SMART-L Radar (The Netherlands and Others)

Quick Facts

Mobility Sea-based; highly mobile
Role Deployed by Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, South Korea (SMART-L derivative is deployed by British, French, and Italians); provides long-range detection of conventional aircraft and medium-range detection of small “stealth” missiles[i]
Country of Origin The Netherlands
Deployment Four Dutch Zeven Provinciën class frigates, three Danish Iver Huitfeldt class frigates, three German Sachsen class frigates, a South Korean Dokdo class amphibious assault ship; a derivative of SMART-L, called S1850M, is used by six British Type 45 destroyers, and four total French and Italian Horizon class destroyers[ii]
Frequency D-Band
Range 400 km (military patrol aircraft); 65 km (stealth missiles); 1,000 km (ballistic missiles–after software upgrade)[iii]
Producer Thales Naval Nederland


Designed for surface ships, the Signal Multi-Beam Acquisition Radar for Targeting, or SMART-L, is a 3D surveillance radar that provides long-range surveillance and tracking against conventional aircraft and medium-range surveillance and tracking against small “stealth” missiles.[iv]Built by Thales Nederland, the system has become a de facto volume search radar of choice for six NATO navies.[v]Using a phased array radar, SMART-L can provide accurate 3D target information and contribute to the threat evaluation process, allowing a ship’s weapon control system to commit to the fastest lock-on for engagement.[vi]The system can track up to 1,000 air targets at ranges up to 400 km, and its multi-beam operation allows the radar to acquire near hemispherical coverage in a single scan and perform accurate target elevation measurement in multipath conditions.

Testing has demonstrated that SMART-L is capable of automatically detecting and tracking sophisticated air targets such as stealth aircraft, helicopters, and “stealth” missiles; even in cluttered environments and electronic attack scenarios.[vii]Additionally, the software for SMART-L can be upgraded to optimize the system for early detection of ballistic missiles. Once upgraded, SMART-L can detect and track several ballistic missile threats simultaneously up to a range of 1,000 km. The upgrade also allows the radar to calculate ballistic missile trajectories and estimate points of impact and launch positions.[viii]

SMART-L serves as the primary radar for four De Zeven Provinciën class frigates used by the Royal Netherlands Navy, three Danish Iver Huitfeldt class frigates, and three German Sachsen class frigates. For air defense, these frigates are equipped with SM-2 interceptors and/or Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), relying on SMART-L for air- and surface-surveillance, early detecting, and tracking. SMART-L is also employed by the South Korean Dokdo class amphibious assault ship.[ix]A derivative of SMART-L, called S1850M, is used by British Type 45 destroyers and French and Italian Horizon class destroyers that are equipped with Aster 15 and 30 interceptors for air and missile defense.[x]

SMART-L EWC Currently being tested is a significantly improved SMART-L design called SMART-L Early Warning Capability (EWC). The upgrade is a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar specifically designed to detect air, surface, and high-speed exo-atmospheric targets.[xi]The upgraded AESA antenna provides the EWC variant with greatly increased operational range, allowing the radar to detect and track objects up to 2,000 km away.[xii]Additionally, improved system components allow for increased elevation coverage, detection and tracking of high velocity ballistic missile targets, and enable estimation of trajectories, launch sites, and points of impact.[xiii]The new system represents a significant upgrade to the existing SMART-L and consists of hardware, software, and operating mode adjustments that improve system performance without major increases to the unit’s volume, weight, and power requirements.


October 2017: Thales demonstrated the capability of the SMART-L MM radar system during the U.S. Navy’s Formidable Shield 2017.[xiv]

March 2016: SMART-L EWC produced its first air picture while mounted on a test stand at its Hengelo site.

December 2006: SMART-L ELR (later called SMART-L EWC) was first tested aboard the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate the HrMs Tromp in cooperation with the U.S. Navy during Flight Test Mission 11 on the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Hawaii. During the test, SMART-L ELR demonstrated its ability to track a ballistic missile and cue other platforms using the tracking data.[xv]

2003: Thales built a prototype SMART-L radar designed for detecting and tracking ballistic missiles. Called SMART-L Extended Long Range (ELR), the prototype came to be called SMART-L Early Warning Capability (EWC) and has longer range than the default SMART-L.

2001-2001: SMART-L was deployed by the Royal Netherlands Navy.

1999: SMART-L was tested numerous times on a moving platform at sea. The tests were successful and found that the radar could also observe objects in space.[xvi]

February 1998: Four SMART-L radars were ordered for future Dutch Air Defense Command Frigates.[xvii]

June 1997: The German Navy ordered three SMART-L radars.[xviii]

July 24, 1991: Contract was signed by the Royal Netherlands Navy for the development of a new long-range radar, which would be called SMART-L.[xix]

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