Director of Design Integrity & Technology
Director of Design Integrity & Technology
From August 2020
Senior Payload Manager
August 2020 to July 2021
Chief Engineer/Director of System Engineering
July 2019 to July 2020
Chief Engineer, Airborne Communications
August 2017 to June 2019
Principal Engineer/Team Leader
2003 – 2015
GEC/Matra Marconi Space/Alenia Marconi Systems
1994 – 2000
Senior Engineer/Principal Engineer
1979 – 1994
1999 to 2000
1996 to 1998
BSc, Computer Sciences & Mathematics
Papers include Novel Planning Routine for Satellite Communications, 19th Ka and Broadband Conference Turin (Anderson, Sturman, Moseley). Authored Beyond Line-of-Sight Service publication for Astrium
Over a 40 plus-year career in radar, microwave and phased array antennas, Andy Anderson has had the ‘luxury’ as he puts it, of working across the spectrum of ground-based equipment and technology operating on the other side of the solar system. The former Chief Engineer of the Airborne Communications Group of Anglo-Italian defence company Leonardo describes his defence industry work as “almost the stuff of science fiction.” If only he were permitted to tell us more.
What he can tell us is that his space odyssey began with ROTHR, the Navy’s Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar, which still provides tactical warning to battle group commanders at an extended range. Since then, Anderson has worked on teams developing BMEWS (Ballistic Early Warning System), a ground-based radar system for missile attack warnings and severity evaluation; the Beagle 2 Mars Lander; the Mars Express; the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project (an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope); and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), the space probe that will detect and accurately measure gravitational waves. He contributed significantly to Skynet services where he headed up algorithms for generations of Britain’s secure military satellite communications programme.
Hanwha Phasor’s Director of Design Integrity & Technology has now exchanged “science projects” for “technology that large numbers of people will routinely use.” A big chunk of excitement in Anderson’s technology life has been participating in the evolution to near maturity of radar and phased array technology for communications. “That means I can bring plenty of pragmatism to Hanwha Phasor’s innovations and bring that to market in the form of a product that works,” he says.
Anderson is at once technology ‘owner’ and ‘dispute arbiter’. He has long since left the nuts and bolts of engineering behind, focusing instead on the big picture, staying abreast of what the competition is doing but ensuring, as he puts it, “we make tech for tomorrow not today.” A lengthy design review meeting had just vindicated his efforts. “Not only do we have secure funding and the necessary skills, but our people are also getting the job done.”
Like so many engineers of a certain age, the moon landings for Anderson were inspirational but the seeds of his engineering talent were sown in early maritime training. Until the age of ten, Anderson lived on boats, usually the height of vintage elegance like the classic 1937 Henry Morgan ─ his father owned one of the first charter businesses. “When you live on boats, you live with a lot of gadgets.” Anderson naturally took things apart and put back together again. “And they usually worked,” he says with endearing pride. That led to decent pocket money here and there mending old TVs.
Initially educated in international schools, mostly in the Mediterranean, his peregrinations ended for a time when he came to the UK as a teenager to live with relatives on the flattest of English landscapes in rural Lincolnshire. These farm managers encouraged the born engineer into a land economics and law degree at Cambridge University. Predictably, it lasted barely a few weeks. He escaped to Aston University in Birmingham, UK, to read electrical and electronic engineering. Unusually, he pursued an apprenticeship at the same time, eventually going full-time with Raytheon, the aerospace and intelligence service provider.
He spent the next 17 years there on rapid-fire projects involving radar and active electronically steered arrays (AESAs) where he learned his trade from Eli Brookner, one of founders of the company’s phased array radar technology and from other authorities in the field, including R C Hansen and Martin Shelley.
He started work with an airport Traffic Interrogation Test Set, which tested the resilience of secondary surveillance radar responders. Several years later, this work, with that of a colleague, led to the invention, reputed to be ‘impossible’, of a Synthetic Target Generation System. This used very large phased array systems deploying 115 simulated and uniquely coded aircraft to validate Interrogation Friend or Foe systems on advanced military aircraft.
How did they carry out the impossible? He declares: “When someone says something is impossible, it is often because their vision does not include it as probable.
“We knew what could be achieved. We just needed to fill in the gaps. In the days before PCs, we used a large box of cards on which we wrote what we expected each facet of the system to do. On the other side of a given card, we set out how we could solve that small problem. Solving all the small problems led to the big solution.”
This is the method on which Anderson bases most of his working life. He acknowledges there are dangers with the results, which can be just one of a set of solutions. “You must ensure you don’t focus on an engineering problem to the exclusion of what the outside world is looking for. I have come across products that have been developed and delivered to the customer who has looked at it and said, ‘what’s that?’”. His advice is to: “avoid the rabbit holes and focus on the broad sweep of the playing field in front of you. That means your team, which must include the customer.”
He continues: “You rarely succeed by aiming to develop the best of the best. You succeed by developing a product which is most suitable for the target market.” That’s the basis on which he and the new Hanwha Phasor team are confident they can launch their first fully-fledged product in 2025 to meet the commissioning of low Earth orbiting constellations.
Anderson: “It was drummed into us when we joined companies like Raytheon that it is easy to develop the most comprehensive specification if you have infinite funding. Few do, even the most wealthy companies in the world.” Accordingly, Anderson is pragmatic about the design of Hanwha Phasor’s launch aero product. “It will not feature all the genius of the initial design but it will feature elements of highest maturity and it will still outperform the competition. We will utilise others as we develop our product portfolio.”
Still working on AESAs but now in satellite communications, Anderson spent the next 20 years at GEC Marconi Radar Defence Systems (which morphed into EADS/Astrium and is now Airbus) where he worked mostly on military communications projects. Designing and developing satcom antennas, payloads and link analysis software represented one thrill after another in terms of intellectual challenge. Where phased arrays and satellites were concerned, he became known as ‘Mr Algorithm’.
All this equips him perfectly for Hanwha Phasor’s aerospace antenna programme. “There is a lot of process and a lot of documentation to meet aircraft certification goals.” It doesn’t sound very creative. “It’s a fine balance,” he responds, “between achieving full initial certification goals and most of what’s required. The latter may be enough to meet what the customer wants.”
After Airbus, Anderson moved to Leonardo as Systems Design Authority, creating the team that would create airborne phased array antennas for Ka band communications for supersonic air vehicles. He concluded his career at Leonardo as Chief Engineer for Airborne Communications on the Anglo-French next-generation future combat aircraft system (FCAS). Before it bit the dust post-Brexit, Anderson had decided to explore consulting, which led to a year at phased array start-up All.Space; and then a brief interlude at Intelsat, where he was responsible for next generation satellite payloads plus phased arrays and digital beamforming technologies.
But Anderson was keen to put to bed another phased array system that would meet the requirements of this game-changing equipment, making Hanwha Phasor an obvious destination. “Hanwha Phasor was no longer a start-up and has become a stable, rapidly maturing operation capable of delivering a reliable, high-performance product that can meet the needs of next-generation satellite networks.”
In the 1970s, feats of engineering brilliance involved slide rules, “just one computer” at Raytheon’s UK site and “lots of big books.” Anderson’s library today numbers over a thousand publications on phased arrays and related science subjects. “Most RF engineering has relied on the exceptional brilliance of certain people just thinking. Today, however, computers with in-built intelligence help us with design and the internet, of course, gives us a global library.”
Anderson keeps pace with technology – he wrote some of the software tools in use today, including those for radio frequency planning; and satellite antenna control simulation; and algorithms for the MAGIC moveable antenna ground control system used to control phased arrays on satellites.
Has the ceiling of brilliance in the world of phased array has almost been reached? Anderson feels there is still a long way to go. However, he envisages the dawn of a new age of connectivity in which the antenna is superseded.
“An antenna is an impedance matching device. It is an exceedingly simplistic model and there are other technologies which don’t use electromagnetic propagation. They live in the very weird world of quantum entanglement” – a research area Anderson headed up at Leonardo. “It’s been around as a concept since Einstein but if you don’t need to transmit using electromagnetic waves, the entire world of communications would be turned on its head. I think we will get there – eventually.”
Back to reality. Phased array development is becoming easier as the technology matures. The industry is expanding rapidly and it is now becoming a mainstay of 5G mobile networks. “The satcom world agrees that if you want multi-target tracking and you don’t want mechanical elements, phased array technology is as good as it gets.” This is spawning a new generation of phased array experts, some of whom have moved from telecom to satcom. With Systems Design Authority and Head of Systems Design Fiona Wilson and Head of Antenna Design David Adams (Nortel, Ace Antennas) and other colleagues at Hanwha Phasor, Anderson is going to make sure our technology becomes the product that will succeed where none has to date in the commercial world.