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Mounting a collapsible radar reflector

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What is the issue?
Small boats cannot rely upon the larger ships watch seeing them, especially at night. But traditional collapsible radar reflectors are a nuisance aboard. Their edges eat through anything that rubs against them, especially so once they oxidise and become pitted, and they look highly unattractive.

Why address this?
It is important to develop a clear radar signature for ships as you cannot rely on being seen visually. A passing ships’ radar system will only identify objects that are clearly visible for radar. Furthermore they typically need a minimum of three consecutive radar ‘blips’ or ‘hits’ before they acquire a target. Hence to be seen by radar a vessel needs to provide both a strong return and a consistent one. A pitching or heeling yacht needs all the help a radar reflector can provide to make it visible.

How to address this?
Mount a radar reflector in a permanent positing where it is both effective and can do no damage to the running rigging or sails. Be safe, be seen. Figures 1 – 3 present three alternatives.

In figure 1 the aft backstay mounted radar reflector has attained the minimum height requirement of six feet above decks

Figure 2 presents where we positioned the radar reflector on Obsession, just below our actual radar. This was a natural choice for us as the established radar brackets made it easy to fasten the reflector in place. The out reach of the radar cover above kept the head sail clear when it passed in front of the mast. This position was also less conspicuous to the eye.

Figure 3 shows an alternate position attached between the top crosstrees and cap shrouds, offering great height and safely removing its harmful potential.

There are more expensive radar reflector options available that are covered so they can do no harm and maximise the signature. But if you do not have one and you want to make the best of an established collapsible reflector, or indeed make a reflector out of sheet aluminium to address this problem, these positions should serve you well.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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