Soviet-era P-12 radar enters 21st century with P-12M variant

At the Partner 2023 exhibition, the Military Technical Institute unveiled its modernized surveillance-acquisition radar P-12M, showcasing developments in Serbia's defense technology sector. The P-12M radar, in operational use in anti-aircraft systems for detecting and tracking air vehicles, represents a step forward in Serbia's efforts to enhance its defense capabilities.
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The Serbian P-12M radar displayed at the Partner 2023 exhibition (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The Military Technical Institute, recognized as a scientific and research institution by the Serbian Ministry of Science and Technological Development, plays a role in advancing Serbia's technological capabilities in the defense sector. Operating as a part of the Directorate for Defense Technologies within the Sector for Material Resources under the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Serbia, it contributes to the nation's defense capabilities.

The Surveillance-Acquisition Radar P-12M features several notable functions, including remote control of all radar functions, high-resolution controller displays with automated maintenance and dialogue windows, digital radar data acquisition and processing, and target detection with a focus on accuracy and minimizing false alarms. The radar also assists in determining the parameters of moving targets like position, velocity, and course, thanks to its digital receiver and tracking module.

The P-12M facilitates communication and data transfer with other anti-aircraft systems, fostering a collaborative defense environment. Its rack-mounted console and ergonomic keyboard design aim to ensure safe and comfortable operation for radar operators within the cabin.

The radar's technical specifications include a frequency band spanning 150-170 MHz and a pulse repetition time of 2.77 ms. It features a pulse repetition frequency of 360 Hz, a pulse width of 6 μs, and an average power output of up to 540 W, with peak power ranging from 160 to 250 kW. The radar's range extends up to 350 km, offering precise range resolution of less than 1000 m, and it features an 8° beamwidth. Its graphical user interface (GUI) simplifies manipulation, enhancing operator efficiency.

The P-12M's modernization is part of a broader lineage that traces its origins back to the P-12 radar developed by the Soviet Union in 1956. Over the years, the radar underwent multiple modernizations, leading to the P-12M variant. These modernizations included the ability to shift radar frequencies, improved reliability, reduced side lobe radiation, and enhanced immunity to anti-radiation missiles. The final variant, the P-12NP, introduced improved detection ranges and enhanced crew survivability by relocating the control cabin up to 500 meters from the antenna.

The P-12 radar family's main distinguishing features include a new antenna feed system with lower side lobes, reduced to just 4% of the main lobe. The radar offers a broader frequency range and greater frequency agility, automatically returning to four preset frequencies. Additionally, it introduced the coherent cancellation moving target indicator (MTI) method to eliminate ground clutter, marking advancements in radar technology.

The P-12 radar was originally mounted on Zil trucks but evolved over time, with variants such as the P-12NP featuring a separate trailer cabin for the radar antenna mast. The radar's single antenna served both transmission and reception functions, composed of twelve Yagi antennas mounted in sets of six. Azimuth scanning was achieved mechanically, while elevation was determined using a Goniometer.

The P-12 radar's combat history includes deployments in conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the Middle East. A notable incident occurred in 1969 when Israeli commandos captured a P-12 radar station from Egypt in Operation Rooster 53.