Radar, electronic warfare steadier parts of military market

[Application Feature]

Radar, electronic warfare steadier parts of military market

“Uncertain” was the keyword most of our readers and advertisers attached to the outlook for electronics funding and defense spending worldwide last year. Threats of sequestration and a stagnant global economy fueled the doubt, which unfortunately continues today. The sequestration threat was only postponed, not removed. However, if Department of Defense (DoD) spending were to be dramatically slashed in such a scenario, many feel sensor procurement and development – specifically radar and electronic warfare technology – would remain strong.

As we reduce our military footprint worldwide, we will rely more than ever on sensor data from Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems onboard unmanned aircraft, in satellites, and on the ground. Accurate, real-time information from radar and other sensors is crucial to improving situational awareness. Improving bandwidth in military systems is of equal importance because it will help reduce the sensor to shooter cycle – the time it takes for sensor data to reach a shooter so it can eliminate a threat.

High-performance radar systems will need to provide much of the key intelligence to the warfighter. Radar requirements coming out of the DoD are calling for detection of small, slow-moving objects such as dismounted individuals on the ground and obscure targets in littoral waters. Market numbers show how much activity occurred in military radar contracts just in 2012 alone – indicating radar technology might be the best bet for military electronics investment over the next few years. According to Brad Curran, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan in San Antonio, TX, U.S. radar contracts for 2012 totaled $4.26 billion, an increase of almost a $1 billion over 2011 and about $1.5 billion over 2010 numbers. The U.S. radar market has shown significant increases the past three years, driven mostly by missile defense and the U.S. Army’s counter battery systems, he adds. “There were 457 companies total with U.S. contracts in 2012 radar technology and/or services. Raytheon is by far the largest radar producer in the U.S., winning contracts totaling $1.39 billion in 2012, while Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were second and third respectively. Raytheon has been number one the last three years.”

The robust radar market and the focus military embedded system suppliers have on radar products led us to gear our content this issue toward radar technology. Our Special Report section’s lead article covers general radar trends such as dismount detection, the Lockheed AN/TPQ-53 (Q-53) counterfire target acquisition radar (pictured on our cover this edition), and also looks at how Lockheed Martin engineers are mitigating the challenges wind farms create for long-range radar systems. Also included in the Special Report section is an article from Dan Kinney and Andy Johnston of Parker Aerospace on how two-phase cooling meets thermal management challenges in modern radar applications.

The lead article in our Mil Tech Trends section looks at how radar and electronic warfare designers are getting around poor-bandwidth technology by placing the processing power of a ground station next to the sensor on the platform. This paradigm enables data analysis and exploitation to be performed before data is sent to the ground on slow RF links, enabling real-time actionable intelligence to be sent to the warfighter. The article covers how FPGAs and commercial processors are driving radar and electronic warfare sensor processing designs.

Mil Tech Trends also includes two articles on Modular Open Systems Architecture, or MOSA. In the first article, Michael Stern of GE Intelligent Platforms talks about how to exploit MOSA software for high-performance ISR and signal applications. The second article, written by Chris Lewis and Alton Graves of Mercury Systems, covers how MOSA enables flexibility and cost savings for electronic warfare digital receivers. Also in this section, Jeff Malacarne of Barco contributed a piece on how “10 GbE enables real-time remote desktops for C4ISR.” Meanwhile, in our Industry Spotlight section, Rodger Hosking of Pentek discusses how new Virtex-7 FPGA technology boosts radar performance.

In future radar designs, keep an eye out for InfiniBand. The switched fabric created a buzz at the Embedded Tech Trends (ETT) conference in Long Beach, CA, in January, where CSPI, GE Intelligent Platforms, Mercury Systems, and others in attendance launched new products based on the standard. InfiniBand along with 40 GbE, will be implemented for radar and other intensive signal processing applications as both have long-term road maps, speed, and low latency, noted Marc Couture of Mercury Systems during ETT.