A Ray Tracing Simulation of HF Ionospheric Radar Performance at African Equatorial Latitudes

High‐frequency (HF) coherent radars are widely applied for studying electrodynamic processes in the Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) is an international network of such radars located at high‐ and middle‐latitude regions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. A major criterion of the HF coherent radar technique entails that the HF waves propagate orthogonal to the geomagnetic field lines (aspect angle 1°) in the ionospheric irregularity region from where backscatter originates. In this paper we present an HF ray tracing simulation of the performance of three proposed equatorial HF radar systems for the African equatorial sector. We use a number of realistic average ionospheres deduced from the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI) 2012 model and magnetic field geometries from the International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF) to determine likely propagation paths and orthogonality conditions for such radar systems. The east‐west azimuth ( 25° range) has a significant likelihood of achieving a SuperDARN‐type backscatter in the African equatorial sector, mainly due to the prevailing magnetic field geometry. This analysis provides a feasibility study for developing a SuperDARN‐like radar for studying the equatorial ionosphere over the African longitude sector, for example, in determining the technical radar characteristics such as preferable operating frequencies, antenna boresight orientation, and azimuth coverage and provides a simulation of the expected localization of radar backscatter as a function of radar location and beam direction, as well as the time of day, season, and sunspot number.