Radar market promising for embedded computing designers

Welcome to our 2014 Radar Issue. Why have an issue focused on radar? Simple: the radar market, along with Electronic Warfare (EW), shows the most promise for embedded-computing system designs.

As Brad Curran, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan says, “Radar is hot. In 2011 there were 79 radar contracts totaling $3.27 billion with Raytheon as the leading producer. In 2012 the total contracts increased to 88, worth $4.26 billion, with Raytheon again as the leader. In 2013 there were 79 radar contracts totaling $4.03 billion, with Raytheon leading again with 24 of the contracts for $2.09 billion.”

Raytheon’s reign at the top of the radar world looks to continue for a while, especially with their win of the U.S. Navy’s Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) contract – a next-generation defensive system for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The new radar will enhance ships’ ability to detect ballistic missiles, as well as air and surface targets, according to Raytheon. The AMDR will be scalable, working with any ship or mission. It will make use of digital beamforming to provide wide-area surveillance while gaining high precision with multiple, simultaneous radar beams. It will also have a radar resource scheduler to allow it to perform multiple missions simultaneously without extending the demand on the ship’s prime power system. It is based on other Raytheon active phased-array radars, which make use of sometimes thousands of individual transmitters on each radar face to steer signals electronically, according to a Raytheon release.

Maritime radar is also a growth market, Curran says. “For 2013 there were 41 contracts for $1.59 billion, with Raytheon leading. This trend will continue as ballistic-missile defense upgrades for Aegis ships and anti-ship missile defenses are a priority, along with airborne maritime surveillance as the P-8, Triton Dome, and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are deployed.” For more on maritime radar and Raytheon, see Senior Editor Sally Cole’s Special Report on page 12.

The market has a mix of new radar designs and upgrades of signal-processing systems. “Radar retrofits typically involve a switch from VME to VPX systems in a shelf upgrade,” says Bill Pilaud, Continuum HPEC Manager for Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions in Ashburn, VA. “VPX provides such a large improvement in threat-detection capability that it is hard to resist if you have the funding.”

New designs include programs such as the Air Force Dismount Detection Radar, says Dr. Paul Monticiollo, CTO at Mercury Systems in Chelmsford, MA. “We are also seeing radar and EW systems being moved onto UAV platforms. The F-16 and F-15E radar-modernization programs, where mechanically scanned arrays are being replaced by Active Electronically Scanned Arrays (AESAs). Enhancing the downstream signal processing is also a big part of these tech refreshes.”

Examples of programs that upgraded their radar signal-processing systems with Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) include the Raytheon Patriot Missile System radar and the Lockheed Martin AN/TPQ-53 (Q-53) counterfire target-acquisition radar. Designers of these systems like the high speeds of multicore processors such as the 4th-generation Intel Core i7 – also known as Haswell – high-performance FPGAs from Xilinx and Altera. For more on signal-processing trends, see my article in the Mil Tech Trends section on page 20.

“A lot of our radar business consists of upgrades to systems that are 15 or 20 years old,” says Rodger Hosking, Vice President and co-founder of Pentek in Upper Saddle River, N.J. “Not only do our customers get improved performance with these upgrades, but they also see tremendous savings in total life-cycle costs because maintenance costs on older radar systems can be quite high.”

Pretty much every company presenting or attending the Embedded Tech Trends conference (www.embeddedtechtrends.com) in Phoenix in January 2014 listed radar as the key area for their signal-processing solutions. In addition to the companies mentioned above, they include Kontron, 4DSP LLC, Vadatech, Elma, Alpha Data, CES, Artysen Embedded Technologies (formerly Emerson Network Power), AcQ, ADLINK, and Interface Concept.

We’ve also packed the issue with contributed articles from embedded computing companies, along with an article from Lockheed Martin on ISR as a Service on page 16. Our Mil Tech Trends section includes a piece from Cambridge Pixel on radar-display processing, another from Cypress Semiconductor on using high-performance SRAMs for signal processing, and one from Mercury Systems on signal processing for EW. In our Industry Spotlight section, Bittware and Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions penned articles on FPGA technology for use in radar and EW systems.