Active radar enhancers or Radar Target Enhancers (RTE) increase the chances of you being seen by other boats (especially larger ones) because it means that even if they can’t see you with their eyes they can pick you up on radar.  It is primarily intended for small vessels with no radar fitted and typically should enhance the RCS (radar cross section) of vessels up to 25M in length.  The response of the RTE will vary according to range, RTE and radar height above sea level, radar power and condition. Poor weather, sea state and precipitation will greatly reduce the response.

Both brands of RTE available are sold in 2 varieties.

  • X band RTE
  • XS band RTE

This refers to the frequency of the radar that the RTE responds to.  XS RTE responds to both S and X band radar whereas X RTE only responds to X band radar.

X band radar work at 9.3-9.5 GHz and are normally powered at 2 – 25 kw and fitted by pleasure boats, small ferries and smaller commercial and fishing vessels.  They have a range generally 2 to 30nm (dependent on mounting height of antenna and height of target) and are often used for collision avoidance and navigation.  You would expect an X band radar to be used for coastal and channel crossings.

S band radar work at 2.9-3.1 GHz and are required by law on all vessels over 3000 GT.  The antennas generally larger than X band are up to 13 feet (~4 meters) in length and weigh upto 400 lbs (~180kg).  They transmit at 10-60 kW and are usually used on the high seas to penetrate heavy rain, snow and similar precipitation.  Vessels of this size must also fit one or more X band radar.  As the larger boats take longer to change direction, rely on their S band radar in inclement weather and take longer to change course (because they’re bigger) it can easily be argued that all ocean rowing boats should be fitted with an XS RTE unit.

Radar on a ship
Highlighting the positions of different radars on a ship

As per the race rules, the RTE must be fitted at a minimum height above the load waterline of the boat.  If it is mounted too high, it could influence the boat’s ability to self -ight but if mounted too low then it might not be picked up by the radar of other vessels until they are very close.  You can use this online calculator to give you an idea of the of how far away a vessel could pick you up on radar based on the height of their radar and the height of your RTE.

New Ocean Wave is proud to have EchoMax as partner companies offering EchoMax RTEs at a discounted rate to race entrants. It should also be noted for those in the USA or planning to row in US waters that EchoMax is FCC approved.

Click here to read a recent article on the Qineteq test and comparisson of the 2 main RTEs on the market.

The size and shape of an RTE is the same for both X and XS band units.

RTE on Roz and unit
RTE mounted on the instrument rail high up on Roz’s stern cabin marked “Sea-Me”
A close up view of the rod design of the Echomax Active-X
A close up view of the rod design of the Echomax Active-X

Officially in the USA a product must carry an FCC ID and may require a users licence. The Active-X has FCC approval ref FCC ID : XZMACTIVE-X and for the Active XS it is XZMACTIVE-XS.