Magazine Article | August 2, 2013

Enabling Larger Phased-Array Radars With JESD204B

By Thomas Neu, systems engineer, Texas Instruments

The new JESD204B high-speed digital interface shows promise of simplifying the digital interconnects between the data converters and processor in phased-array radar systems.

In an effort to keep up with evolving threats over the past 50 years, conventional radar with mechanically scanning antennas have been largely replaced with phased-array systems. The benefits of the phasedarray, or active electronically scanned-array (AESA), radar range from being able to use beamforming for improved range and better target accuracy to the elimination of hydraulics (and their potential failure). It also allows tracking multiple targets simultaneously while continuing to search, as the array can be configured to steer multiple beams. By replacing the single, high-power transmitter (exciter) and receiver with a large array of smaller, lower-power elements, the most common single point of failure is eliminated — similar to replacing a single highpowered lightbulb with smaller-sized LEDs.

Modern phased-array radars consist of hundreds to tens of thousands of radiating elements, where the phase of each transmitter element can be independently controlled. In this way, beams can be formed by adjusting the phase and power of each element, and the beam direction can be controlled using constructive or destructive interference of multiple elements. Each array element also includes a receiver, which collects the energy reflected from the target and is phaselocked to the transmitter.