Developed in War
In 1939, Telefunken introduced an air defense radar called the Wurzburg A. Operating at 560 MHz, with a 3 meter (9.8 ft) parabolic antenna, this radar had a range of 28 miles and enabled the tracking of aircraft height, distance, and baring. It served to guide night fighters to attacking Allied bombers and to direct anti-aircraft guns and searchlights.
To improve range and accuracy, an improved version called the Wurzburg Riese (Giant Wurzburg) was designed with the sam basic electronics but using a larger 7.4 meters (24.3 ft) antenna and a more powerful transmitter, giving it a range of 44 miles.
The Giant Wurzburg antenna was constructed by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH using the same lightweight alloys and construction methods as its airships of the 1930's. Its size prevented it from being fully mobile; examples were mounted on fixed bunkers, rail cars, and in at least one instance, aboard a ship. The electronics and operators were housed in a shed on the azimuth mounting, turning with the radar.
First deployed around Berlin in 1941, the Giant Wurzburg was the most powerful radar in use until the SCR-584 was introduced by the U.S. Army in late 1942. By the end of World War II approximately 1500 Giant Wurzburg radars had been deployed around Germany and nearby
industrial areas to aid in the destruction of Allied bombers.
Used in Peace
Because it was large and well built and widely available, many Giant Wurzburg radars were taken over after the war and adopted for scientific research. A number of thee radars were brought to the U.S. for scientific studies of the Sun. They were also used as radio telescopes to map the Milky Way.
In 1947, three Wurzburg antennas including the one on display at the National Electronics Museum, were installed by the U.S. Bureau of Standards in Sterling, Virginia, to be used research solar noise and sun spot phenomena. They were moved to Table Mountain, near Boulder, Colorado, in 1952 where they continued to be used for research. The Giant Wurzburg on display is the only remaining example in the U.S.; others were destroyed or returned to Germany. It was donated by the U.S. Department of Commerce to the Museum in 2006.
Two Wurzburg Riese radars were used in conjunction with other types such as the Freya, an early warning search radar. One Wurzburg would track the incoming bomber while the other was used to track and control interceptors.