Research at the DRA, Malvern, has resulted in a series of algorithms which are capable of yielding focused, undistorted SAR imagery. Unfortunately these can only be implemented in a fraction of a percent of real-time on a standard work-station. In parallel with the algorithm development, therefore, has been research into a real-time implementation on a parallel computer (the Meiko CS1). This paper outlines the principles behind the software architecture design to achieve the desired speed. Processing functions considered include: initial motion compensation (based on accelerometer data), autofocus with phase correction, final processing and an intensity segmentation stage. Real time processing rates of about 10 MBytes/s are now routinely achieved. We indicate the compromises between processor power, available local memory and communications bandwidth needed to achieve real-time operation. Detailed timings derived from the implementation will be presented together with a discussion of the manner in which this could be varied for different SAR configurations. In parallel with the work on producing real-time high quality imagery has gone a program of research into automated image-understanding techniques. This work is now reaching the stage where reliable algorithms for several basic operations, including segmentation and change detections, exist in a form capable of processing continuous imagery at real time or near real-time rates. Provision has been made for the inclusion of these algorithms as postprocessing stages in the real-time SAR processor.