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Profile: Hensoldt Spexer 2000 Border Surveillance Radar

The German sensor and optronics company Hensoldt is pitching its Spexer 2000 Border Surveillance Radar as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and situational awareness asset for countering asymmetrical threats. The Spexer 2000 is an X-band active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar with an instrumented range of 40 km (with an optional variant capable of up to 80 km). (Note: for information on radar technology, including AESA radars, see Quwa’s background brief)

Although a short-range radar in its technical parameters, the Spexer 2000 is functionally designed to provide border security agencies (and militaries involved in border-policing) with the ability to detect and identify relevant entities – such as pedestrians, vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), low-flying helicopters, small aircraft and boats – at relatively comfortable ranges. In addition, Hensoldt says that the Spexer 2000 can track “extremely fast objects such as guided missiles.”

For example, the Spexer 2000 can detect a pedestrian – for which Hensoldt defines a radar cross-section (RCS) of 0.5 m2 – at up to 18 km. Light or small vehicles (2.0 m2 RCS), light aircraft (3.0 m2 RCS) and low-flying aircraft (5.0 m 22 RCS) can be detected at 22 km, 27 km and 36 km, respectively. UAVs as small as 0.2 m2 RCS can be detected at up to 9 km. At these distances, border agencies and armed forces entities may have adequate time to activate their response mechanisms for possible intrusions.

The Spexer 2000 can be deployed as a fixed system or as a transportable system (mounted on a truck). Hensoldt is also offering a variant for situational awareness in coastal areas – i.e. the Spexer 2000 Coastal. It can detect swimmers (0.1 m2 RCS), small boats (1.5 m2 RCS) and surface ships (of 100 m2 RCS) at 1 km, 20 km and 40 km, respectively. The Spexer 2000 Coastal retains the ground and air detection capabilities of the standard version, allowing for land, sea and air coverage.

Being an AESA radar, the Spexer 2000-series should possess strong defensibility against electronic warfare (EW) jamming. Hensoldt could basically position the Spexer 2000 as an asset for counterinsurgency and low-intensity threats from non-state and state-actors alike. In addition, the Spexer 2000 can offer another coverage layer beneath low-level air surveillance radars. Militaries could consider employing the Spexer 2000 with electro-optical and infrared systems, offering users a combined radar picture and visual feed.

In tests, Hensoldt was able to demonstrate the Spexer 2000’s capability of detecting the firing of a Milan anti-tank missile. Interestingly, the test was conducted with the Spexer 2000 stationed to the U.S. Navy destroyer the USS James E Williams, suggesting that the Spexer 2000 could be deployed as a ship radar. It is worth noting that Hensoldt also offers an AESA-based radar for offshore patrol vessels (OPV) and small surface combatants, i.e. Tactical Radar for Surface Surveillance (TRSS). The TRSS is an X-band radar with a range of over 40 km and capability to track more than 100 targets.

In May 2017, Hensoldt announced that it received orders for 50 radars from numerous customers in the Middle East and North Africa. The cumulative value of these orders is €40 million ($47.9 million U.S.). Thus far, Hensoldt has sold 150 Spexer 2000 radars with 1.7 million cumulative hours of usage.

Hensoldt was formed by the private equity group KKR using Airbus Defence and Space’s (Airbus DS) spun-off divisions: Airbus DS Electronics and Border Security GmbH and Airbus DS Optronics GmbH. Hensoldt inherited 4,000 employees in Europe and South Africa and annual revenue potential of over $1 billion. In July 2017, Hensoldt had agreed with ECI Partners to purchase the latter’s stake in British radar company Kelvin Hughes. Hensoldt’s breadth of activities position it as a competitor to Raytheon, Leonardo, Thales and Saab, among others, in radars, optronics, avionics, EW and countermeasures.

The following are the Hensoldt Spexer 2000’s specifications from the Hensoldt website (the Spexer 2000 Coastal’s specifications can also be found – link):