Increasing the realism of radar testing with an advanced signal scenario generator

April 11, 2012 //By Beate Hoehne, Agilent Technologies
Radar designers face three seemingly contradictory imperatives: Increasing system capability while shrinking overall size and accelerating time-to-market. They face similar needs when creating systems capable of testing their new designs. All of these exist under today’s constant overarching driver: the need to reduce all associated costs, from up-front equipment purchases to on-going maintenance.

In response to these needs, developers are turning to standardized products as the building blocks for new designs and new test systems. This is enabled by today’s evolving digital technologies, which provide a foundation for greater flexibility, smaller size and lower costs.

Packing more capability into a test system

Thorough verification of radar system performance requires the creation of realistic signal scenarios that push a design to its limits. The optimum test system will minimize the need for costly flight testing by emulating a variety of flyover conditions in their entirety.

An arbitrary waveform generator (AWG) is typically the signal source of choice. Two of the key requirements are small pulses and long playback times. At first blush, the right solution may appear to be a wide-bandwidth AWG with an ample amount of built-in memory. However, two additional attributes are crucial. First, high resolution at wide bandwidth enables the creation of highly accurate signal scenarios. Second, advanced sequencing capabilities ensure efficient use of available memory while creating highly complex simulations.

All of these capabilities are built into the Agilent M8190A signal scenario generator (SSG). Based on patented digital-to-analog converter (DAC) technology, the M8190A raises the bar with 14-bit resolution at 8 GSa/s or 12-bit resolution at 12 GSa/s. The unit can easily switch between those modes to meet the needs of different applications. It is also precise enough to serve as the modulation source for an RF/microwave signal generator.

The M8190A SSG can be configured with 128 MSa (standard) to 2 GSa (optional) of waveform memory per output channel. With 2 GSa installed, the maximum playback time is 1.6 s at the highest frequency. The absolute amount of waveform memory is important; however, using the available memory efficiently enables a concept called memory gain. Unlike typical AWGs, the M8190A offers advanced sequencing capabilities such as stepping, looping and conditional jumping. This makes it possible to create repeated segments once and

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