This paper discusses the concept and design of a real-time Digital Beamforming Synthetic Aperture Radar (DBSAR) for airborne applications which can achieve fine spatial resolutions and wide swaths. The development of the DBSAR enhances important scientific measurements in Earth science, and serves as a prove-of-concept for planetary exploration missions. A unique aspect of DBSAR is that it achieves fine resolutions over large swaths by synthesizing multiple cross-track beams simultaneously using digital beamforming techniques. Each beam is processed using SAR algorithms to obtain the fine ground resolution without compromising fine range and azimuth resolutions. The processor uses an FPGA-based architecture to implement digital in-phase and quadrature (I/Q) demodulation, beamforming, and range and azimuth compression. The DBSAR concept will be implemented using the airborne L-Band Imaging Scatterometer (LIS) on board the NASA P3 aircraft. The system will achieve ground resolutions of less than 30 m and swaths of 10 km from an altitude of 8 km.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.