By Darren McCarthy, aerospace and defense technical marketing manager, Rohde & Schwarz America
AESA radar systems are extraordinarily versatile, but their complexity — requiring precise alignment of hundreds or thousands of T/R modules — can present significant measurement difficulties.
The active electronically scanned array (AESA) architecture has redefined the definition of what a radar system is and can do, turning it into a multifunction powerhouse that makes its predecessors pale in comparison. It has also changed the way radars must be characterized, from component-level tests through complete system verification. The most critical AESA radar system measurement is arguably evaluation and optimization of the phase and amplitude uniformity of its transmit/receive (T/R) modules. This is no simple task in a system containing hundreds or thousands of T/R modules and perhaps 100,000 components, all orchestrated by millions of lines of software code and complex communications schemes that require precise timing. Such a daunting task is well beyond what traditional, discrete test equipment can perform in a reasonable amount of time, which makes this approach unacceptable in a production environment. Rather, a highly integrated, automated system is required that can reduce alignment time for all of the T/R modules from weeks to minutes or seconds per module.