Digital RF memories (DRFMs) are critical components in many electronic-countermeasures (ECM) defense-electronics systems. They provide the means of harvesting and reusing RF/microwave signal waveforms via almost instant analog-to-digital conversion and digital signal processing, using powerful processors, mixed-signal electronics, and dedicated software packed into compact modules.
Of course, as with other markets, military specifiers are seeking smaller, lighter, and more reliable DRFMs. Design efforts embraced by DRFM designers that employ goals based on reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) are delivering a new generation of devices that are smaller and more powerful than before and come with innovative modularity for improved reliability and ease of use.
Smaller, lighter DRFMs are important not so much for legacy military/aerospace electronic systems, but more for their expanding roles in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned marine vehicles (UMVs) used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. In unfamiliar territory, for example, U.S. Army troops often refer to surveillance drones and their DRFM-based systems as “eyes in the skies.” Some of these military drones are unmanned aerial systems (UAS), capable of carrying multiple missiles and jammers in addition to cameras, receivers, and transmitters to perform many different electronic-warfare (EW) operations under remote control from a distance.
The DRFMs within these systems are typically part of instantaneous-frequency-measurement (IFM) subsystems. DRFMs also find use in commercial and civilian applications, such as police-radar jammers and for cellular-telephone test equipment.
For ease of integration into larger systems with IFM functionality, DRFMs have traditionally been designed as printed circuit boards (PCBs). They are then installed into plug-in enclosures with board-mounted RF and digital/control connectors to facilitate interconnections with other systems.