Military

Quantum radar to render stealth technologies ineffective

Quantum radar to render stealt...
The new quantum radar would negate the near-invisibility of stealth aircraft like the B-2 Spirit bomber
The new quantum radar would negate the near-invisibility of stealth aircraft like the B-2 Spirit bomber
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The new quantum radar would negate the near-invisibility of stealth aircraft like the B-2 Spirit bomber
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The new quantum radar would negate the near-invisibility of stealth aircraft like the B-2 Spirit bomber
Jonathan Baugh and Francois Sfigakis at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo
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Jonathan Baugh and Francois Sfigakis at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo

Stealth technology may not be very stealthy in the future thanks to a US$2.7-million project by the Canadian Department of National Defence to develop a new quantum radar system. The project, led by Jonathan Baugh at the University of Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), uses the phenomenon of quantum entanglement to eliminate heavy background noise, thereby defeating stealth anti-radar technologies to detect incoming aircraft and missiles with much greater accuracy.

Ever since the development of modern camouflage during the First World War, the military forces of major powers have been in a continual arms race between more advanced sensors and more effective stealth technologies. Using composite materials, novel geometries that limit microwave reflections, and special radar-absorbing paints, modern stealth aircraft have been able to reduce their radar profiles to that of a small bird – if they can be seen at all.

This stealthiness is compounded by modern radar jamming and deception technologies and by natural phenomena. In fact, one reason the Canadian Department of National Defence is pursuing the quantum radar project is that, in addition to Canada being at the frontier of any incoming strategic attacks directed against the West, it's also in a region that is extremely hostile to conventional radar.

Jonathan Baugh and Francois Sfigakis at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo
Jonathan Baugh and Francois Sfigakis at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo

"In the Arctic, space weather such as geomagnetic storms and solar flares interfere with radar operation and make the effective identification of objects more challenging," says Baugh. "By moving from traditional radar to quantum radar, we hope to not only cut through this noise, but also to identify objects that have been specifically designed to avoid detection."

Conventional radar suffers from a universal problem of all radio communications and detection, which is the signal to noise ratio. That is, if there is too much random noise mixed in with the signal you're trying to detect, it doesn't' matter how much you turn up the volume. That only turns up the noise as well.

Quantum radar, on the other hand, gets around this using something called quantum illumination to filter out the noise by making the outgoing photons that make up the radar signal identifiable. It does this by means of the principle of quantum entanglement. This is when two photons are generated or made to interact in such a way that their properties are linked together. When this happens, if you can determine the position, momentum, spin, or polarization of one photon, you can ascertain the complementary position, momentum, spin, or polarization of its partner.

The upshot of this is that by shooting one photon out of the radar dish and retaining its pair, it's possible to filter out unpaired photons from the returning beam. This way, background noise and electronic jamming is eliminated and the radar image becomes clear enough to detect even the most advanced stealth craft.

The quantum radar under development at the IQC is currently confined to the laboratory under the Department of National Defence's All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) Science & Technology program, but it is hoped that it will one day be mature enough to replace the North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) current 54 North Warning System (NWS) radar stations in the Arctic, which may need to be replaced from 2025.

"This project will allow us to develop the technology to help move quantum radar from the lab to the field," says Baugh. "It could change the way we think about national security."

Source: University of Waterloo

11 comments
yawood
Now that is clever! If this works as advertised then the billions that have been spend on stealth for the future will have come to nought.
bothib
This technology probably won't be seen for a good number of years. 1. It is very complicated 2. It will be expensive 3. The longer they can keep it under development, the longer the money flows in.
MarylandUSA
Yes, but can it nullify a Klingon cloaking device?
Rotogizmag
The processing time for quantum interpretation is likely to be long compared to near supersonic, supersonic, and hypersonic travel rates. I think it will be difficult to hit a moving stealth target accurately by this technique. Quantum computation could be used, but such computation does not occur at infinite speed as sometimes represented. Statistical measurement of quantum States is usually required. That takes time. They might improve it to the point of being effective in a hybrid system, but it will be challenging. I think stealth will still retain some advantage. It will be interesting to find out!
Douglas E Knapp
Even if this tech was in the fields today it would not mean that the money spent on stealth was wasted. These radars are likely very large and massive. This means you can't just put them in the noise of an f 35 or any other plane thus the planes will only be able to see each other if the ground system sends them the info to them, not good when you are trying to get missile lock. Having these massive systems is not likely to happen in many war theaters. Of course I could be wrong and the computer and radar are small and light but I bet not.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The most valuable achievement of the B-2 is large composite airframe.
PeterVermont
Very interesting. I would have like more information as to how they do the filtering. How do recognize that an incoming photon has a pair? The description makes it sound as if one might be able Not even collect any incoming photons - simply examine the entangled particles to determine what the partners have ‘seen’.
Leonard Foster Jr
In a conflict one of the 1st systems you take out is Radar you make em Blind USAF Retired.
Countryboy
Only one problem I see with concept/article. It's either a giant flashlight or it's radio waves. Photons are light and Radar energy is made up of electrons. Which is it?
mark39
Why not just apply a neural net to normal radar to filter out the noise?