JED - September 2011 - (Page 42)

Digital Devices Move into the Analog By Barry Manz There’s a change happening in the design of EW, radar and communications systems that is reshaping their basic architecture, and it is being delivered almost exclusively by digital technology. Analog and RF/microwave hardware, the core of these systems for nearly their entire history, is to some degree being replaced by FGPAs and high-speed converters. When combined with high-speed memory, CPUs, graphics processors and data buses, it is endowing current systems and those in development with capabilities that are orders of magnitude beyond what traditional designs and components could ever provide. The message for manufacturers of integrated microwave assemblies such as downconverters is crystal clear: embrace digital technology or become increasingly relegated to smaller shares of the overall “pie.” To be fair, it is understandable that a microwave manufacturer that has spent the last 40 years fine-tuning its circuits to deliver the best possible performance would be reluctant to change course and plunge into the digital domain. “There is a lot of craft in microwave systems and probably a feeling that FPGAs [Field Reprogrammable Gate Arrays] and ADCs [analog-to-digital converters] are boring, pedestrian technology that anybody can do,” says Andrew Reddig, president of TEK Microsystems (Chelmsford, MA). “Frankly, they probably don’t consider it all that interesting. They have some justification because there is clearly some black magic on the microwave side of things that I don’t think digital guys necessarily appreciate. Nevertheless, they may not realize that digital technology has the potential to take away a big piece of their business.” “It can be frightening for many engineers who have been fending off the onrush of digital technology that is really quite strange and different from what they’ve been doing, but they can really no longer afford do so,” says Pentek President and cofounder Rodger Hosking, “and the inevitable result is that there will certainly be a decrease in the size and complexity of these microwave subsystems in the future.” KOR Electronics Director of Engineering, Tony Girard, agrees. “On both the transmit and receive side we have seen significant decreases in the complexity and number of RF components. We need to increase analog bandwidths as well as move as much signal processing done in the analog microwave world into the digital realm. On the transmit side, a lot of signal modulation, such as applying Doppler, is being implemented digitally rather than with analog components. 42 The Journal of Electronic Defense | September 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - September 2011

The View From Here
Conferences Calendar
Courses Calendar
From the President
The Monitor
Washington Report
World Report
Detecting and Defeating IEDs
Developing Critical EW Technologies: Digital Devices Move Into the Analog Space
New Products
EW 101
AOC News
Index of Advertisers
JED Quick Look

JED - September 2011