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S600 radar

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 2 years, 2 months ago




A PV development by MRSL which had considerable commercial success. It comprised a complete range of equipment in modular form, i.e. a number of transmitter/receivers, aerial systems, signal processing arrangements, display and data handling elements, data processing elements, together with communication services, which could be put together in a very wide variety of combinations to meet virtually any transportable or static military or civil need for ground radar.



Excerpt from Roy Simon's Centenary paper

The first concern [following the 1965 reorganisation] was to conceive, as a matter of considerable urgency, a product range which could be developed and manufactured quickly to meet the overseas needs clearly perceived by those involved. The Divisional Manager, Technical Manager and Engineering Manager met continuously, almost day and night, for several days (including several interludes on three bar stools at the Running Mare) and within a fortnight of the division's re-formation, the S600 Series was essentially defined, and became undoubtedly the most successful PV range the Marconi Company has produced before or since.


The S600 series was to be ground mobile, air transportable and helicopter liftable. There were to be modular transmitters, antennas and data handling - surveillance radars in S-band and L-band and a height-finder in C-band. The performance placed heavy emphasis on anti-jamming capability, which was a feature of every element of the system. The over-riding criterion against which every part of the development was weighed was cost effectiveness and value for money.


Feasibility studies were put in hand at once and it looked promising; prototype work started quickly and full blown development proposals were prepared, indicating initial expenditure of some £250K, which was to be followed by further substantial spend as the programme grew. It is amusing in hindsight to recollect that the Central Management of the Marconi Company set up in the 1965 structure deferred approval of the proposals, but were reluctant to stop the work, and it is a matter of record that the proposals have not been signed to this day!


The work was fascinating and stimulating, and proceeded at a great pace with immense enthusiasm; the key participants felt that they had "got their head" for the first time. There were negotiations with EEV over tubes, work on cabin design, air conditioning, automotive engineering for the running gear, tests on helicopter lift, air transport and cross country running, all over and above the hectic pace of circuit design, antenna development and mechanical layout in the laboratories and design offices. All this must be viewed against heavy commitment to MOD business and a shortage of experienced staff because of the demands of the new sunrise divisions. Nevertheless the work pressed ahead, advance publicity was prepared, scale models built and, in a remarkably short time, first demonstrations of elements of the system were beginning to be ready. The first public announcement was on 3rd May 1967 at the Marconi overseas agents' conference, followed by a Press Day at the test site at Bushy Hill. The first appearance in print was a major article in "Interavia" in January 1968, detailing the system performance and configurations. A fully operational system was demonstrated at Farnborough 1968, and firm prices and deliveries were quoted.


The moral of this phase of Marconi's evolution is clear; a well-thought-out programme, controlled by a single team, with enthusiastic, united, decisive and knowledgeable management, and with externally set milestones such as Farnborough, can achieve a satisfactory outcome in less than half the time and cost of the old-style MOD programmes, and indeed than some of the earlier PV projects with a moving target and unclear objectives.


The Farnborough demonstration in September 1968 generated enormous world-wide interest, since there was nothing like the S600 series available anywhere else, and the Division was dealing with a very wide spectrum of enquiries. Its performance, simplicity and relatively low cost was proving very attractive. The first firm order came from Malaysia, and this was clinched by a visit to the Bushy Hill demonstration by the Chief of the Malaysian Air Force,  Air Commodore Sulaiman bin Sujak, on 26th March 1969. By now factory tooling was proceeding, production test specifications and facilities were going together, spares scaling was in hand, maintenance handbooks were written, the company's own field engineers and resident maintenance engineers were in training and MarconiCollege was ready for the first customers' personnel for training.


Over the next few years, orders flooded in from all over the world from some thirteen or fourteen countries - in the end, orders substantially in excess of £100 million were received for the S600 series itself for a total development expenditure of some £2.5M, with significant sales of support facilities and spin-off products to almost the same amount again. This spin-off included sales of other Marconi Radar products embodying transmitters and other equipment from S600, replacements and modernisation of existing installation again using S600 units, and the further evolution of the S600 technology.


The remarkable thing was that over the years, the S600 series evolved almost exactly as first planned, both technically and commercially. The lesson Radar Division did learn however was the limited ability of third world air forces and armies to operate and maintain the equipment to its full capability, even though the system and the hardware were relatively simple and easy by Western standards, and had good basic reliability. This was to some extent a disappointment in the early years. In spite of excellent training and documentation, and all that had been done in the way of planning, there were problems. Firstly, the customers ignored advice on the level of training, Marconi resident maintenance engineers (RMEs), spares and other support in spite of all efforts to persuade them that it was essential. The customers thought they were saving money, instead of making life difficult for themselves. The second problem, which was not foreseen, related to training at MarconiCollege; in general, the attendees were officers who regarded a trip to England as a "jolly". On their return, they were often promoted, or at best remained in their offices, leaving operation and maintenance of the equipment to untrained, unqualified and inexperienced lower ranks, with the result that the equipment was abused, misused and damaged. The Company was then accused of providing unreliable systems. Our only solution, which worked well in later years was to insist on the hiring of adequate numbers of RME's.



Ground Radar for the Seventies               S600 radar               Picture gallery  1    2   3.  4.             The Falklands Story

New Mobile Radar (MCATP July 1968)




Comments (1)

Ian Gillis said

at 4:26 pm on Feb 14, 2016

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