, air based search radar, weapon control radar and so on.

Primary radars are further categorized into CW radar and pulse radar. Unmodulated CW radar and FMCW radar system fall under CW radar. MTI (Moving Target Indicator) pulse radar and pulse doppler radar are pulse radars.

Secondary radars are the one used to provide identity and altitute related information. The example of secondary radars are IFF radars (Identification Friend or Foe). These radars respond when they will be interrogated by some other radars using encrypted signals. Ground radars or airborne radars are used for this purpose. There are basically two main types of radar systems viz. pulsed radar and CW(continuous wave) radar. These pulse and CW radars have been explained below in brief. There is another radar by name phased array radar which uses multiple dipoles instead of single horn/parabolic reflector.

Radar Classification

Radars are also classified based on the functionalities such as air traffic radar, police radar, weather radar, defense radar, marine radar, ground penetrating radar and so on. The function of these radars are outlined in the table below.

Types of radar Function
Air defense radar It determines target location and launch weapon to destroy.
Air Borne radar It is used for navigation mainly for flight operations. It guides Aircraft even in thick cloud. It is also used for military applications.
Air traffic radar It determines location of aircraft landing at the airport. It helps aircraft land under poor weather and poor visibility conditions.
Police radar It locates and determines fast moving vehicles.
Marine radar It determines location of shore and ships.
Ground radar This radar creats a radar map of the ground from either satellite or aircraft.
Missile guidance Controls the path of the missile launched from the ground towards the target.
Weather radar This weather radar forcasts weather condition before taking off of the aircraft.
Docking radar Guide vehicles to the correct docking position.
Terrain Guidance radar It helps guiding the aircraft during the flight about mountains and terrains over the route.

Pulse radar

Pulsed Radar

In this Pulse radar, signals are transmitted in short pulses(bursts). The duration or width of the pulse is very short and will be fom microsec to several microseconds. The distance of the object is determined by measurement of time delay from the time pulse is transmitted to the time echo is received.

PRT is the time between transmitted pulses, called Pulse Repetition Time.

PRF(Pulse Repetition Frequency) = 1/PRT
Duty Cycle = w(100)/PRT, unit of percentage.

CW radar

Let us understand CW radar basics. In the CW radar, a constant amplitude continuous sine wave in microwave frequency range is transmitted. This amplitude variations of the echo will not help determine the object, but as the object moves there will be frequency change observed between transmitted and received echo. This frequency shift between transmitted signal and received echo is referred as doppler effect. This helps determine relative speed between radar unit and the target object.
V(m/s) =1.1 x f x λ
This doppler effect provides frequency modulation of the carrier.

The variation to this concept is the FM continuous wave radar,here carrier is continuous but is frequency modulated by a sawtooth or triangular wave.

Radar Applications

The main applications are defense surveillance systems, navigation and locating enemy targets. They are used as altimeters. High frequency radars are also used to plot or to map the terrain in the area. There are many as mentioned above in the table.

Radar Range Equation

As per basic principle RF burst is transmitted towards the target and receiver is turned to listen for the echo reflected from the target.This pulse will have very short pulse duration of width (T) and long receiver time between pulses. The number of pulses per second is referred as Pulse Repetition Rate(PRR) or Pulse Repetition Frequency(PRF). The time between the on-set of consecutive pulses is referred as Pulse Repetition Time(PRT).


Range R = c* t /2
Where, R is the range to the target in meters,
c is the speed of light 3 x 108 m/s
t is the time in seconds between the original transmitted pulse and arrival of the echo from the target.

For example, a target return echo in 98 microsecond after the time of transmitted pulse. calculate the radar range to the target.

Radar range Equation is, R = c*t/2
R = 3 x 108 * 98 x 10-6 /2
R = 14700 meter


Refer following radar tutorial related links which covers radar basics including its measurements, doppler radar, FMCW radar, radar bands, radar scope, weather radar, radar range and resolution, ground radar etc.
Radar Measurements   Doppler Radar   FMCW RADAR   RADAR BANDs   RADAR SCOPE   Weather Radar   Ground Penetrating Radar System  RADAR RANGE and RESOLUTION  Terminology   Range calculator  

Radar calculators

Following are useful radar calculators to calculate radar range, radar PRF, radar resolution etc.
Radar Range calculator   Radar PRF vs Range   Radar Range Resolution 

RF Wireless Tutorials