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Real-time Digital Signal Processing for Electronic Warfare Systems

Evaluating and characterizing wideband communications, radar and electronic warfare systems in real time is challenging. Lacking a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) alternative, some radar test teams stream test data to an inherently non-deterministic computing device such as a PC or laptop, inevitably leading to lost or missing data with no ability to verify that data is being recorded as expected.

The Tektronix RSA7100B real-time spectrum analyzer, however, represents a COTS solution that can stream up to 32 TB of data to a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) memory. All other analysis is available simultaneously during streaming. This ability to analyze while streaming ensures the quality of data collection, avoids reruns and ultimately saves time and reduces costs. The addition of the IQFlow™ streaming interface to the RSA7100B delivers the speed and flexibility needed to perform real-time digital signal processing and for scenarios involving hardware in the loop (HWIL or HIL) testing.

IQFlow provides streaming of IQ data for the RSA7100B and this allows you to use the analyzer as a down-converter and then pass the down-converted baseband IQ signals to external equipment or locations for either additional processing or storage. IQFlow includes options for simultaneous streaming to interfaces that make it possible to perform real-time digital signal processing (DSP) and support hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing for radar and electronic-warfare (EW) systems.

These features and options include:

  1. Streaming IQ to RAID: The RSA7100B wideband signal analyzer offers real time spectrum analysis up to 800 MHz bandwidth. Simultaneously, the internal RAID in the RSA7100B controller can capture over two hours (maximum of 2.75 hours) at full 800 MHz bandwidth. Longer recording times are available at reduced bandwidths.
  2. Streaming IQ to Custom Applications: This API enables IQ data blocks with associated timestamps and triggers to be streamed to your custom application. User applications can execute on the RSA7100B, run proprietary DSP algorithms, and validate the quality of IQ data streams in real time. For instance, user applications may display important measurements during a test event.
  3. Streaming IQ with Ethernet: With this RSA7100B interface, you can stream IQ data to a 40 GbE receiver on a client. This gives you the ability to acquire data at full 800 MHz bandwidth.

IQFlow includes options for simultaneous streaming to custom API, 40 GbE and RAID.

As a real-time spectrum analyzer, the RSA7100B greatly increases the likelihood of capturing wideband signal transients. As noted above, the instrument can trigger on and measure signals of just 232 ns duration in the frequency domain in real time for 100% probability of intercept (POI) at full signal level. This makes the instrument invaluable for understanding the changing spectral environment found in range testing as well as for wideband applications such as communications design and spectrum management.

In an article at Test and Measurement Tips, author Lee Teschler penned– Wideband RF Signal Analyzer Gets Combined with Streaming Recorder. In it, he mentions the powerful combination of the RSA7100B and Streaming IQ:

In military range tests, field operations, and design of wideband radar/electronic warfare systems, the RSA7100B reduces the cost of wideband signal capture, recording, and analysis while increasing the likelihood of capturing wideband signal transients. The instrument can trigger on and measure signals of just 232 nsec duration in the frequency domain in real-time, while offering in-depth signal analysis with SignalVu-PC RF and vector analysis software. Together with the RSA7100B’s live monitoring of recording events, users can ensure they are capturing the data they need from time-consuming test scenarios.

For more information on wideband spectrum analyzers and their real-world test scenarios, visit the website.