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Examine advanced electronics for stealth, comms in F-35

Posted: 23 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:F-35  aircraft  avionics system  Radar Altimeters  ADC 

There are no mechanical moving parts on this radar and it has a "replaceable assemblies" design for quick repairs or upgrades to the hardware and/or software modules. These active arrays have almost two times the expected life of the airframe.

AESA radar systems give maximum flexibility to aircraft because of the capability to point the antenna beams in any direction at any time. The System Manager of the AESA is the brain. At the "heart" of AESA are miniature transmit and receive modules that drive more than 1,000 antenna sites on the front of the system. These modules are electronically steered together to provide almost instantaneous beam positioning. An NXP design uses LDMOS and GaN technologies to deliver the high power needed for the radar transmit signal at the antenna elements. Typically the high speed ADC and DAC chains will be interfaced using the efficient, high speed JESD204A standard which greatly minimises board space by reducing the number of I/O traces on the PCB. Figure 5 shows an NXP block diagram of one type of AESA architecture. The Transmit/Receive (T/R) Modules can also be seen in figure 5 and are driven by a beam-forming network which in turn is connected to the transceiver with high speed ADCs and DACs.

Figure 5: A typical block diagram of an AESA radar system (Image courtesy of NXP).

Reference 1 gives an excellent overview of AESA radar technology by Selex ES, a European group, and where it's headed in the future (figure 6).

Figure 6: An airborne AESA configuration exploded view. (Image courtesy of Reference 1).

Purdue University has an complete overview presentation of a Digital Array Radar System as well where the transceivers are 2x2 MIMO and drive a series of GaN power elements to the multiple antenna elements.

Electro-optical Distributed Aperture System (DAS) (AN/AAQ-37)
This system provides a 360 degree protective sphere around the F-35 with missile warning, navigation support, and night operations capabilities (figure 7).

Figure 7: The F-35 has the only 360 degree, spherical situational awareness system (Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman).

This system warns the pilot of incoming aircraft and missile threats and also provides day/night vision, fire control, and precision tracking on wingmen/friendly aircraft for tactical manoeuvring and helps eliminate friendly-fire situations in combat.

The AN/AAQ-37 has six electro-optical sensors that help the Electro-Optical (EO) DAS to also support the navigation function of the forward-looking infrared sensors.

Gen III Pilot Helmet Mounted Display System

Figure 8: The Gen III Pilot Helmet Mounted Display System (Image courtesy of Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems, LLC).

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