SCR-584 radar

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Exterior view of the SCR-584. All operational equipment was housed inside, although the M-9 director, and electrical generators were separate. The antenna folds flat for travel.

The SCR-584 (short for Signal Corps Radio # 584) was an automatic-tracking microwave radar developed by the MIT Radiation Laboratory during World War II. It replaced the earlier and much more complex SCR-268 as the US Army's primary anti-aircraft gun laying system as quickly as they could be produced. It was the most advanced ground based radar of its era, going on to replace designs from the UK and Canada, and becoming one of the primary gun laying radars used worldwide well into the 1950s.


SCR-584 Technical Characteristics
Wavelength 10 cm
Frequency (four bands around 3,000 MHz)
Magnetron 2J32
Peak Power Output 250 kW
Pulse Width 0.8 microsecond
Pulse Repetition Frequency 1707 pulses per second
Antenna Diameter 6 feet
Beam width to half power 4 degrees
Maximum Range
   PPI Search 70,000 yards (39.7 statute miles)
   Auto-Track 32,000 yards (18.2 statute miles)
   Potentiometer Data (artillery control) 28,000 yards (15.9 statute miles)
Minimum Range 500 - 1000 yards
Lower Elevation Limit -175 mils (-9.8 degrees)
Upper Elevation Limit +1,580 mils (+88.9 degrees)
Azimuth Coverage 360 degrees
Azimuthal scan rate in search mode 5 revolutions per minute
Range Error 25 yards
Azimuth Error 1 mil (0.06 degree)
Elevation Accuracy. 1 mil (0.06 degree)
Power Requirements 115 V, 60 Hz, 3 phase, 10 kVA maximum (without IFF)
The SCR-584 is built into a K-78 trailer. Its gross weight is 10 short tons. The overall length is 19.5 feet, width is 8 feet, height 10 feet, 4 inches

Data from U.S. War Department Technical Manuals TM11-1324 and TM11-1524 (published April 1946 by the United States Government Printing Office)

The genesis of the SCR-584 started with the cavity magnetron tube, from the Tizard Mission in September 1940, when a group of British scientists travelled to the US to present various advances useful to the war effort. The British were initially hesitant to give away too much information without getting anything in return, and initial progress was very slow.

When they moved onto the topic of radar, the British team was surprised to learn that the US was in the process of developing two systems similar to their own existing Chain Home, the Navy's CXAM and the Army's SCR-270. The Army was also working on a gun-laying radar, the SCR-268, similar in almost every way to the UK's own GL Mk. I radar. None of these systems had the accuracy needed to directly lay their associated guns, however, which would require much higher resolution, achieved through moving to much shorter wavelengths. The US delegates then mentioned the Navy's work on a 10 cm wavelength radar, which would have the required resolution, but their klystron tube had very low power and was not practical.

Edward George Bowen had prepared for just this moment, and with a flourish reached into his locked box and pulled one of the earliest cavity magnetrons and presented it to the assembled researchers. It also worked at 10 cm but offered dramatically higher power - not just than the klystrons, but even the US's existing long wave radars. One US historian later described it as the "most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores".[1] The potential of the device was so obvious that the US group, informally known as the Microwave Committee, immediately switched their efforts to the magnetron, and had their own examples being built in US labs within weeks. They also took up development of the other technologies presented at that meeting, including an airborne interception radar and a radio navigation system.


Shortly after the Tizard mission, a delegation from the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) visited their counterparts in the Microwave Committee and suggested setting up a liaison so the two groups would not be duplicating efforts. This ultimately led to a staff of eight NRC scientists being assigned to the RadLab for the rest of the war. In late 1940 the NRC received a request from the British Army to develop a magnetron-based gun laying radar. Coordinating with the RadLab, the two groups agreed that the Canadians would develop a system as quickly as possible, while the US team would be given the time to develop a more fully developed system some time later.

A formal proposal for a SCR-268 replacement was made by the Signal Corps in January 1941, by which point the RadLab had already formed what they knew as Project 2 to develop this advanced gun laying radar. MIT proposed an advanced system with automatic search, tracking and the ability to directly aim the guns. This was a field MIT was particularly knowledgeable in due to work in their Servomechanisms Lab.

The RadLab team, overseen by Lee Davenport, had a prototype radar system running in April 1941.[2] To test the automatic aiming system, they attached the outputs from the radar to a gun turret taken from a Boeing B-29 bomber, removing the guns and replacing them with a camera. A friend then flew his light plane around the area while the camera periodically took shots, and on 31 May the system was able to accurately track the aircraft. Work then started on making the system suitable for field use, mounting the entire system in a single trailer with the 6-foot antenna on top. Known as XT-1, for eXperimental Truck-1, the system was first tested at Fort Monroe in February 1942.

Field deployment of the SCR-584 on Peleliu during World War II. The high elevation angle of the dish combined with a lack of visible activity suggests that the radar is in its helical scan mode.

Work also started on a suitable gun-laying computer that could use electrical, as opposed to mechanical, inputs for pointing data. Bell Labs delivered an analog computer known as the M9 Director for this role, able to control four of the Army's standard 90 mm M1 guns. The entire system, including the M9, was demonstrated in complete form on 1 April 1942. A contract for over 1,200 systems arrived the next day. Bell also worked on their own microwave radar as a backup project.

The SCR-584 was extremely advanced for its era. To achieve high accuracy and measure both azimuth and elevation with one antenna, it used a conical scanning system, in which the beam is rotated around the antenna's axis to find the maximum signal point, thus indicating which direction the antenna should move in order to point directly at the target. The idea was proposed by Alfred Loomis, the director of section D-1 of the National Defense Research Committee. In October 1940, it was adopted for the "wholly-automatic-tracking" radar project. Conical scanning was also adopted in 1941 for the Navy's 10 cm fire-control radar system.,[3] and it was used in the German Würzburg radar in 1941. The SCR-584 developed the system much further, and added an automatic tracking mode.[4] Once the target had been detected and was within range, the system would keep the radar pointed at the target automatically, driven by motors mounted in the antenna's base. For detection, as opposed to tracking, the system also included a helical scanning mode that allowed it to search for aircraft. This mode had its own dedicated PPI display for easy interpretation. When used in this mode the antenna was mechanically spun at 4 rpm while it was nudged up and down to scan vertically.

The system could be operated at four frequencies between 2,700 and 2,800 MHz (10–11 cm wavelength), sending out 300 kW pulses of 0.8 microseconds in duration with a pulse repetition frequency (PRF) of 1,707 pulses per second. It could detect bomber-sized targets at about 40 miles range, and was generally able to automatically track them at about 18 miles. Accuracy within this range was 25 yards in range, and 0.06 degrees (1 mil) in antenna bearing angle (See Table "SCR-584 Technical Characteristics"). Because the electrical beam width was 4 degrees (to the -3db or half-power points), the target would be smeared across a portion of a cylinder, so as to be wider in bearing than in range (i.e., on the order of 4 degrees, rather than 0.06 degrees implied by the mechanical pointing accuracy), for distant targets. Range information was displayed on two "J-scopes", similar to the more common A-line display, but arranged in a radial pattern timed to the return delay. One scope was used for coarse range, the other for fine.

Operational use[edit]

Operators console for the SCR-584.

Although the first operational unit was delivered in May 1943, various bureaucratic problems led to it being delayed in being delivered to the front-line troops. The SCR-584 was first used in combat at Anzio in February 1944, where it played a key role in breaking up the Luftwaffe's concentrated air attacks on the confined beachhead. The SCR-584 was no stranger to the front, where it followed the troops, being used to direct aircraft, locate enemy vehicles (one radar is said to have picked up German vehicles at a distance of 26 kilometers), and track the trajectories of artillery shells, both to adjust the ballistic tables for the 90 millimeter guns, and to pinpoint the location of German batteries for counter-battery fire. The SCR-584 was not, however, used in the rapidly shifting very front lines, where lighter, less accurate, radars such as the AN/TPS-1 were used.

The SCR-584 was so successful that it was adapted for use by the United States Navy. CXBL, a prototype of the navy version, was mounted on the carrier USS Lexington on March 1943, while the production version, the SM, built by General Electric, was operational on the carriers USS Bunker Hill and USS Enterprise by October 1943. A lighter version of the system was also developed, the SCR-784. The only real difference was that the new design weighed 12,000 lb, whereas the original was 20,000.

Davenport waterproofed a number of the radar sets so that they could be carried aboard the Allied armada launching the Normandy landings on D-Day.

Automatic gunlaying (using, among others, the SCR-584 radar) and the proximity fuze played an important part in Operation Diver, (the British operation to counter the V1 flying bombs). Both of these had been requested by AA Command and arrived in numbers, starting in June 1944, just as the guns reached their free-firing positions on the south eastern coast of England. Seventeen per cent of all flying bombs entering the coastal 'gun belt' were destroyed by guns in the first week on the coast. This rose to 60 per cent by 23 August and 74 per cent in the last week of the month, when on one extraordinary day 82 per cent were shot down. The rate increased from one V-1 for every 2,500 shells fired to one for every hundred.

After the war, the radar was adapted for use in the AN/MPQ-12, and AN/MPM-38 systems, a US Army field artillery missile system (MGM-5 Corporal). A modified version was also used to control and beacon-track (using an onboard transponder) the CORONA spy satellite.

In 1953, the SCR-584-Mod II was used for tracking the Redstone (rocket), its range extended to 740 km by the use of an onboard transceiver.[5]

Despite using vacuum tubes and being powered by an analog computer, some specimens of the SCR-584 are still operational today. In 1995 the first Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radar adapted the MP—61 pedestal from an SCR-584 for use in a mobile weather radar.[6] Using this pedestal, the DOWs created the first maps of tornado winds, discovered hurricane boundary layer rolls, and pioneered many other observational studies. The pedestal housed first a 6' then an 8' antenna. Later the original motors were replaced with more powerful brushless versions for faster scanning in high winds. Three DOWs are now operated as National Science Foundation facilities by the Center for Severe Weather Research. One is found at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, where the 584 pedestal is the platform for the new Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research & Teaching Radar, or SMART-R.

K-83 dolly[edit]

General Electric constructed a dolly for the SCR-584, designated K-83. The K-83 was designed to attach to a semi-trailer hitch, allowing smaller vehicles to move the SCR-854.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Buderi, "The Invention that Changed the World", 1996
  2. ^ "Lee Davenport Dies at 95; Developed Battlefront Radar", New York Times, 30 September 2011
  3. ^ Baxter, J.P., "Scientists Against Time", p 147, 1947.
  4. ^ Bennett, Stuart, "A History of Control Engineering, 1930-1955"
  5. ^ "The Evolution of Electronic Tracking", W.R. McMurran, NASA0TM-X-70077, 1973
  6. ^ Wurman et al. Design and Development of a Mobile Pencil-Beam Radar, J. of Atmos. Ocean Technology, 1997
  • The SCR-584 Radar, Electronics magazine, November 1945 and February 1946
  • FM 4-144
  • TM 11-1324
  • TM 11-1424
  • TM 11-1524
  • TM 9-2800
  • SNL G695 K-83 dolly (adapter)
  • SNL G698 K-78 trailer

External links[edit]