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Industry News

MILCOM 2011: Back to Baltimore

Summary of MILCOM 2011 exhibition and conference

November 13, 2011
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Baltimore was a popular venue this year for microwave shows as IMS, AUTOTESTCON and MILCOM were all hosted at the Baltimore convention center this year. MILCOM celebrated its 30th year as an annual event that gathers the leading minds of government, military, industry and academia in an interactive forum to further explore, define and leverage the benefits networks bring to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. Last year, we saw smartphones being quickly adapted to operate as rugged, secure military handsets with the promise of apps for improved situational awareness. This year companies showed these systems and other solutions have been developed and deployed.

The theme this year was “Networks…Attaining the Value.” The show drew about 5000 attendees and 300 exhibitors. The exhibitors ranged from component and test companies to OEM that supply communications systems, such as Raytheon, BAE, NGC, GD, Harris, Boeing and LMC. The conference has more than 400 in unclassified and classified sessions. There were also many panels, tutorials and workshops covering topics, such as cyber security, communications systems, network protocols, cellular networks and DoD programs. Several commanders and generals were on hand to make presentations on related topics.

Microwave Journal was on site visiting as many of the RF and microwave companies that we could fit into two days. This show has grown to be quite large so we may have missed some companies, but this is a summary of products/services being featured by the companies we saw:

I am familiar with Accel-RF’s reliability test systems, but was surprised to find that the company also delivered a custom wireless hardware for streaming audio from a central unit to an application running on a smartphone. Accel-RF was also showing its solid-state power amplifier option for its reliability test systems, self contained RF characterization platform and characterization smart-fixture.

Active Spectrum was showing its low-loss, tunable filter modules in the 225 to 6000 MHz bands, using a proprietary tunable resonator to implement a filter with wideband tuning, low insertion loss (1 dB) and high power handling (over 20 W). The tunable filters show significantly improved insertion loss, linearity and static power consumption compared to varactor or PIN diode tuned filter modules.

ADI released for general availability at the show its third generation iSensor® MEMS inertial measurement unit (IMU). The ADIS16488 is a tactical grade 10-degree-of-freedom (DoF) sensor and integrates a tri-axis gyroscope, tri-axis accelerometer, tri-axis magnetometer and a pressure sensor into a single package. This new MEMS IMU provides a very stable and complete integrated sensor suite, supporting mission critical requirements in high performance navigation and stabilization applications. Beyond the important tactical grade (below 10 deg/hr) bias stability, the ADIS16488 outperforms all other contemporary gyro/IMU offerings on the often more critical specifications of g-effect, temperature coefficient, and bandwidth by up to 100x.

Aeroflex was showing off its 7200 Configurable Automated Test Set platform that provides manufacturers and users of software defined radio (SDR), avionics, radar, and other advanced devices with the most state-of-the-art synthetic instrument platform available, while providing support for next generation devices in the future. The frequency range is 1 MHz to 2.6 GHz, instantaneous bandwidth is 90 MHz and it has state-of-the-art and highly intuitive touch-screen based user interface.

Amphenol was displaying its 2M micro-miniature interconnects for smaller, lighter weight connectors. They offer versatility of styles and options along with the assurance that comes with using a mil-spec performance connector for harsh environments. Amphenol was also featuring its HD38999 high density interconnects that has 40 percent more contact density than the highest density Mil Spec 38999 connectors of it size.

Anaren was demonstrating its Integrated Radio (AIR) modules that are packaged in small 9 x 12 x 2.5 mm and can be used in various applications, such as industrial control, building automation and low-power sensor networks. The company was also featuring its space and defense products, such as beamforming technology, DFDs, DRFMs and passive ranging subsystems.

AR was featuring its tactical booster amplifiers for military radios from 3 to 512 MHz, including output power levels from 20 to 200 W. An example is its AR-50 with 50 W output power from 30 to 512 MHz with SATCOM Rx LNA gain/noise figure of 12 dB/3 dB nominal, SATCOM Rx Co-site Fitler of -35 dB nominal and insertion loss of 1.5 dB nominal. It is compatible with the latest waveforms and standard military modulations.

Cobham was displaying several subsystem and system solutions, but the program that caught my attention was that it is involved in the Wireless Network after Next (WNaN), which is a self-forming, self-healing adaptive wireless network node. It is the proposed solution for the next generation communications system for the warfighter. The goal is to exploit the cellular economy to keep military communications current and relevant throw away radios. Each radio would cost around $500 so every soldier could be equipped with one. Each node would be 4-channel operating over from 900 MHz to 6 GHz and use COTS components.

Corning Gilbert was showing its G4PO miniature, push-on, high performance microwave interconnect system. It was developed in response to industry’s demand for increased package density, lower weight and performance at higher frequencies. They feature center-to-center spacing of 0.070” and PCB to PCB stack height of 0.090” and it weighs just 5 milligrams with performance from DC to 60 GHz.

EB was featuring its Propsim F8, a scalable tool for radio channel emulation. It is reported to be the only radio channel emulator on the market that is designed to support testing of terrestrial as well as aerospace and satellite devices and systems. EB’s patented technology allows combining multiple EB Propsim F8 channels to handle wider bandwidth signals. By combining several channels, the bandwidth can be extended from 125 to 900 MHz. This is good for applications, such as frequency hopping, radar or very high speed wideband wireless transmission links. EB Propsim F8 also provides a real alterntive to attenuator testing methodology and to the laborious field testing. It creates all the phenomena that will affect the radio devices in the eventual environments with high accuracy and full repeatability saving time and money.

EMC Technology was showing off its Diamond Rf Resistives that were featured in a recent Microwave Journal Tech Brief. They are well suited for high power, low capacitance resistors, terminations and attenuators made on CVD diamond. A single 0402 resistor can dissipate 20 W of CW energy and 200 W pulsed. These components demonstrate excellent electrical and thermal performance due to the high thermal conductivity of the CVD diamond substrate material, which results in a significant size reduction.

Freescale was showing off its MRFE6VP61K25H, a 1.8 to 600 MHz, 1250 W, 50 V Lateral N-Channel Broadband RF Power MOSFET. These high ruggedness devices, MRFE6VP61K25H and MRFE6VP61K25HS, are designed for use in high VSWR industrial (including laser and plasma exciters), broadcast (analog and digital), aerospace and radio/land mobile applications. They are unmatched input and output designs allowing wide frequency range utilization, between 1.8 and 600 MHz.

Isola was talking about its new I-Terra material with low loss, Df less than 0.0036 at 10 GHz for high speed digital and RF platforms (launching in Q1 of next year). We look forward to hearing more about this product next year.

IW has extended its family of Re-Flex, semi-rigid and conformable replacements with RF047 and RF250 cables. Both cables are double shielded to ensure signal integrity and were developed to meet customer requirements for higher power handling (RF250) and reduced outer diameter (RF047) maintaining the same design philosophy that has led to the success of RF141 and RF085 Re-Flex. IW now offers a low smoke/zero halogen polyurethane jacket across the range of low loss, phase stable cables. Driven by customer requirements for 18 GHz cable with a LS/ZH jacket, IW can offer the same jacket material from 480 series (11 GHz cut-off) up to 140 series (50 GHz cut-off). IW has also developed stranded center conductor designs of the popular 280, 230 and 180 cable series. Using a compacted seven strand center conductor, the new designs provide improved phase vs. flexure with a minimum increase in attenuation. Some of these are initial designs to be released next year.

LPKF was featuring Laser Direct Structuring Technology for molded interconnect devices. The 3D circuitry performed directly onto the plastic component eliminates cable and reduces complexity. The laser beam structures the layout directly into molded plastic parts. The laser beam transfers the artwork directly from the computer onto the plastic molded part without tools and masks.

M/A-COM Tech was featuring some of its component solutions, including GaN on SiC transistors and higher level pallet amplifiers, powered by a leading edge proprietary 0.5 micron HEMT design that delivers excellent RF performance. Also, its family of surface-mount VCOs -- supporting applications from 45 MHz to 4 GHz, these VCOs are ideal for military radios. In addition, M/A-COM Tech offers a broad range of diodes, transistors, MMICs and passive products. M/A-COM Tech Modules and Pallets feature a small compact footprint, up to 25 dB gain, and 50 ohm input/output, while pallets are designed for CW or pulsed applications and allow gate biasing and sequencing for GaN on SiC designs. HMIC high power SPDT switch family that features convenient package size and low insertion loss for high power MILCOM applications and 250 V PIN Diode Driver that boasts up to 170 mA bias current and CMOS ASIC technology.

Mercury Computer announced breakthrough capabilities for digital storage in embedded mobile applications. The company has created an innovative digital storage unit that leverages standard solid-state storage disks and designs customized solutions to meet each applications specific SWaP, redundancy and security requirements. It is modular design so as storage capacity needs arise and advance, they can be easily swapped with other solid-state units.

Pole Zero was displaying its Integrated Cosite Equipment with models covering frequency ranges from 2 MHz to 2 GHz. The company's products enable military platforms to simultaneously operate multiple radios on the same platform without degradation in performance, range or compromises in con-ops. They have examples of receiver performance improvements with their equipment that range from 8 to 56 dB.

NuWaves introduced their latest addition to the HILNA family of low noise, high gain, high intercept and wideband amplifiers. The HILNATM 3G covers the broad frequency range from 1 to 3 GHz with a gain of 50 dB and is smaller than its predecessors boasting a total of 3.3 cubic inches and weighing only 3 oz. The HILNATM 3G is ideal for system integration where footprint, high gain and broadband operation are determining factors.

PMT was showing off its amplifier modules for the IFF 1030 to 1090 MHz frequencies with 60 and 2000 W modules. They use LDMOS power transistors operating in Class AB mode to maximize MTBF performance. Thermal tracking bias affords superior performance providing high gain, efficiency and power. PMT also showed some preliminary 30 to 512 MHz high power amplifier modules with up to 350 W of power.

Remcom was featuring its Wireless InSite propagation models along with XGtd a general ray-based electromagnetic analysis tool for assessing the effects of a vehicle or vessel on antenna radiation, estimating RCS and predicting coupling between antennas. Based on Geometric Optics and the Uniform Geometrical Theory of Diffraction (GTD/UTD), performance and memory requirements are not affected by the physical size of objects, but rather by the number of faceted surfaces used to model them.

RFMD introduced three new GaN wideband power amplifiers: the RFHA1003 30 to 512 MHz, 9 W amplifier; the RF3826 30 to 2500 MHz, 9 W amplifier; and the RFHA1000 50 to 1000 MHz, 15 W amplifier. Using an advanced high power density GaN semiconductor process, these high performance amplifiers achieve high efficiency, flat gain and power over a large instantaneous bandwidth in a single amplifier design. Ease of integration is accomplished through the incorporation of optimized input matching network within the package that provides wideband gain and power performance in a single amplifier. An external output match offers the flexibility of further optimizing power and efficiency for any sub-band within the overall bandwidth.

Rohde & Schwarz had several instruments on display but was featuring its new FSW signal and spectrum analyzer. It offers a frequency range from 2 Hz to 8/13.6/26.5 GHz low phase noise of -137 dBc (1 Hz) at 10 KHz offset (1 GHz carrier), dynamic range of -88 dBc, up to 160 GHz analysis bandwidth and 0.4 dB total measurement uncertainty up to 8 GHz. It also has a high resolution 12.1” touchscreen and multiple measurement applications that can be run and displayed in parallel. They also were showing their Legacy Pro program for replacing obsolete military test equipment.

RT Logic was featuring its Telemetrix 400 Real Time Channel Simulator (T400CS) which is a powerful, yet economical communications link simulator that addresses a broad range of IF and RF hardware-in-the-loop test, operational and training applications. It creates RF and/or IF signals that precisely match those that occur when transmitters and receivers are in motion with respect to one another.

Skyworks’ Trans-Tech division was featuring 12 and 20 mm high power ceramic filters for EW, power amps and portable transceivers. They feature low insertion loss (2.7 dB max), frequency range from UHF to 2 GHz, power handling to 100 W CW and are light weight, small profile units. Skyworks was also featuring its high performance circulators/isolators and plan on introducing some ultra low loss units early next year.

Storm/Teledyne was featuring its Micro Harness Miniature Multi-Channel Coax with 8 channels of 40 GHz Storm Flex® 086 cable for connection from board to test equipment. Storm Flex cable is used for superior electrical performance in a compact assembly and surface-mount connector for board launch to cable applications. Its ganged connector breaks out to test equipment using reliable, military tested SSMP interface with choice of SMA, 2.4 mm, or 2.9 mm connector at breakout end and a panel mount is available for box to box applications.

TE Connectivity (TE) featured many new next-gen connector technologies at this year’s MILCOM. It was featuring many solutions, such as MULTIGIG RT2, Quadrax, MIL-STD 1554 Data bus system, Fortis Zd, ARINC 801, Mezalok and VITA 62. The new VITA 67 RF modules enhance the ability to add RF capabilities in VITA 46 VPX board-to-board connections. The modules, available with four or eight positions, accept SMPM coaxial contacts available for a wide range of flexible and semi-rigid cable on the daughtercard and preloaded board-mount SMPM contacts on the backplane. The modular design allows application-specific configurations with high contact counts in VPX systems. The RF modules are compatible with VITA 65 OpenVPX specification, which defines standard profiles for various configurations at the chassis, backplane, slot, and module levels.

Times Microwave was featuring several cable solutions, such as its SiO2 cable assemblies that feature low loss and high velocity dielectric. This results in excellent phase versus temperature and loss versus temperature performance and excellent repeatability. They also were showing off their SilverLine test Cables for high volume production and test systems, R&D and environmental & temperature test chambers.

T-Tech was demonstrating its PCB prototyping system, QC-J5. It features 3-axis motion, 12, 24 or 32 position automatic tool change and automatic tool change and automatic depth control using ContactByTouch®. They have also added many new features to IsoPro 3.1 software.

Valpey Fisher was showcasing two new High Reliability/Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) products: the VFH5070 High Reliability VCXO offering wide pull range (±100 ppm) for military applications, available across the military temperature range of -55° to +125°C in a 5.0 x 7.0 mm SMD package. Also the VFH3225, which is the industry’s smallest size (3.2 x 2.5 mm) high reliability, COTS oscillator, offers outstanding performance for military applications where board space is at a premium and high temperature operation is a requirement.

Wavestream, which is now owned by Gilat Satellite Networks, introduced the AeroStream family of airborne-qualified solid-state transceivers for integration into both military and commercial airborne and unmanned satellite communications systems. The AeroStream product lines include compact Ku-Band transceivers in 25 and 40 W output and full receive options for pressurized and non-pressurized airborne environments.

X-COM Systems, now a subsidiary of Bird Technologies Group, introduced the first in a family of Wideband Acquisition Record and Playback (WARP™) systems that allow the entire frequency spectrum between DC and 6000 MHz to be instantaneously captured and recorded for long periods without loss of a single event. The WARP-6000’s 6 GHz of bandwidth is 15 times that of its nearest competitor. When combined with X-COM’s Spectro-X™ signal analysis software, WARP allows the performance of electronic warfare, radar, and advanced wireless communications systems to be evaluated more comprehensively than has been possible before.

We will see everyone next year in Orlando!

Recent Articles by Pat Hindle, Microwave Journal Technical Editor

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