Electronically Steered Array (ESA) Radar

What Is an ESA Radar?

Electronically steered array (ESA) radar systems control the direction of transmission or reception using beamforming techniques that change the phase of the elements in an array. Transmitter arrays in ESA radar systems steer radiated energy to improve directivity in azimuth and elevation. Receiver arrays in ESA radar systems form beams to improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of target returns by focusing energy collected from specific directions and by removing undesired directional interference sources.

ESA radars can be implemented as active (AESA) or passive (PESA) radars. AESA radar systems use phased array antennas with transmit/receive (T/R) modules dedicated to each element. PESA radar systems use a single T/R module that is shared across all antenna elements.

ESA radar systems can scan a volume of space faster and more reliably than radar that is mechanically steered. In addition, ESA radar systems with phase shift control on elements or arrays of elements can generate beams in multiple directions. This provides additional system-level flexibility that enables an ESA radar to perform different functions with the same RF front-end. These functions can be modeled with MATLAB® and Simulink®, including multiple radar modes (e.g., search, track, etc.), along with communications and interference mitigation functions.

PESA radar

PESA radar with single T/R module shared across antenna elements (left) and AESA radar with dedicated T/R module for each antenna element (right)

ESA Radar Design with MATLAB and Simulink

With MATLAB and Simulink, you can design, analyze, and model AESA and PESA radar systems. Using a large library of functions, algorithms, and apps, you can:

  • Design phased arrays, including uniform linear arrays, uniform rectangular arrays, uniform circular arrays
  • Design phased arrays with arbitrary geometries
  • Create and use steering vectors for dynamic beam pointing
  • Assess array pattern directivity and radiation patterns
  • Select radar parameters, design waveforms and sensor arrays interactively, and explore trade-offs with the radar range equation and link budget
  • Model scenes and scenarios that can be used to test algorithms for AESA and PESA radar
  • Design multifunction phased array systems that search, track, and image objects
  • Integrate models for RF components and complex antenna designs to increase the level of radar system design fidelity
  • Classify targets and received signals using deep learning techniques
To learn more about how to design radars with MATLAB and Simulink, see  Radar Toolbox, Phased Array System Toolbox™, Antenna Toolbox™, Sensor Fusion and Tracking Toolbox

See also: radar system design, radar system design videos, MATLAB and Simulink for aerospace and defense radar systems, RF Toolbox™, RF Blockset™, How do radars work?