Radar tracking is the ability to determine the position and velocity vector of a target at any particular instant in time, to predict its position in the future, and to distinguish the desired target from other targets and clutter. For a typical radar, the direction from the radar antenna (or antennas) to the target is generally determined in the polar coordinates of range (distance), azimuth (horizontal) angle, and possibly vertical angle. For a sophisticated coherent radar, tracking targets in Doppler frequency space may also be required. Thus radar tracking can be one dimensional (range, angle, or Doppler), two dimensional (range and azimuth angle), three dimensional (range, azimuth angle, and elevation angle), or four dimensional (range, azimuth angle, elevation angle, and Doppler). For some systems, radar information is converted to Cartesian coordinates, and the tracking functions are performed in coordinates such as latitude, longitude, and height.

Target tracking is necessary for a number of reasons. In order to direct a weapon such as a missile or a projectile to a target, the range, future range, and angles from the radar to the target must be determined by the radar. By knowing the position of the target relative to that of the missile, the guidance computer can direct the missile to the target. Aircraft controllers must know an aircraft’s location relative to other aircraft in the vicinity, and by tracking the positions of all the aircraft in their assigned sectors, they can control the spacing of the aircraft to ensure flight safety.

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