Executive Summary

The availability of the radio spectrum in the United States is critical to over 40 radio services that provide functions ranging from air traffic control to amateur radio operations. Although the radio frequency spectrum is not a consumable resource, the use of a frequency at a given location usually prevents that frequency from being used by others in the same geographic area. This need for exclusive geographic use to preclude harmful interference has led to current spectrum regulations that establish spectrum use rules, such as granting licenses for spectrum use, and partitioning the spectrum for shared use between radio services.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), under a mandate from Congress to develop long-range spectrum plans, initiated the Strategic Spectrum Planning Program. As part of this long-term planning effort, NTIA released its NTIA Requirements Study (U.S. National Spectrum Requirements: Projections and Trends) in March 1995 addressing all radio services, and found that eight of these services needed access to additional spectrum in order to satisfy user requirements to the year 2004.

While all radio services are important to the nation, one of the very important uses of spectrum is for radars. Radars, by means of the propagation properties of radio waves, can determine an object's position, velocity and/or other characteristics. Radars come in a variety of sizes and power, from ultra-wideband milliwatt systems to very high-power systems used primarily for long-range search and surveillance. This report limits its investigation to mainly radars used for military radiolocation, radionavigation, meteorological, and Earth observations.

Although the NTIA Requirements Study indicated spectrum allocated for the radionavigation, radiolocation, and meteorological radars was considered to be adequate to the year 2004, this report revisits Federal radar spectrum requirements needed to support continued and evolving radar requirements in the United States based on information gathered from spectrum management data, agency inputs, available literature, and the life cycle projections of the platforms employing radar. This report describes the present and projected spectrum requirements for many Federal radar users.

For the purposes of spectrum planning, the following table lists frequency bands that have been identified as necessary to support radar spectrum requirements for various Federal agencies. The information in the table below should be considered as long-range planning information for Federal radar systems. Because Federal agency missions are unlikely to change, and radar platforms are likely to be updated or replaced, the actual time frame for the radar spectrum requirement is likely to be extended beyond the 20-year time frames shown below.

20-Year Federal Spectrum Requirement Forecast for Radar Bands

Frequency Bands Federal Government Use
92-100 GHzAirborne fire-control, beacons, atmospheric research, cloud detection, and synthetic vision radars
31.8-36 GHz Airborne navigational, mapping, weather, beacon, terrain following & avoidance; aircraft carrier PAR, test range, atmospheric & oceanic research, altimeter, scatterometer, and synthetic vision radars
24.05-24.65 GHz Doppler radiolocation, vehicle speed detection, scatterometer, and precipitation radars
15.4-17.3 GHz Airborne and shipborne multimode search, battlefield, aircraft carrier PAR, fire-control, test range, ASDE, scatterometer, precipitation, atmospheric research, and spaceborne radars
13.25-14.2 GHz Airborne and shipborne search and acquisition Doppler, airborne weather, altimeters, scatterometer, precipitation, environmental research, and spaceborne radars
8.5-10.55 GHz Airborne and shipborne surveillance and navigation, fire-control, battlefield, maritime, weather, test range, airborne radionavigation, ATC, SAR's, altimeters, ASDE, scatterometer, vehicle speed detection, and spaceborne radars
5250-5925 MHz NOAA weather radars, FAA TDWR, surveillance and air defense (airborne, shipborne, land-based), fire-control, maritime, test range, SAR's, altimeters, scatterometer, airborne, and spaceborne radars
4200-4400 MHz Aircraft radar altimeters
3100-3650 MHz DOD surveillance and air defense (airborne, shipborne, land-based), ATC, SAR's, altimeters, test range, and spaceborne radars
2700-3100 MHz ATC, maritime, and weather radars; DOD shipborne, airborne, ground air surveillance radars; range control, and spaceborne radars
2310-2385 MHz Planetary and lunar radar
1215-1390 MHz ATC, SAR's, and DOD early warning air defense, battlefield, shipborne long-range surveillance, and spaceborne radars
890-942 MHz Navy shipborne long-range surveillance, test range, NASA research, and wind profiler radars
420-450 MHz DOD early warning and long-range surveillance radars; and wind profiler radars
216-220 MHz DOD space surveillance radar
3-30 MHz DOD OTH and surface wave radar

Go to the Report main menu.
Go to the NTIA/OSM Reports web page.
Go to the NTIA/OSM home page.
Go to the NTIA home page.