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Electronic Warfare and Radar Systems Engineering Handbook
- Radiation Hazards -

[Go to TOC]



Radiation Hazard (RADHAZ) describes the hazards of electromagnetic radiation to fuels, electronic hardware, ordnance, and personnel. In the military these hazards are segregated as follows:

1) Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to
    Personnel (HERP)
2) Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to
    Ordnance (HERO)
3) Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to
    Fuel (HERF)

The current industrial specifications for RADHAZ are contained in ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992 which was used as a reference to create the combined Navy regulation NAVSEA OP3565 / NAVAIR 16-1-529. Volume I contains HERP and HERF limits - its current version is REV 5. Volume II (REV 6) covers HERO. These limits are shown in Figure 1 although all values have been converted to average power density.

{ 1/23/2014 Update: NAVSEA OP3565 / NAVAIR 16-1-529. Volume I - current version is REV 6, not 5 NAVSEA OP3565 / NAVAIR 16-1-529.  Volume II – current revision is REV 17, not 6  - thanks to Tony R. for the info}
Radiation Hazards to Personnel and Ordnance - RF CafeOP 3565 specifies HERO RADHAZ levels at frequencies below 1 GHz in peak value of electric field strength (V/m), while levels above 200 MHz are specified in average power density (mW/cm2) - note the overlapping frequencies. Since Figure 1 depicts power density as the limits, you must convert the average values to peak field strength for use at lower frequencies. Also many applications of EMC work such as MIL-STD-461 use limits based on the electric (E) field strength in volts/meter. Remember that P=E2/R, and from Section 4-2, we note that R=377Ω for free space. It can also be shown that the magnetic field strength (H field in Amps/meter) = I/m where I=E/R. Don't forget that RMS = 0.707 Peak. With the units of PD in mW/cm2, E in V/m, and H in A/m, then PD (mW/cm ) = E2 / 3770 = 37.7 H2 . It should thus be noted that a 100 times increase in power (mW/cm2) is only a 10 times increase in V/m.

The potential dangers to ordnance and fuels are obvious because there could be an explosive "chain reaction" by exploding; consequently, these limits are generally lower than personnel limits. There are three HERO categories. The HERO limit 2 is for HERO "unsafe" or "unreliable" explosive devices with exposed wires arranged in optimum (most susceptible) receiving orientation. This usually occurs during the assembly/disassembly of ordnance, but also applies to new/untested ordnance until proven "safe" or "susceptible." The HERO limit 1 is for HERO susceptible ordnance fully assembled undergoing normal handling and loading operations. HERO safe ordnance requires no RF radiation precautions. A list of which specific ordnance (by NALC) falls into each category can be found in OP 3565 along with specific frequency restrictions for each piece of ordnance. For example, all missiles of one variety are susceptible (HERO 1 limits), while another missile has both susceptible and safe variants (with no RADHAZ limits). Other ordnance may be HERO unsafe (HERO 2 limits).
Lower Frequency HERP from DoD INST 6055.11 - RF CafeThe danger of HERP occurs because the body absorbs radiation and significant internal heating may occur without the individuals knowledge because the body does not have internal sensation of heat, and tissue damage may occur before the excess heat can be dissipated. As shown in Figure 1, the current "restricted" limit is for individuals more than 55" tall because they have more body mass. In other words, all people may be exposed to the lower limit, but only persons taller than 55" may be exposed to the higher limit of 10 mW/cm2.

NAVSEA OP 3565 will be updated in the future to be compatible with DoD INST 6055.11 dated Feb 21, 1995 which supersedes it. The personnel radiation levels in Figures 2 and 3 were taken from the new release of DoD INST 6055.11.
Unlike the existing "restricted limit" of NAVSEA OP 3565 discussed above, in the revised DoD instruction for personnel radiation hazards, a different approach to exposure was taken.

Radiation Hazards to Personnel from DoD INST 6055.11 - RF Cafe

Figure 3. Radiation Hazards to Personnel from DoD INST 6055.11

Two maximum hazard limits are defined;

1) Controlled Environments - where personnel are aware of the potential danger of RF exposure
    concurrently with employment, or exposure which may occur due to incidental transient passage
    through an area, and;

2) Uncontrolled Environments - A lower maximum level where there is no expectation that higher
    levels should be encountered, such as living quarters.

These Personnel Exposure Limits (PELs) are based on a safety factor of ten times the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) which might cause bodily harm. The term PEL is equivalent to the terms "Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE)" and "Radio Frequency Protection Guides (RFPG)" in other publications.

There are several exceptions to the maximum limits in Figures 2 and 3 (in some cases higher levels are permitted):
  • High Power Microwave (HPM) system exposure in a controlled environment, which has a single pulse or multiple pulses lasting less than 10 seconds, has a higher peak E-Field limit of 200 kV/m.
  •  EMP Simulation Systems in a controlled environment for personnel who are exposed to broad-band (0.1 MHz to 300 GHz) RF are limited to a higher peak E-Field of 100 kV/m.
  • The given limits are also increased for pulsed RF fields. In this case the peak power density per pulse for pulse durations < 100 msec and no more than 5 pulses in the period is increased to: PELPulse = PEL x TAVG / 5 x Pulse Width, and the peak E-field is increased to 100 kV/m. If there are more than 5 pulses or they are greater then 100 msec, a time averaged PD should not exceed that shown in Figure 3.
  • A rotating or scanning beam likewise reduces the hazard, so although an on-axis hazard might exist, there may be none with a moving beam. The power density may be approximated with: PDscan = PDfixed (2 x Beam Width / scan angle)
  • Many other special limitations also apply, such as higher limits for partial body exposure, so if in doubt, read the DoD Inst 6055.11 in detail. Field measurements may be measured in accordance with IEEE C95.3-1991.
  • The PELs listed in Figures 2 and 3 were selected for an average RF exposure time at various frequencies. In a controlled environment, this averaging time was selected as 6 minutes for 0.003 to 15,000 MHz. If the exposure time is less than 6 minutes, then the level may be increased accordingly. Similar time weighted averages apply to uncontrolled environments, but it varies enough with frequency such that DoD INST 6055.11 should be consulted.


NAVSEA OP 3565 contains a list of Navy avionics which transmit RF as well as radars along with their respective hazard patterns. Special training is required for individuals who work in areas which emit RF levels which exceed the uncontrolled levels. Warning signs are also required in areas which exceed either the controlled or uncontrolled limits.

Although E-Field, H-Field, and power density can be mathematically converted in a far-field plane wave environment, the relations provided earlier do not apply in the near field, consequently the E- or H-field strength must be measured independently below 100 MHz. It should be noted that the specifications in NAVSEA OP 3565 for lower frequency HERO limits are listed as peak E-field values, whereas lower RF limits in DoD INST 6055.11 on HERP are in average (RMS) E-field values. Upper frequency restrictions are based on average (RMS) values of power density in both regulations except for certain circumstances.

HERF precautions are of more general concern to fuel truck operators. However, some general guidelines include:
  • Do not energize a transmitter (radar/comm) on an aircraft or motor vehicle being fueled or on an adjacent aircraft or vehicle.
  •  Do not make or break any electrical, ground wire, or tie down connector while fueling.
  •  Radars capable of illuminating fueling areas with a peak power density of 5 W/cm2 should be shut off.
  • For shore stations, antennas radiating 250 watts or less should be installed at least 50 ft from fueling areas (at sea 500 watts is the relaxed requirement).
  •  For antennas which radiate more than 250 watts, the power density at 50 ft from the fueling operation should not be greater than the equivalent power density of a 250 watt transmitter located at 50 ft.

Table of Contents for Electronics Warfare and Radar Engineering Handbook
Introduction | Abbreviations | Decibel | Duty Cycle | Doppler Shift | Radar Horizon / Line of Sight | Propagation Time / Resolution | Modulation | Transforms / Wavelets | Antenna Introduction / Basics | Polarization | Radiation Patterns | Frequency / Phase Effects of Antennas | Antenna Near Field | Radiation Hazards | Power Density | One-Way Radar Equation / RF Propagation | Two-Way Radar Equation (Monostatic) | Alternate Two-Way Radar Equation | Two-Way Radar Equation (Bistatic) | Jamming to Signal (J/S) Ratio - Constant Power [Saturated] Jamming | Support Jamming | Radar Cross Section (RCS) | Emission Control (EMCON) | RF Atmospheric Absorption / Ducting | Receiver Sensitivity / Noise | Receiver Types and Characteristics | General Radar Display Types | IFF - Identification - Friend or Foe | Receiver Tests | Signal Sorting Methods and Direction Finding | Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR) / Reflection Coefficient / Return Loss / Mismatch Loss | Microwave Coaxial Connectors | Power Dividers/Combiner and Directional Couplers | Attenuators / Filters / DC Blocks | Terminations / Dummy Loads | Circulators and Diplexers | Mixers and Frequency Discriminators | Detectors | Microwave Measurements | Microwave Waveguides and Coaxial Cable | Electro-Optics | Laser Safety | Mach Number and Airspeed vs. Altitude Mach Number | EMP/  Aircraft Dimensions | Data Busses | RS-232 Interface | RS-422 Balanced Voltage Interface | RS-485 Interface | IEEE-488 Interface Bus (HP-IB/GP-IB) | MIL-STD-1553 & 1773 Data Bus |
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