Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) Surveillance Radar

Airplane equipped with MESA radar  


The Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar brings military airborne surveillance capabilities to the Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system.

Building on Northrop Grumman’s 45-year heritage in airborne early warning (AEW) radars starting with the Airborne Warning and Control System radar, the MESA radar is the next-generation evolution leveraging electronically scanned radar technology. The MESA design concept enables an all-weather command, control and communications management capability on the Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft, providing long-range surveillance radar, robust Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) detection to the radar instrumented range, and maritime surveillance instrumented to the horizon — all in a modern, integrated system.

The MESA radar provides air-to-air coverage, air-to-surface coverage, integrated identification friend or foe, special track beams and focused sector operation.

The MESA radar provides a full 360-degree surveillance capability with sector emphasis and assignable higher update rate sectors to dynamically adjust to emerging tactical situations. Sector emphasis extends detection range without the need to fly closer to threat situations. Higher update rates bring battle management to the edge of the radar surveillance envelope with little or no latency in coordinating or directing forces to priority situations.

MESA is designed for a midsize jet-powered aircraft, taking advantage of higher speeds and altitudes. Operating altitudes up to 40,000 feet (versus typical 20,000- to 25,000-foot altitudes of other AEW systems) provide a 20 to 50 percent range and line-of-sight advantage against low-flying missiles and aircraft in various terrains. Thus, early warning and reaction times are significantly enhanced when time is of the essence.

MESA is operationally ready minutes after takeoff, beginning at 5,000 feet and with full power operation at 10,000 feet. Leveraging the interleaved electronic scanning features, a combined air and sea picture is rapidly developed. System operators and battle commanders now have the flexibility to orchestrate air operations and defensive measures with a radar/IFF system easily commanded via the system console.

Advances in technology have caused a revolution in the capabilities and flexibility of airborne surveillance systems and sensors used in Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) systems. Developments in distributed transmitters, commercial off-the-shelf processing and high-performance antenna arrays have enabled ES multirole electronically scanned array (MESA) radar to be cost effectively applied to the next generation Boeing 737-700 series aircraft.The 737 AEW&C system has been competitively selected by Australia, Turkey, South Korea and United Kingdom as their front line AEW&C solution.