Talking electronic warfare trends, requirements, AOC with Jerome Patoux of ADIBlog
December 11, 2023
We’re here on the first day of the 60th Annual AOC International Symposium & Convention, held at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Electronic warfare (EW), spectrum dominance, and signals intelligence and the RF, microwave, and signal-processing technologies behind them are key components of both the conference and the exhibition.
For a take on the AOC event, and a look at the EW market, I sat down with Jerome Patoux, Director of Aerospace & Defense for the Aerospace, Defense, and RF Products Business Unit of Analog Devices. Here are some excerpts:
McHALE: What factors – threats, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) priorities, etc. – are driving the DoD’s approach toward electronic warfare capabilities?
PATOUX: Perhaps the biggest challenge is the increased pace of sophisticated threats from short and long distances. It is critical to be able to adapt to the situations, be agile, and do that with flexible systems that can detect and respond to evolving electronic signatures and tactics, as well as defeat rapidly changing countermeasures.
There is a concerted push toward developing counter-countermeasures, which is the defense against attacks on electronic systems while conducting EW [electronic warfare] operations (jamming, cyber, and the like) and toward developing more proactive measures to stay ahead of potential threats.
We want to be able to track these threats as they develop, much like weather radars aim at detecting hurricanes at the earliest signs of their formation, and provide early warning for a countermeasure to take place. We are developing technology to detect weaker signals in contested environments, anywhere from space, air, land, and sea. And we want to take advantage of new technologies to push intelligence at the edge, so we can process a larger volume of data and remove the latency in decision-making. Analysis at the edge, where the signal is sensed, provides an advantage to users who are also better protected.
McHALE: Often at AOC we hear about the need for spectrum dominance on the battlefield. What does that mean from your perspective?
PATOUX: Spectrum dominance consists of staying in control of the electromagnetic spectrum and being able to operate in contested environments.
A key aspect to gaining and keeping spectrum dominance and efficiently countering new threats will be enabling the fast adoption of new technologies as well as upgrading the skill sets to maintain superiority of EW systems, as we integrate technological advancements in artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), quantum technology, more efficient data processing, and enhanced RF and microwave technologies. System interoperability between EW systems, sensors, and platforms from the US and its allies – as well as integration and reduction in size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) – will be critical for mission success.
McHALE: How do these trends specifically affect performance, and I don’t mean just requirements for more performance? How specific can you be?
PATOUX: To maintain information superiority in such a dynamic threat environment, EW systems typically require higher frequency ranges (DC to tens of GHz, possibly higher in the future), faster scan times (wider iBW [instantaneous bandwidth], faster tune time), and adaptable filter technologies that operate with multiple blockers simultaneously. The DoD needs a faster and easier access to high performance ICs and subsystem solutions, and demands processing efficiency to cope with the changes in the digital landscape.
Indeed, there is a developing imperative to provide an efficient edge processing of large amounts of data, to enable faster, more efficient, and more effective decision-making. High performance and reliable sensing, information integrity from the sensor to the bits, and low latency will be some of the key drivers for the quality and the speed of that decision, which trends to become more autonomous.
To enable fast adoption of new technologies that help achieve these objectives, Analog Devices has been providing prototyping and enablement platforms that provide full subsystem implementations, resolve a lot of the hardware challenges, and are used to accelerate program developments and reduce investments on prototyping.
Lastly, the demand for reducing SWaP-C and the need to do more in unchanged or smaller form factors, is stronger than ever throughout new program developments, for example, in applications such as unmanned aerial vehicles and other airborne platforms, or unmanned underwater vehicles, etc. This is calling for higher levels of integration, adding more functionality in fewer slots in chassis, plus interoperability through modular open system approach (MOSA) strategies like the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA). Leveraging standard form factors and interfaces are a big part of this. We are also seeing a technology requirement for convergence of RF and digital technologies by offering direct sampling to higher frequencies and by integrating more digital signal processing on-chip.
McHALE: What do you expect to show at AOC this week?
PATOUX: We are already talking to customers and end users about the requirements we just discussed. We are showcasing several technologies at the event; for example, we will be demonstrating our Apollo MxFE. This new wideband mixed-signal front-end platform offers instantaneous bandwidths as high as 10 GHz per channel while directly sampling and synthesizing frequencies up to 18 GHz (Ku band), with industry leading SFDR, all while maintaining situational awareness. This digitizer platform addresses many system challenges in electronic warfare such as wide spectrum coverage, detection of weak signals, cybersecurity, and situational awareness.
For additional information on ADI's offerings, please visit https://www.analog.com/en/landing-pages/forms/apollo-news-form.html.