Polish radars – fifty years of development
First Polish radar - Nysa-A from 1952. Photo - RADWAR
Soon I will submit to eDefense a history of Polish military radars: ground surveillance, ground air defense fire-control, airborne surveillance (yes, “mini-AWACS”!) and naval. Among them are early and late 2D radars, radar altimeters, modern 3D radars, including phased array ones.
The first man who dealt with radar development in Poland was Prof. Janusz Groszkowski, who researched the electric phenomena in vacuum environment. In late 30s he developed a theory of EM generator stability conditions, which initially was not understood by the other scientists, but where latter used around the world.
The more serious works on radars started in Poland in 1948, at Warsaw Institute of Technology (WIT; Prof. P. Szulkin) and at newly created Przemyslowy Instytut Telekomunikacji (Industrial Telecommunication Institute) in Warsaw, headed by J. Groszkowski.
First experimental radar was built shortly afterwards, with the use of elements (vacuum tubes and other electric elements) collected from various sources. It had Yagi type of antenna, designed at WIT and most of the other electronic taken from German Freya radars, abandoned upon German withdrawal at the end of WWII. The experimental radar worked (or hardly worked) on about 200 MHz frequency.
After some experiments with antennas, it was decided to build a new radar, with the parabolic antenna, very much reassembling the design used on German Freya radar. In November 1951 Polish government issued a special secret decision, obliging the PIT to develop a surveillance radar for air defense units and the prototype was to be ready within a year, in November 1952. It was possible because in fact the works on such radar were quite advanced at PIT during this time. The radar was officially named Nysa-A (after a river, which formed new Polish-GDR border in its southern part, the “A” meant the first type of the Nysa family).
The new radar worked on 600 MHz frequency. The transmitter created pulses of 200 kW peak power (which was deemed too low, and the works were undertaken to increase it). The repetition frequency was 100 Hz. The radar’s antenna could rotate from 0.5 to 5 revolutions per minute, either by electrical engine, or manually, by crank inside the cabin. It was used especially for sector operations, when detection range increased considerably.
Interestingly Soviet Union provided almost none help, except for passing a quantity of American (!) 2C40 and 6AC7 vacuum tubes and some other elements. Such elements were used in US radars supplied to USSR on the provision of Land-Lease, together with large stocks of spare parts. Soviet Union started to field own radars after the war and the American radars were declared surplus and used rather for test purposes.
The vacuum tubes were not the only US elements in new Polish radar. Also the PIT designers managed to get multi-volume radar handbook published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and commonly referred in PIT as “Radar bible”. The handbook was very helpful and later, when the next Nysa-C radar was exported to Indonesia, the Indonesian personnel said that the radar was built “like from a handbook”!
The radar was ready in 1952 and in the winter 1952/1953 it passed company’s and state’s trials, completed in April 1953. The measured range of the radar against MiG-15 fighter was 150 km, but it was achieved by company’s personnel, knowing all the “tricks”. Actual range was 100-120 km.
The radar was far from excellence, but it was accepted to service of Polish Air Force for airspace surveillance. During the 1953-1954 five Nysa-A radars were produced and passed to service. They were used till 60s, mainly for experimental purposes. Interestingly, the equipment was not warmly welcomed in the air force. The benefits of radars were not yet recognized. The radars were unreliable and demanded much tuning and maintenance. But soon air force get used for radars and they were appreciated. Much later Polish made radars were assessed as better than Soviet equivalents and during the whole Warsaw Pact period Polish Air Force used much more Polish made radars than Soviet made ones. The proportion was reversed in Polish Country Air Defense Force, which were integrated across the Warsaw Pact countries and the equipment was also much standardized, so more Soviet radars were used by this service.