Thursday, 9 October 2014

Integrated Masts-The Next Generation Masts

Fig. 1: UNIMAST : The Integrated Mast Family
(Image Courtesy:
The heading truly lays an emphasis on the need of using integrated masts .Why do we need it? The use of conventional masts with dozens of antennas, doesn't it make a naval ship communication system more complicated?

Let’s discuss how this integrated masts will prove beneficial in near future!

We can call it a housing that accommodates all the radars, sensors and antennas of a naval vessel. Gone are the dozens of antennas and sensors found on practically every flat topside surface of a modern naval vessel. The presence of all these systems, however sophisticated and advanced they individually may be, on one ship creates several problems.

As we know, the best position for a sensor is on top of the highest mast. There's only one system that can benefit from this position; all the others will be blocked to a certain extent by this mast. All antennas, so close together will affect each other. On most naval vessels it is necessary to switch one system off before another antenna can be used. This has been the cause of some serious incidents.


Integrated mast reduces electromagnetic interference and physical obstructions between electronic sub-systems, and improves across the board performance through the provision of a single operation centre.

UNIMAST represents the Selex ES’ solution to the need of enhanced air, surface and sub-surface defence effectiveness in the naval domain.Let us discuss some of its benefits

Fig. 2:Main Systems Antennas Positions
(Image Courtesy:

UNIMAST enhances operational effectiveness across all present and future scenarios:

  • Anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence.
  • Counter-fire.
  • Improved search and track capabilities, against asymmetric threats like small manned or unmanned aircraft at low altitudes and at low speed.

  • Reduced ship radar cross-section.
  • Improved flexibility for different operating conditions, such as littoral surveillance or blue water operations.
In order to meet ever more demanding operational needs, the integrated mast includes:
  • Surveillance radar and air and surface tracking by means of multifunctional AESA 3D four fixed face radars ,operating in C-band (two versions: MFRA and KRONOS) and X-band (two versions: 2D and 3D)
  • A phased array IFF using a conformal antenna and operating up to Mode number 5.
  • An optronic system.
  • Integrated communication system, including tactical data links.
  • Electronic Warfare system integration.

The Selex ES UNIMAST Integrated Mast Features

  • Surveillance radar and air and surface tracking by means of multifunctional AESA 3D four fixed face radars, operating in C-band (two versions: MFRA and KRONOS) and X-band (two versions: 2D and 3D).
  • Electro-optical system. Passive air and surface surveillance and tracking. Infra-red (IR) mapping to support threat evaluation and classification.
  • Communications. Data links  and satellite communications system, line-of-sight VHF and UHF communications, Link 11 and Link22 UHF, Link16 Rx and satellite communications.

Let’s know the radars- In The Thales Integrated Mast eliminates these problems. All radars and antennas not only have a full 360° field of view; they are also developed so as to operate simultaneously without interfering each other.
Fig. 5: Integrated Mast tracking features
(Image Courtesy:

The radars in the Integrated Mast are non-rotating, four-faced active phased array radars, which in itself is a major performance enhancement. As the four faces operate simultaneously, the radars achieve four times the time on target achieved by a rotating radar. The surface surveillance radar (Seastar) was developed especially for this purpose and it is capable of detecting and tracking small objects (e.g. divers' head) between the waves, contributing enormously to situational awareness in littoral environments.

How is it installed?

The Mast is tested as one system. Not before it fully complies with the customer's specifications is it transported to the shipyard. There, the Integrated Mast is simply bolted or welded to the ship, hooked up to the power supply, coolant system and data transmission and is operational in only two or three week time. Compared to the one year that is necessary to install, integrate and test all the separate systems, this is a huge time and money saving option, for Navy as well as shipyard.
The system’s support has also been simplified, providing access from within the mast, and protecting much of the electronics and cabling from wind, and corrosion.

Fig. 6: Holland-Class Offshore Patrol Vessel / OPV
(Image Courtesy:
This system has been installed on the Patrol Ships for the Royal Netherlands Navy .The first one was scheduled to be operational in late 2010. The I-Mast 100, introduced in September 2009, is the second member of the I-Mast family. This system is designed for smaller, corvette-sized vessels. The type of systems in the Mast is completely up to the customer. Although the Integrated Mast for the Holland class OPVs for the Royal Netherlands Navy contains mostly Thales systems, it will be possible to use customer-furnished or third party systems in a Thales Integrated Mast

Below are some videos about the Thales Family of i-Masts and their integration in ships and benefits.LSD

Article By: Siddhi Indulkar

Recommended Visuals1.) Thales presents: The i-Mast Family
                                2.) Thales Integrated Sensor Mast

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