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20th Jul 04. Thales launched I-MASTER, its new lightweight high performance combined Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI)at Farnborough. I-MASTER weighing only 30kg, provides the perfect balance of capability, cost, weight and power consumption for use onboard a wide range of unmanned air vehicles (UAV), helicopters, small fixed wing aircraft and tilt rotor platforms.

High performance imaging radars are now essential in any programme that requires an all weather ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) capability. To date, high quality SAR/GMTI radars have been too heavy and costly for tactical UAVs or small manned aircraft.

The low weight of I-MASTER means that a combined SAR/GMTI capability can be added to tactical UAVs either in addition to or instead of electro-optic (E/O) sensors. I-MASTER is also designed to fit existing E/O payload mountings. On smaller air vehicles, which are able to carry just one payload, this unique feature enables the sensor to be exchanged within a few minutes. This capability will allow the platform’s role to be quickly adapted as the mission tempo and the environment changes. For larger air vehicles, able to carry more than one payload, collaborative targeting using both SAR/GMTI and EO packages greatly increases the options available to the field commander.

Andy Phillips, airborne surveillance radar product director for Thales said, “There is a significant growth in the global market for this type of device. I-MASTER represents a step change in surveillance capability that will allow Thales to take a large share of this market. I-MASTER is already being bid into a number of ISTAR programmes including a variant for the UK WATCHKEEPER programme.”

I-MASTER builds upon Thales’ radar expertise that exists in depth in both the UK and France. This expertise has made it possible for Thales to develop a SAR/GMTI radar sensor that not only delivers high performance but also sufficiently light and inexpensive to be fitted to Tactical UAVs. I-MASTER provides an all-weather capability, which dramatically increases Tactical UAV mission effectiveness. High quality imaging is now possible in hostile environments such as cloud and smoke. The ability to image at long stand-off ranges improves UAV survivability by distancing the air vehicle from potential ground fire.

I-MASTER incorporates a high performance Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) able to detect both vehicle and infantry movements at ranges up to 20km. Very low speed targets can be detected through the use of multi-channel processing.

With 360-degree coverage and an innovative stabilised antenna, I-MASTER provides high quality images over a wide area from small air vehicles in a wide range of flight conditions.

I-MASTER – Top Level Specification


Size: Height 450 mm x Diameter 370 mm
Weight:30 kg
Power Consumption:500W
SAR Performance
Strip-map SAR
Range – 20 km
Sub-metric Resolution
Very wide Swath

Spotlight SAR
Range – 8.5 km
Sub-metric Resolution
Up to 500 m x 250 m Spotlight Size

GMTI Performance
Range – 20 km
360 degree coverage plus “Spotlight” capability

Accurate Geo-location
Very low speed vehicle detection

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