The Secret Shack




In the 1950s, football fans noticed a small, wooden shack perched high atop the west stands of U of I's Memorial Football Stadium. They didn't realize that this "secret shack" was being used by CSL to develop breakthroughs in radar technology.

Researchers tracked cars passing in front of the AT&T building on Route 45. During football games, CSL personnel made sure that no one tampered with the equipment inside. The bonus: Free football tickets and a bird's-eye view of the game.

The All-Weather Attack System

A key feature of this airborne Doppler radar was "moving target lock-on," which made it possible for the radar to lock onto and track a moving target. Stationary objects showed up in green, while moving targets showed up in orange.

A Portable Radar

The MTI (moving target indicating) sentry radar was small enough for soldiers in Korea to carry on their backpacks and set up anywhere. This was the first radar to produce a sound instead of a visual image, so sentries did not have to watch a screen.

Used in combat in Korea, the sentry radar was especially effective in maintaining vigilance at known traffic points under zero-visibility conditions. It could locate and recognize a man walking or crawling, as well as the movement of groups or vehicles, for a range of up to five miles.

The Cornfield System

The Cornfield System was a model of a naval air-defense system designed to track radar hits on aircraft. It was one of the first applications of digital computer technology to complex decision-making. Elements of the system were incorporated into the U.S. Navy Tactical Data System.

The project was dubbed "the Cornfield System" to reflect the oddity that a Navy defense system had been developed in the midst of an ocean of Illinois corn.

Peeking Through the Iron Curtain

CSL's side-looking airborne radar was used in Germany to peer across the Iron Curtain. This thin, 18-foot antenna was mounted along the side of an aircraft, permitting the plane to fly parallel to a border and see laterally into enemy territory for a 40-mile range.

The Origins of SAR

CSL conducted the first demonstration of synthetic aperture radar imaging (SAR), which has extremely high resolution. SAR spread across the world and is commonly used for reconnaissance flights.