In the dynamic field of electronic warfare (EW) and communication applications, the only constant is change - because governments and militaries face EW threats constantly growing in number and complexity. EW uses the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum to control the spectrum, attack an enemy or block enemy onslaughts. Originating from all directions - air, land, sea or space - the threats target people, radar, communication and more. EW solutions must be ever vigilant, nimble and agile to keep up with the threats or, ideally, stay one step ahead. The way to do so is with technology that:
- Achieves rapid time to market and time to deployment
- Reduces latency
- Cuts cost and program risk
Major disadvantages of the traditional hardware and firmware approach to EW systems are the time it takes to develop a capability and, when it is developed, the long time it must remain operational. You can hope the EW environment will not change during this time - but, of course, it always does.
To meet these challenges, AMERGINT Technologies has integrated its SOFTLINK architecture with Abaco Systems’ VP430 RFSoC platform. The result: companies can rapidly build software applications from prototype through full operational capability, applying a mature software implementation ecosystem with agile development methodologies (see Figure 1). The inherent agility of this combined approach means no longer being inhibited by the design and development lifecycle of traditional hardware and firmware-based products.
MODULARITY IS KEY
How did the two companies achieve this capability? Modularity is key. The joint AMERGINT-Abaco solution uses proven, modular software devices. With this approach, nearly any signal, data processing or network transport capability can be designed, configured and deployed, because one large, monolithic application can be broken into small, self-functioning parts, then put together so they function like a monolithic application. Development of a much smaller subset is easier and faster to complete and test.
This is like building things with Legos. Just as your son or daughter can build nearly any airplane, racecar or spaceship out of a tub of modular Lego bricks, the AMERGINT-Abaco technology can build nearly any communication system, data processing or network transport capability using the libraries of modular software devices (SwD) developed over the past 10 years. A key feature of SOFTLINK is the use of code generation technologies that ensure SwDs are interoperable. Much like Lego bricks use a common hole-and-plug pattern, SOFTLINK uses tightly controlled interfaces for data transfer between SwDs to ensure modularity and compatibility.
To meet the needs of EW signal monitoring, companies can change modulation or anything else with the agility of AMERGINT software and the modular hardware from Abaco (see Figure 2). The two companies are bridging all the way to the network and end-user, which is how this modular approach speeds time to market and time to deployment.
Lowering latency, the response time of software, is critical in a networked application to achieving optimal performance battling EW threats. Latency is always a big concern companies have with software-based processing, especially signal processing. AMERGINT’s latency is in milliseconds - sub-milliseconds in some cases - depending on how the latency is measured. Even with the same hardware, low latency applications can always improve the software. Again, modularity plays an important role. In a monolithic application, any small change may have latency ramifications for the system, requiring the entire system be tested to assess the impact. With a modular system, only the module is tested.
AMERGINT is providing real-time voice processing for the International Space Station and real-time monitor control of the rockets on the launch pad, proving its ability to meet extremely strict and tight latency requirements. Those same latency and performance metrics are applied to the Abaco platform.
COST AND RISK
A modular software approach also reduces cost and security risk. Compared to a module, an entire system is more costly to analyze, design and test every time there is an issue. It is that simple. The joint AMERGINT-Abaco technology mitigates the risk because no single person is developing the security of the system. With this technology, companies can rapidly validate and deploy new capabilities without enduring complex software development cycles.
By implementing a modular approach combining the AMERGINT SOFTLINK architecture with Abaco’s VP430 RFSoC platform, companies developing EW applications can realize the benefits of faster time to market and time to deployment, lower latency and reduced cost and risk - all critical to battling the increasingly complex and multiplying threats.
AMERGINT Technologies is a trusted partner in the space and defense industries, focusing on mission-critical communication and data paths through the capture, processing, transport and exploitation of vital mission data. Abaco Systems is a leader in modular, high performance, open architecture, standards-based rugged embedded computing for demanding applications in defense and industry, offering a broad range of commercial off-the-shelf rugged embedded computing and networking products.
From the Department of Defense Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy, 2013
“DoD must act now to ensure access to the congested and contested electromagnetic environment of the future. Specifically, the Department must adapt how it acquires and uses spectrum resources. Our approach must include acquiring more efficient, flexible, and adaptable systems while developing more agile and opportunistic spectrum operations to ensure that our forces can complete their missions.” - Ashton B. Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense