Radar: Introduction to Radar Systems — Online Course

This set of 10 lectures, about 11+ hours in duration, was excerpted from a three-day course developed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory to provide an understanding of radar systems concepts and technologies to military officers and DoD civilians involved in radar systems development, acquisition, and related fields. That three-day program consisted of a mixture of lectures, demonstrations, laboratory sessions, and tours.


This course is presented by Robert M. O'Donnell, a former researcher at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and is designed to instill a basic working knowledge of radar systems.

Description of Lectures

The set of 10 lectures starts with an introductory description of basic radar concepts and terms. The radar equation needed for the basic understanding of radar is then developed, along with several examples of its use in radar system design. Radar propagation issues such as attenuation, multipath effects, and ducting are described. The concept of radar cross-section, waveform design, antennas, transmitter and receiver characteristics, and the detection of radar signals in the presence of noise are presented. Some radars are required to detect small targets in the presence of much larger radar echoes from sea or land clutter in the radar's coverage. The characteristics of this clutter are discussed with moving target indicator (MTI) and Pulse Doppler techniques for mitigating the negative effects of clutter. The course continues with lectures covering target tracking and target parameter estimation. The last lecture discusses radar transmitters and receivers.

Disclaimer of Endorsement and Liability

The video courseware and accompanying viewgraphs presented on this server were prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, nor the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its Lincoln Laboratory, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, products, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government, any agency thereof, or any of their contractors or subcontractors or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its Lincoln Laboratory.

The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof or any of their contractors or subcontractors.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments about the Intro to Radar lectures.

List of Lectures

Click on titles below to the view the lectures and/or download the pdf files of the viewgraphs for each lecture.

Lecture 1 – Introduction

View/Download Lecture 1 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 2 – Radar Equation

View/Download Lecture 2 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 3 – Propagation Effects

View/Download Lecture 3 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 4 – Target Radar Cross Section

View/Download Lecture 4 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 5 – Detection of Signals in Noise and Pulse Compression

View/Download Lecture 5 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 6 – Radar Antennas

View/Download Lecture 6 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 7 – Radar Clutter and Chaff

View/Download Lecture 7 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 8 – Signal Processing - MTI and Pulse Doppler Techniques

View/Download Lecture 8 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 9 – Tracking and Parameter Estimation

View/Download Lecture 9 Viewgraphs (pdf)

Lecture 10 – Transmitters and Receivers

View/Download Lecture 10 Viewgraphs (pdf)


Any person with a college degree should be comfortable understanding the material in this course. A degree in science or engineering is not required, although the material will be more readily understood if the audience has introductory college-level knowledge of the following:

  • Mathematics including the topics of algebra, trigonometry, and logarithms.
  • Basic physics including the topics of electricity and magnetism.

Potential Audience

  1. University students or recent graduates who are contemplating employment with a corporation that develops radar systems.
  2. Nonengineering employees, such as accountants, lawyers, and technicians, of corporations that develop radar systems.
  3. Patent attorneys who deal with radar patent issues.
  4. Political scientists or others who deal with arms control issues.
  5. Engineers or scientists unfamiliar with the terms and concepts particular to radar systems engineering. These individuals should be able to go through the lectures quite quickly, learning the vocabulary of radar, so that they can promptly delve into the technical aspects of radar systems without being confused by new jargon, acronyms, and/or technical terms.
  6. And any curious individuals, even those who just want to know how that police officer knew they were traveling 79 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone.