Metox radar detector
Metox, named after its manufacturer, was a pioneering high-frequency radar warning receiver (RWR) manufactured by a small French company in occupied Paris. It was tuned to receive the 1.5 m signals used by many British radars of the early and mid-WWII era, notably the ASV Mk. II radar used by RAF Coastal Command to attack U-boats. It is not clear whether the design was German or French or both. It was installed on German U-boats starting in 1942 and used until the end of the war.
From July 1940 onwards, the British fitted the RAF Mk II AI (Airborne Interception) radar into Coastal Command aircraft for use as the MkII "1½-metre ASV". The radar's known AI weaknesses — problems due to land clutter and inability to determine height effectively, which caused its failure in night fighters — were no handicap in this new role. With two range scales, 0–9 mi (0–14 km) and 0–36 mi (0–58 km), it could detect surfaced U-boats at up to 12 mi (19 km) and land at up to 70 mi (110 km), though a typical U-boat detection range was 5 mi (8.0 km). The radar had a fairly crude display by today's standards, but was able to give the range and an approximate direction within an arc either side of the aircraft heading. Returns were lost in sea clutter once the aircraft was within about 1 mi (1.6 km) of the U-boat, but usually by then, the aircraft was within visual range—and the U-boat was well into a crash dive.
To counter this, Wing Commander Humphry de Verde Leigh developed the Leigh light, effectively a powerful floodlight steered by the ASV radar. This allowed ASV radar equipped aircraft to search for U-boats at night. The U-boat was initially tracked by the radar with the light following the radar track but switched off. Once the returns were lost, the light would be switched on and the U-boat would be bathed in light and very vulnerable. The first successful attack was on the U-502 on 5 July 1942. The sudden light was often the first indication that the U-boat had been found and the Leigh light was initially very successful, particularly in the Bay of Biscay.
Metox was the German answer to the British radar. Metox sets received the transmitted pulses from the ASV and rendered them as audible beeps. It enjoyed the usual advantage of radar detectors over radar in that the signal is direct and only had to travel one way whereas the radar has to detect the very weak reflection from the submarine. Most radars increase the number of pulses and decrease the width of the pulses when switched to a shorter range, the shorter pulse widths allow the radar to look at closer objects. The Metox exploited the fact that once the radar operator changed the range indication from 36 miles (58 km) to 9 miles (14 km), the pulse repetition frequency of the radar's transmitter doubled. Radar cannot detect any reflections returned earlier than half a pulse width so when the U-boat was closer than 9 miles (14 km) the operator would change to the shorter scale. If the Metox set started beeping at twice the rate, the U-boat knew that they had been detected. By the time the aircraft was close enough to the U-boat's position to energise the Leigh light, the U-boat was well under the water. As a bonus, the Metox set would also provide warning in excess of visual range in daylight.
In December 1942 British codebreakers regained the ability to decipher messages encrypted with naval Enigma machines. The Germans noticed the resulting uptick in spotted U-Boats. Based on their confidence in the Enigma machine, as well as the testimony of a captured British bomber pilot, the Germans came to the erroneous conclusion that the Allies had developed a means for detecting emissions produced by the Metox itself. The executive officer of U-230, Captain Herbert Werner, said of Metox, "Then, on August 3 , we received a message from Headquarters which had a greater impact on our lives than any since the beginning of the Allied offensive. ALL U-BOATS. ATTENTION. ALL U-BOATS. SHUT OFF METOX AT ONCE. ENEMY IS CAPABLE OF INTERCEPTING. KEEP RADIO SILENCE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE."
Metox was eventually countered by a version of the 10 centimetre H2S radar, which Metox could not detect and once again the Leigh light forced U-boat crews to refuse to run surfaced at night. Even during the day the new radar was easily able to detect a submerged U-boat's periscope or snorkel, assuming they were deployed, which earlier radars employing longer wavelengths could not do.
Metox was superseded by the Naxos receiver that was capable of detecting 10 cm wavelength (3 GHz) H2S signals, but unable to detect the even higher, 10 GHz frequency of the American development, the H2X radar.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-boat Radar Detectors : FuMB 1 Metox 600A". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- Johnson, Brian. "Chapter 4". The Secret War. BBC. ISBN 0-563-17769-1.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Discussion Forums :: Technology and Operations :: RE: U-boat Radar". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- Ratcliff, R. A. Delusions of Intelligence: Enigma, Ultra, and the End of Secure Ciphers. p. 146. ISBN 0521855225.
- In his book Iron Coffins (1978, pp.199-200)