Radar Basics: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 2

In the first post of this series, we discussed the history of the electronic warfare with an emphasis on the back-and-forth competition to develop systems that grant the owner control over the electromagnetic spectrum. When one country develops a new radar system, its adversary starts working on a jammer. In order to mitigate the effects of the jammer, the radar developer then must design a system that protects the radar from the effects of the jammer.

This invisible battle over control of the electromagnetic spectrum is critical to success on the battlefield and is the topic of the subsequent posts. However, understanding the technology to jam and deceive radar requires an understanding of the radar systems.

We’re all familiar with the applications of radar—that yellow warning light on your mirror telling you someone is in your blind spot, police radar monitoring your speed, images on the news showing the path of a storm. However, for the purpose of understanding electronic warfare, we’ll look at the types of radar in three main groups.

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Think Global, Act Local

According to the web site Simplicable.com,

“’Think global, act local’, is a common principle that is applied to organizations, business, education and governance. It asks that employees, students and citizens consider the global impact of their actions.”

As a group, virtually all who are reading this blog (thank you) are all of the above – employees, students and citizens. It’s logical to assume the words global and local are relative terms – especially within an engineering context.

A friend of mine holds a PhD in Astrophysics from Caltech. Like a lot of super smart guys, he now excels in an area that couldn’t be farther afield from his education – although, Astrophysics speaks to a very large “field”. As the CTO of his current company, he has architected a very nice, one-touch disaster recovery system for data you just don’t want to lose. Marc likes to refer to the hardware behind the magic as, “the necessary evil”… In effect, he’s echoing the sentiments of Harvard Economist, Theodore Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole”.

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The History of Electronic Warfare

It was May 24th, 1844 when Samuel Morse transmitted his famous telegraph message “What hath God wrought” from Washington to Baltimore. Twenty years later, the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps had trained 1,200 operators and strung 4,000 miles of telegraph wire, which increased to over 15,000 miles by the end of the Civil War. While long-distance communication proved a significant advantage for the Union armies, it also opened the door for wiretapping. It was these early experiences that demonstrated the impact of surveillance and set the foundations of electronic warfare (EW).

Over the last century, electronic warfare has had an increasing role in shaping the outcomes of conflicts across the globe; however, few people appreciate its significance and fewer still understand the technology. In this first post of our electronic warfare blog series, we present a brief history of the technology behind electronic warfare. Just as older cars are more intuitive to repair, the early EW systems are easier to understand.

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OpenVpx Switch backplane

Supported Switched/Mesh Fabrics by Mercury Systems – Part 1

The SMP Engineering group at Mercury Systems has worked tirelessly on development and innovation to offer our customers multiple choices for their present and future needs. Since authoring the OpenVPX™ (VITA 65) standard, it has opened the door to customers seeking answers and/or solutions to many of the issues they encounter when designing their systems. First, let’s take a look at what OpenVPX offers us. Read More

Hey, is our missile coming back at us?

Free trade has resulted in a global economy that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. As a result, many countries have seen certain industries grow – and certain industries move to other countries that can produce those products at a lower cost. While this has been great for consumers – who see lower prices – it is concerning for critical areas like defense. This graphic highlights some of the key concerns.

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Deploying commercial technologies quickly to keep up with the speed of threats

At the end of last year, I had the privilege of attending the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA. One of the topics that caught my attention was around the DoD’s new modernization strategy and how it would build off the upcoming National Defense Strategy to align DoD labs and innovation centers. According to Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), the goal is, in this time of constrained budgets, “…to have a very tight strategy that makes choices and makes sure we are taking all of our resources, all of our funding and aligning those.”

Basically, the end game is about deploying innovation more quickly to keep up with the speed at which threats are evolving. How do we take the rapidly advancing commercial technologies and transform them into much-needed capabilities for our warfighters? The cycle time – how long it takes from identification to fielding a solution for a need – takes way too long. To address this, Mercury has pioneered a next-generation business model for defense electronics. We leverage and build upon other high-technology firms substantial R&D investments. Mercury alone invests 13% of its revenue annually on internally funded innovation. We typically operate under firm fixed-price contracts with a major focus on efficiency and best value. Also, given the needs of the defense industry we emphasize ruggedization, security, trusted manufacturing and longevity of supply.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, take a read of our latest whitepaper, “A Next Generation Business Model: Bridging The Gap In Support Of The Defense Industry.

 

Mark Aslett, President & CEO

Lessons in RF Manufacturing from a Chicago Sausage Factory

People often say RF is black magic and it sometimes feels that way. I remember one evening I was called down to the production floor to help troubleshoot a technical problem found during swing shift. There was a product going through final test and it would only pass if held at a certain angle. At first I was doubtful that this was the case, but I held it in my hands, watched the performance on the network analyzer, rotated the unit, and saw the performance degrade. First we suspected the VNA cables, but a golden unit was solid regardless of its orientation. Then we performed the standard “shake while listening for something rattling test” but couldn’t hear anything—plus the repeatability seemed to suggest it wasn’t due to FOD. X-ray imaging didn’t yield any clues. Eventually, we had to send it off to de-lid, found nothing wrong, and after real-seal the performance was stable. The best theory we had was that the problem was due to flux improperly cleaned from a feedthrough.

It was this type of problem that drew me to RF engineering in college. Circuits that only worked when you placed a finger in a certain spot. The gain reduced by the microscope light. While it felt like black magic we all knew that in reality it was physics too complicated to be fully modeled. To this day, I still find these problems fun until all of a sudden a revenue commitment is missed.

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Data Security CSfC

Military-Grade SSDs Part 4: How Many Licks Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop: One, Two…

What is the NSA hiding from us???  Hopefully all classified, secret and top secret data!

As part of their recent initiative to leverage commercial technologies in a sophisticated layered approach, the NSA is enabling an alternative to traditional Type 1 security solutions for the protection of data up to the Top Secret level. By adopting these agile commercial innovations, the Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) Program will save time and money for classified programs in all branches of government — from benign data centers to forward-deployed systems in harsh, unsecure environments. While I discuss the CSfC program in this blog post, the CSfC program’s website is the ultimate authority for up to date information.

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Swap Optimized RF

Smaller, Faster & More Affordable

During a Saturday afternoon of closet organizing, I found my first laptop from 2002—a Dell Inspiron 8200. I remember paying a premium—over $2,000 I think—for the Pentium 4 processor and the 256MB of RAM. It required 4.5A at 20V (90W) and weighed 8 pounds 3 ounces, which is just slightly less than the current weight of my two-week-old daughter. While organizing my closet, I was also listening to a podcast on my $250 phone that easily fits into my pocket and is far more powerful than the old laptop.

Both consumers and defense primes are demanding increased performance, in smaller packages, at lower prices. We have come to expect this level of improvement in each new smartphone generation. Addressing new emerging threats in the defense space requires a similar advancement. In this third post of my series on the intersection of the RF commercial and defense industries, we will examine the need for products that are smaller, more capable, and less expensive. Packing more circuitry into smaller areas is no easy task and to be successful, a company must embrace innovation and modular design—the subjects of my first and second posts in this series. This applies to designing a smart phone or a radar system.

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