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Bistatic radar is the name given to a radar system which comprises a transmitter and receiver which are separated by a distance that is comparable to the expected target distance. Conversely, a radar in which the transmitter and receiver are collocated is called a monostatic radar. A system containing multiple spatially diverse monostatic radar or bistatic radar components with a shared area of coverage is called multistatic radar. Many long-range air-to-air and surface-to-air missile systems use semi-active radar homing which is a form of bistatic radar.
Specific classes of bistatic radar
Some radar systems may have separate transmit and receive antennas, but if the angle subtended between transmitter, target and receiver (the bistatic angle) is close to zero, then they would still be regarded as monostatic or pseudo-monostatic. For example, some very long range HF radar systems may have a transmitter and receiver which are separated by a few tens of kilometres for electrical isolation, but as the expected target range is of the order 1000-3500 km, they are not considered to be truly bistatic and are referred to as pseudo-monostatic.
Forward scatter radars
In some configurations, bistatic radars may be designed to operate in a fence-like configuration, detecting targets which pass between the transmitter and receiver, with the bistatic angle near 180 degrees. This is a special case of bistatic radar, known as a forward scatter radar, after the mechanism by which the transmitted energy is scattered by the target. In forward scatter, the scattering can be modeled using Babinet's principle and is a potential countermeasure to stealth aircraft as the radar cross section (RCS) is determined solely by the silhouette of the aircraft seen by the transmitter, and is unaffected by stealth coatings or shapings. The RCS in this mode is calculated as σ=4πA²/λ², where A is the silhouette area and λ is the radar wavelength. However, target may vary from place to place location and tracking is very challenging in forward scatter radars, as the information content in measurements of range, bearing and Doppler becomes very low (all these parameters tend to zero, regardless of the location of the target in the fence).
A multistatic radar system is one in which there are at least three components - for example, one receiver and two transmitters, or two receivers and one transmitter, or multiple receivers and multiple transmitters. It is a generalisation of the bistatic radar system, with one or more receivers processing returns from one or more geographically separated transmitter.
A bistatic or multistatic radar that exploits non-radar transmitters of opportunity is termed a passive coherent location system or passive covert radar.
Any radar which does not send active electronic magnetic pulse is known as passive radar. Passive coherent location also known as PCL is a special type of passive radar, which exploits the transmitters of opportunity especially the commercial signals in the environment.
Advantages and disadvantages
The principal advantages of bistatic and multistatic radar include:
- Lower procurement and maintenance costs (if using a third party's transmitter)
- Operation without a frequency clearance (if using a third party's transmitter)
- Covert operation of the receiver
- Increased resilience to electronic countermeasures as waveform being used and receiver location are potentially unknown
- Possible enhanced radar cross section of the target due to geometrical effects
- Separate receiver is very light and mobile while transmitter can be very heavy and powerful (surface-to-air missile).
The principal disadvantages of bistatic and multistatic radar include:
- System complexity
- Costs of providing communication between sites
- Lack of control over transmitter (if exploiting a third party transmitter)
- Harder to deploy
- Reduced low-level coverage due to the need for line-of-sight from several locations.
- Cherniakov, Mikhail (ed). (2007). Bistatic Radar: Principles and Practice. Wiley. ISBN 0-470-02630-8
- Willis, Nicholas. (2007). Bistatic Radar. SciTech Publishing. 2nd ed. ISBN 1-891121-45-6
- Willis, Nicholas J.; Griffiths, Hugh D. (2007). Advances in bistatic radar. SciTech Publishing. ISBN 1-891121-48-0.