Airborne radio echo sounding of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet over Pine Island Glacier was performed in the austral summer of 2004/2005 under the National Science Foundation’s West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative. The British Antarctic Survey flew its newly developed 150-MHz ice-sounding radar over Pine Island Glacier and collected approximately 35 000 km of sounding data. The synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technique was applied to process those data in order to enhance radar signatures from the bed. As a matter of fact, airborne ice-sounding radar systems are generally affected by surface clutter returns, masking the echoes of internal layers and ice-bedrock transition at a large depth. Focused and unfocused (Doppler filtering) SAR techniques were compared, and their respective advantages/disadvantages were analyzed. Enhancement of bedrock detection at a large depth (> 2000 m) through SAR processing is demonstrated. Finally, a simulation analysis was performed for assessing the feasibility of ice-sheet sounding from space. It is shown that the gain in bed detection threshold is marginal in the satellite sounding geometry. Airborne radar, Antarctica, ice sounding, satellite remote sensing, subglacial topography, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) processing, West Antarctic Ice Sheet.