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Solid-state underpinning future radar, electronic warfare and communications, but TWTs still playing a key role

by Asif Anwar | 7月 18, 2012

Military applications will continue to grow and drive fundamental development of semiconductor technologies such as gallium nitride (GaN) and this was highlighted with product announcements during IMS 2012 reviewed in the Strategy Analytics Advanced Defense Systems (ADS) service report, “Defense Electronics Industry Review: June 2012.” Additionally, the report details significant defense industry news, including product announcements, milestones, contract activity and defense industry financial performance for the month of June.

Strategy Analytics’ breakfast session held in conjunction with Microwave Journal during IMS 2012 included participation from Cree, Nitronex, NXP, RFMD, TriQuint and UMS with the presentations serving as a platform to confirm the applicability of GaN to addressing communications, electronic warfare, and radar applications. The panelist presentations confirmed applicability of GaN to addressing EW, radar and communications applications, by highlighting products with some combination of high power, high efficiency and wide bandwidth performance. During the conference itself, there were also a number of product announcements showcasing GaN capabilities including Toshiba’s new X-band GaN hybrid IC (HIC) targeted at TRMs (transmit-receive modules) used in active electronically scanned array (AESA) and passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar applications.

Eurosatory 2012 in Paris was also in June allowing defense companies to showcase new products and capabilities with a focus on the land and air domains. Elbit Systems Ltd announced the launch of the VWS radar, a new, continuous wave (CW) radar, specifically designed for Active Protection Systems (APS) to provides soft/hard protection for light or heavy armored vehicles. On the EW front, Netline launched a new, extremely small, lightweight, accurate jammers, such as the C-Guard HHJ and the PJP - Portable Jammer Pack – based on new exciter technology as well as using RF capabilities provided by semiconductor technologies such as GaN.

In communications systems, ITT Exelis upgraded its hand-held SpearNet radio with enhancements that further extend its capabilities with an emphasis on providing cellular-like mobility coupled with increased bandwidth throughputs to enable voice, video and data communications. Harris introduced the Falcon III RF-7800H wideband manpack, reportedly the world's smallest, lightest and fastest wideband HF radio as well as the next generation of the combat-proven Falcon III® RF-7800W High-Capacity Line-of-Sight radio. The company has also introduced a handheld variant – the RF-7800M – designed to connect dismounted warfighters to emerging wideband tactical networks.

Other system level activity during June also included systems that employ semiconductor technologies. Boeing and Raytheon received contracts related to AN/APG-79 AESA radar upgrades, while Northrop Grumman demonstrated the capabilities of the company's AN/AAQ-37 distributed aperture system (DAS) and AN/APG-81 AESA radar, both featured on the F-35.

All of these developments will continue to drive demand for RF technologies such as GaN. As these technologies mature, the boundaries around performance and applicability are also crystallising and over the course of IMS 2012 and more recently at Farnborough, it is clear that GaN is no longer seen as a TWT (traveling wave tube) killer by either side. Where there is a need for high power at high frequency without compromising efficiency, then TWT technologies from companies such as e2v Technologies, TMD Technologies, L-3 Communications Electron Technologies will continue to play a key role in defense systems. Indeed, there is potential for these technologies to complement each other especially in the growing trend towards MPMs which utilise mini-TWTs typically in conjunction with a solid-state driver amplifier. As with commercial markets, the military sector will find that these respective technologies as well as other technologies (both existing and emerging) are best utilised in complementary fashion rather than trying to hone in on one flavour of technology alone as the panacea for all future system and platform design.

Clients of the ADS service can read the full report here.

Also, don’t miss this month’s column in the Microwave Journal’s Military Microwaves.

See Defence iQ for more analysis on the defense industry, related news and events.


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