Science 3 min read

To Protect the Arctic, Canada is First to Test Quantum Radar in the Field

Two very stealthy F-22 Raptors surrounding a Russian MIG. | NextNewMedia |

Two very stealthy F-22 Raptors surrounding a Russian MIG. | NextNewMedia |

Citing a need for “A greater awareness of the potential challenges posed by foreign military and commercial activities in the Arctic region” due to climate change, Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) has invested in several new surveillance technologies.

University of Waterloo’s quantum radar technology is just one of these.

Quantum radar technology is based on quantum entanglement. It is a remote-sensing technology that has thus far remained theoretical.

Of course, there are some unsubstantiated claims from Beijing state media that the “14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) has successfully developed China’s first quantum radar system”. Most experts think that this claim is meant to scare off U.S. stealth aircraft surveillance.

Read More: How Close are we to Quantum Infrastructure? An Introduction

However, researchers at the University of Waterloo developed a new kind of quantum radar tech that could be tested in the field very soon.

“This project will allow us to develop the technology to help move quantum radar from the lab to the field,” said Jonathan Baugh from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC). As reported by Interesting Engineering, Baugh leads the project with three other IQC researchers and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.

According to the University of Waterloo via the IE report, a successful deployment of the radar will “help radar operators cut through heavy background noise and isolate objects — including stealth aircraft and missiles — with unparalleled accuracy.”

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Canadian DND worries about the increased military and economic activity in the Arctic due to climate change and a gradual warming of the Earth’s upper latitudes.

From the DND’s All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) S&T blog post:

“Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, launched in June 2017, commits Defence to increasing focus on the Arctic, including joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as a defence research and development priority, and identifies the need to produce innovative solutions to surveillance challenges in the North.”

All told, the DND plans to commit $133 million to “support the development of options for enhanced domain awareness”.

Of this total, the DND has given $2.7 million in funding to the IQC and WIN quantum radar project.

It’s Harder to Find Things in the Arctic

In the Arctic, space weather such as geomagnetic storms and solar flares interfere with radar operation and make the effective identification of objects more challenging. By moving from traditional radar to quantum radar, we hope to not only cut through this noise but also to identify objects that have been specifically designed to avoid detection,” said Baugh.

Stealth aircraft, like the U.S.’s F-22 Raptor, employ electronic noise jamming in addition to structural aspects like the shape and paint composition to remain undetectable to conventional radar systems. In the Arctic, ambient noise contributes to make these aircraft very difficult to detect.

According to experts, quantum radar can detect these stealth aircraft without alerting the aircraft itself.

“The goal for our project is to create a robust source of entangled photons that can be generated at the press of a button,” said Baugh. Currently, there is no timetable for when that will happen.

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