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MILCOM 2010: Network-centric Communications

November 8, 2010
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At MILCOM 2010, we finally saw the Warfighter being connected with vehicles, UAVs, ships, helicopters and other aircraft so that everyone can share information immediately. There is no single point of failure in the network as they can all act as nodes in this network-centric military. Secure, interoperable IP communications are now being realized in many military applications. This year's MILCOM theme, "The Next Decade of Military Communications," addressed the issues with connecting various defense, intelligence and homeland security networks as well as the evolution of communications systems and networks as we move into network-centric operations, as Aerospace Corp.'s President and CEO Wanda Austin pointed out in her welcome message.

One of the major trends at MILCOM 2010 was the leveraging of commercial smartphones for military use to field advanced communications to the field quickly. Billions of dollars are invested in the commercial development of smartphones, so why not use that advanced technology for the military? The commercial market also updates capabilities quickly and cost effectively, so if the commercial smart phone can "plug" into a secure military network, the communications device does not become obsolete after a year or two.

Most of the major players were present, including Boeing, GD, Raytheon, Harris, NGC and Cobham. Lockheed Martin and the Aerospace Corp. were the co-sponsors for the show, and many RF/microwave substrate, component and test/measurement companies were active in the exhibition. Lockheed Martin was showing off its AMR-JTRS and MONAX 3G broadband network. AMR-JTRS provides a secure mobile network allowing rapid connectivity. JTRS provides communications between Warfighters and AMF provides new IP-enabled waveforms that deliver high data throughput and secure internet capability (to 10 Mbps). As JTRS units are deployed to aircraft, vehicles and Warfighters, they can now form ad hoc networks and seamlessly communicate voice and data.

One of the best examples of utilizing commercial smartphones for military applications is Lockheed Martin's MONAX 3G broadband network. MONAX is designed to bring an affordable, 3G broadband network to Warfighters at the first tactical mile and enables the use of smartphones and delivers smartphone data, imagery, video and applications. Lockheed has designed a "brick" device (called a Lynx) that has a battery, antenna and RF circuitry to transmit and receive secure 3G communications to the network that the smartphone just clips into. The device uses standard AES 256 encryption and utilizes different frequencies than commercial networks so as to not interfere with the local communications. The base stations can be put up on towers, but are better used on airborne platforms like balloons where they are quickly deployed over the area and provide wider coverage. Below is a short video demonstration of the MONAX network.

LMC plans to build a library of apps appropriate for the Wargfighter such as mapping programs, video surveillance, facial recognition for identification, battle planning, medical apps to forward injured soldier information ahead to the medical unit and more. This will provide capable communications now while other programs come on line in the future like JTRS and WIN-T. There might be a secure iTunes app store in the future!

Posted below is a summary of the new and featured products that RF/microwave companies had on display at the show.

A new company I visited was Active Spectrum, which has designed high performance tunable filters for co-site interference mitigation. They have impressive specs including insertion loss less than 1 dB, wideband tuning (over an octave) and high power handling of over 20 W contained in a very small form factor. We will be keeping an eye on them and hope to have a product feature in the magazine some time soon.


Aeroflex recently acquired Advanced Control Components (ACC) and was featuring its broad line of switch products. ACC supplies custom PIN- and GaAs-based switches and assemblies to 40 GHz. The company also supply limiters, detectors, attenuators, phase shifters and integrated assemblies.


Anatech had on display its repeaters and notch filters among other components. The company's CDMA450 diplexer with insertion loss of 1.5 dB, return loss of 19 dB, 85 dB Rx rejection, 95 dB Tx rejection and 50 W of power handling.


Anritsu had its VNA Master and Spectrum Master on display along with various other setups. The VNA Master covers 5 kHz to 20 GHz with 100 dB dynamic range and built-in Spectrum Analyzer covering 9 kHz to 20 GHz. The Spectrum Master covers 9 kHz to 43 GHz with an effective noise floor of -150 dB, including mapping, interference analysis and more. The company's 3697C Signal Generator covers 0.1 Hz to 70 GHz with -119 phase noise at 10 GHz. Here is a webinar on Time Domain Analysis.


AR was featuring its tactical booster amplifiers for military, Homeland Security and first responders. A couple of new products to their lineup include the AR-50, a 30 to 512 MHz, 50 W CW, and the AR-75, which offers 75 W CW from 30 to 320 MHz with 50 W from 320 to 512 MHz. Also new to the company's family is its KMW1031KT, which is a complete kit for the KMW1031 amplifier including antenna, RF cables, battery cable and tactical vest pouches for both the amp and antenna. The kit weighs less than 2.5 lbs.


Cobham was showing off its portfolio of antennas, cables and radios/radio systems. They are involved in the WNaN (Wireless Network after Next) DARPA program to develop the next generation of Warfighter radios. These SDR units will be wide band (DC-6 GHz), low cost and lightweight. Pictured here is one of the proto-type units.


Codan/Locus was showing off its 4700 and 4900 series mini-BUC, which are 8 W Ku-band and soon to be released 10 W C-band units. They are built for VSAT stabilized platforms and sitcom-on-the-move customers. They go with the 7550 interface unit, 7552 FSK to USB interface and 7551 reference source.


Comtech/Xicom was showing its 400 W Ku-band TWTA with touch screen interface, built-in redundancy controller, remote diagnostics and parameter trend analysis. The unit includes RF gain control, solid-state pre-amplifier, RF filters, cooling and monitoring and control (M&C) systems. The company also had its 50 W X-band outdoor high power SSPA BUC on display.


CPI was featuring its outdoor SSPAs and TWTs. They have developed a special TWT line that is small and lightweight to fill the gap between TWTs and SSPAs in output power.


EB was featuring its rugged VoIP field phones, terminals and network extender along with its EB Propsim F8 radio channel emulator now with an Aerospace and Satellite channel emulation Option (ASO) for aerospace and defense applications. The EB Propsim F8 ASO capability provides a solution for realistic, reliable and repeatable end-to-end testing of airborne and aerospace wireless communication links in laboratory conditions.


ET industries now has technical specifications for its monopulse comparators with frequency ranges from segments from 1 to 40 GHz, typical amplitude balance of +/-0.5 dB and phase balance of 5 dB. Example VSWR for 1 to 2 GHz model is 1.14:1 and insertion loss of 1.5 dB.


Florida RF Labs/EMC Technology was showing off Rf Resistives Diamond material products, LTCC couplers and low PIM passives. The Rf Resistives are a new high performance family of passives that can handle higher powers in smaller footprints. See our November product feature covering this new family of products.


Giga Lane was displaying its various connectors and components including SMP and BMA connectors, SP4T DC-18 GHz switch and RF filters from DC-18 GHz (up to 40 GHz).


Hughes Network Systems announced that it is undergoing Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) certification by the US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) SATCOM Systems Expert (SSE) with its HX System. The HX System employs a compact, high-performance router that can be configured in star or mesh modes and has Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 cryptographic security. Hughes Network Systems also announced the availability of the Hughes 9450-C11 BGAN land mobile satellite terminal for operation over Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite service.


HXI was showing its 2.97 Gigabit HD-SDI wireless link (GigaLink HD), the only FCC approved unlicensed full bandwidth transport solution for SMPTE 292M and SMPTE 372M to display their expertise in radio links for the military. It is a dual channel, 1.485 Gbps, 60 GHz band point-to-point radio link.


ITS Electronics made a couple of big announcements, including its selection by General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies to supply Ka-band SSPAs with integrated Block Up Converters (BUCs) for the company’s SATCOM-on-the-Move™ (SOTM™) terminals. They also won an initial $4 M contract with TECOM Industries to supply its High Power Transceiver-HPT, which will be integrated into the TECOM KuStream 1000 antenna system to provide WiFi for commercial airlines.


Insulated Wire (IW) coaxial cable product line offers capability to 67 GHz with solid and stranded center conductor options, internal and external armoring plus weatherproofing options. An additional strength of IW is the capability to offer not just custom coaxial cable designs (for example additional dielectric and screening for HEMP, jacket color and material options on standard cable types) but also to provide customer specified multi-conductor configurations handling RF, power and data signals. Cable designs currently in production include single, dual and triple coax (so far covering operating frequency ranges up to 32 GHz), coax combined with twisted screened pair plus discrete wires, combinations determined by the application.


Orbital Research was displaying some unique products such as its Ka-band external reference LNB and U-Tube integrated X-band conversion system. The X-band system utilizes a compact U-shaped filter that is folded back 180 degrees to minimize the space is occupies. The system transmit rejection is greater than 90 dB in the size of a 3 lb “shoe box.”


M/A-COM Technology Solutions showcased its product solutions for military communications and radar applications during including a variety of product solutions such as Surmount™ PIN switches, Surmount™ SMT Packageless PIN diodes, MELF high power and high voltage PIN diodes plus low insertion loss ferrite circulators and isolators, power transistors and pallets, and MMICs and modules using high volume semiconductor processes.


MathWorks announced that it has new tools for advanced signal processing in MATLAB and SIMULINK, which offer new RF modeling, stream processing and enhanced code generation for FPGAs and embedded processors.


Maury recently released the TactiCal™ Solutions family of calibration kits and adapters. These rugged instrument grade precision VNA calibration kits and adapters are durable and ideal for high-volume field service and repetitive measurement applications. They offer significant cost saving compared to other solutions.


Miteq/MCL was showing its 250 W Ka-band and 200 W Ku- and X-band with internal optical links. The units are less than 70 lbs so they are airline checkable for easy travel but still have enough power to reach any satellite.


Rohde & Schwarz had a wide variety of test/measurement and radio components on display. They were featuring the new R&S FSVR real-time spectrum analyzer with a frequency range of 10 Hz to 7, 13.6 or 30 GHz, 40 MHz of real time analysis bandwidth, real-time spectrogram display & spectrum with persistence, triggering on frequency masks and full featured signal and spectrum analyzer with software for various standards. Here is a video highlighting the performance of the R&S RSVR.


Remcom announced it will extend XStream GPU acceleration for electromagnetic simulation to the upcoming release of Wireless InSite, its site-specific radio propagation tool for the analysis and design of wireless systems. The release is planned for early 2011. At the show Remcom engineers will demonstrated the new features on a custom system outfitted with the latest in GPU technology. With the availability of GPU capability, substantial speedups are possible with Wireless InSite’s Full 3D Ray Model and Moving Window FDTD Model. As with Remcom’s XFdtd software, XStream will be bundled at no additional cost with the new release of Wireless InSite.


Sensor Systems has unique antennas systems with full electronics integrated inside of the antenna blades for communication and navigation. They introduced new VHF/UHF digitally tuned, self-contained antennas designed for receivers with wide-band tuning requirements such as the Collins ARC-210, Raytheon ARC-231 and R&S M3AR 6000 radios. They also introduced two UHF/L-band blade antennas designed for high-speed aircraft. The UHF section covers 225 to 512 MHz for standard military radio and the L-band supports various JTRS iterations.


Skyworks had a wide display of high performance components on display, including various diodes, ICs and resonators. Their limiter diodes are available as packaged and bondable chips, as well as ceramic hermetic packaged and plastic surface-mount devices for receiver applications. They have low insertion loss of 0.1 dB at 10 GHz and power handling to 70 dB. Also on display were the company's high Q (approximately 1500) coaxial resonators with operating frequencies from 300 MHz to 2 GHz, high power handling in a small form factor.


Taconic has new multilayer non-reinforced prepreg called fastRise™ 27 that is designed to eliminate skew in differential transmission lines and eliminate dielectric constant fluctuations caused by fiberglass in filter and coupler applications. The low Df of 0.0017 at 40 GHz enables the production of mmWave multilayer PWBs.


Tahoe RF was also on site showing its expertise in RF, analog and mixed signal IC solutions. Solutions include high performance designs for synthesizers, GPS, WiFi, W-CDMA and ATE pin electronics. Previously to founding Tahoe RF, the company was part of the IBM Wireless IC Product Group and are as an Advanced IBM Business Partner able to offer experience and proven technology to their customers.


Tektronix had on display its RSA 6120A Spectrum Analyzer covering 9 kHz to 20 GHz with a capture bandwidth of 40 MHz std. and 110 MHz opt., min event capture (100% POI) of 31 µs, 24 µs (Opt. 200) or 10.3 µs (Opt. 110 + Opt. 200) and SFDR of -78 dBc <6.2 GHz, -75 dBc for >6.2 GHz and -75 dBc (Opt. 110). The company also was showing its Signal Generators (Arbitrary Waveform Generator Series) and Oscilloscopes.


Thales has a product feature in our October issue that was distributed at the show on its 500 W TWT. They have been producing TWTs for over 60 years. Thales TWTs for Satcom uplinks cover the frequency range from 5.85 to 45.5 GHz (C, X, Ku, DBS, Ka and EHF bands) with output powers of 50 W to 2.5 kW.


TriQuint featured the TGA2572 and TGA2576 GaN PAs that are well suited for EW/defense systems. The new TGA2576 is a 30 W device that delivers 30% PAE and 25 dBm of small-signal gain in the 2.5 to 6 GHz range. The TGA2572 PA is a 20 W device that delivers 30% PAE and 24 dBm of small-signal gain over the 14 to 16 GHz Ku-band range. They are offered in die and packaged versions. Both devices are being released soon and fully available in early 2011.


T-Tech had on display its quick proto-typing systems with a new software release IsoPro 3.0, including CheckByTouch, ContactByTouch, automatic tool change, improved optimization, multilingual help files, live machine status bar and added mouse functions. The system has three axis motion, front panel controls, four zone vacuum table, integrated sound enclosure, 60,000 or 100,000 rpm spindle speed and lifetime technical support.


Tyco Electronics has a wide variety of connector solutions, including RF connectors, cable and application tooling. They have military qualified SMA, BNC, TNC connector plus a portfolio of small form factor high-frequency connectors like SSMA, SMP and SMPM.


ViaSat reported successful demonstration of full-mesh satellite communications at Ka-band between an Australian Army deployable 1.0-metre Compact Transmit Receive Suite (CTRS) terminal located at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and a 48-cm communication-on-the-move (COTM) terminal located at BAE Systems Australia using a ViaSat LinkWayS2™ MF-TDMA satellite modem.


Winchester Electronics has a host of connectors and cables, but highlighted a unique anti-rotation connector that eliminates the need for wires and reduces contamination, eases cleaning and is slightly lighter than current designs.


XCOM Systems was demonstrating its advanced signal analysis software, RF editor and long duration RF signal storage and playback for spectrum analyzers and vector signal analyzers. The IQC2110 can store days of signals and play them back for analysis with bandwidths up to 110 MHz. The Editor allows users to manipulate signals with the same functionality as a music editor. They provide all the tools for capture and analysis and are partners with Rohde & Schwarz and Tektronix.


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