The Decca Legacy


It is all too easy in today’s modern world to forget the efforts and engineering contributions of those who went before us and laid the foundations of contemporary radar design. I have been particularly fortunate to be a small part of the latter years of radar design culminating in the world’s most advanced active array multi-function radar entering service with the Royal Navy. When I look back to my early days with Plessey Radar, in the late 1980’s, the most striking aspect at the time was the complexity and quality of the engineering being achieved without the aid of the computers that we now take for granted. The ability to deliver the leading edge systems of the day was owed to the ingenuity and ability of the previous generations of engineers who laid down the foundation stones of basic radar theory, design techniques and investigative methods that gave the radar community the huge knowledge base available at that time (and one that is still relevant to us today). It was certainly a privilege for me to meet-up with the surviving individuals who were responsible for those foundation years of radar, particularly Ron Burr, whose inspiration and leadership contributed so much to those early years.

…And so to the content of this book. As I mentioned in opening, it is all too easy to forget what has gone before you and this book is a record of the radar engineering achievements from the earliest days of DECCA RADAR in 1949 to BAE SYSTEMS in 2010. The record is mostly from the first hand experiences of the surviving engineers and makes interesting reading for the engineering historian and radar engineer alike. For the ‘non-engineer’ the book illustrates the extreme pace of radar development through the peak of the East-West ‘Cold War’ followed by the slowing and ultimate decline after the ‘peace dividend’ and the break-up of the European communist rule. In addition to describing the systems that have been developed, the book gives some insight into the people and culture of the engineering community involved, the key driver for success, no matter what the company name was on the front gate.

I hope by the time you have read the book, you too will have the same admiration and respect for the pioneers and the latter day practitioners who have been responsible for so many ‘firsts’ in the field of radar.

Dr Jonathan Whitehurst C. Eng FIET
Chief Engineer, Technical Integrity.
BAE SYSTEMS, Integrated Systems Technologies.

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