Quantum Radar Will be a Game-Changer for Warfighting

Wes O'Donnell
5 min readNov 17, 2023
Photo by Marat Gilyadzinov on Unsplash

Military radar (actually an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging), has remained largely unchanged since its development over 100 years ago.

Working as an active duty NCO in the U.S. Air Force, my primary responsibility was the repair and maintenance of the complex surveillance radar system onboard the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft.

The radar lessons I learned in tech school were pretty straightforward: a high-energy transmitter sends a radio wave to an antenna which emits an attenuated wave to a distance of… well, that part is classified, but let’s just say “beyond the horizon.”

Then, that energy is reflected when it comes in contact with an object.

If that object is moving toward or away from the transmitter, the return signal has a slightly different frequency, caused by the Doppler effect. By calculating the time of flight of a radio wave moving at the speed of light and the Doppler effect, one can determine the distance and speed of most conventional aircraft.

It’s kind of funny, actually. The U.S. Air Force has a reputation for being the “high-tech” branch. But the AWACS is the flower of 1970s technology.

America’s entire stealth program is built upon the principle of absorbing (or deflecting at odd angles) these radio waves with special materials that don’t reflect signals back to an adversary’s radar system.

In this sense, America’s stealth warplanes like the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning, and Northrop’s new B-21 Raider can remain more or less invisible on most current-gen radar systems.

High-Definition Radar

Now, MIT Technology Review recently announced that researchers at Austria’s Institute of Science and Technology used entangled microwaves to create the world’s first quantum radar system.

Quantum mechanics allows for some very interesting phenomena on the magnitude of the very small. One of these is known as the principle of entanglement, where two particles can be linked together regardless of distance.

This forms what scientists call a quantum entangled pair.

According to the MIT announcement, quantum radars involve pairing photon particles…

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Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Pro-Democracy | Pro-Human Rights