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Radar Development

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 1 year, 1 month ago



Before and During WWII

Marconi was part of the story of the development of RDF (only later did it become Radar) within the UK from the very beginning, although initially not quite to the level that might have been expected as it was regarded as being under foreign ownership - in the early thirties Marconi himself was still alive and being Italian was a foreign national. Notwithstanding the Company possessed certain skills that were in demand, namely expertise with large masts and wire-strung aerials.There were also the Research Laboratories at Baddow which almost immediately were taken over by various government bodies - we have a personal account of these days. The story of these times not just for radar but for the whole Company is well told in a book "MARCONI A WAR RECORD 1939-1945" by George Godwin. For the first radar, the Chain Home (CH) system, vital components required were 360ft high towers with curtain arrays strung between them. It is also worth noting that the CH transmitter was designed and built by Metropolitan Vickers. later a part of MRSL. Very soon the need to improve coverage to track low-flying aircraft meant a further system was produced, Chain Home Low (CHL), with similar technology but using more directional aerials. As the enemy gained more skill in low flying a new system Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) was required using a higher-frequency transmitter built round the newly-developed magnetron valve, in the development and production of which the Baddow Research Laboratories and the English Electric Valve Co were closely involved. In addition to this large scale air defence equipment there was also developments in coastal defence and ship-borne systems and these advances are covered in detail in this wiki. 


In parallel with the CHL equipment, by the addition of a height-finding capabilities and a Plan Position Indicator (PPI) display, from 1940 so-called Ground Control Interception GCI stations were developed, first as mobiles and then in 1942 as a fixed installation using the Type 7 which became the main surveillance radar well into the postwar period and the technologies were utilised in further radars. The Type 13 Heightfinder was also developed.


Work continued throughout the war until for D-Day Marconi designed, developed and manufactured an airborne system, Bagful, to intercep signals from German radars, recording the wavelength, time and duration of signals and positions of the enemy radar stations in preparation for the deployment of multiple jamming stations, code named Carpet, to  paralyse the German radar networks. Also for the invasion Marconi Marine provided servicing for all radio, echo sounding and radar equipments. A complete timeline is shown here



In 1946 a Government decision resulted in the whole of Marconi interests being purchased by English Electric and a major company-wide reorganisation followed in 1948 in which radar became the responsibility of a new product area. Work continued at Baddow and is covered in this personal account up to the mid-1950s, during which the Company became a major player in both the home and overseas  military and civil markets with upgrades to existing systems, a derived unique product for the burgeoning civil aviation need, followed by a series of additional designs, new systems of secondary radar and improvements in the display and processing of the data. In 1954 a further reorganisation saw radar become a self-contained Division, and this produced in 1968 a completely privately-funded series of radars which sold extremely well. Finally, following the English Electric/GEC merger in 1969, a separate trading company Marconi Radar Systems Ltd (MRSL) was created into which other elements from Metropolitan Vickers, Elliotts were absorbed to provide a wider range of products including a new secondary radar and simulators.



MRSL continued as a separate trading company until a series of reorganisations occurred in the parent group. Radar activities became part of Marconi Defence Systems in 1988,, Marconi Radar and Control Systems in 1992, GEC-Marconi Radar and Defence Systems in 1996 and finally Alenia Marconi Systems in 1998 after which the name Marconi associated with radar disappeared as the activities were partitioned with the communications elements taken by Selex and Ericsson and the radar interests merged with BAC to form BAE, and this history concludes. There were precursor links and a description of one of these is here.







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