Developing high-performance solutions for defense applications is the focal point of Mercury Systems, which offers products that range from mixed-signal-processing solutions to RF/microwave components and much more. And the company isn’t showing signs of slowing down, demonstrated in part by the recent introduction of the DCM6112 digital transceiver (see figure).
According to the company, this new product is “optimized to provide the best balance of low latency and wide bandwidth for critical electronic-warfare (EW) applications.” The team in Mercury’s Huntsville, Ala. facility is responsible for the DCM6112’s development and manufacturing.
The DCM6112 is an open-architecture-based digital transceiver that features four analog-to-digital converter (ADC) channels as well as four digital-to-analog converter (DAC) channels.
What does the DCM6112 digital transceiver bring to the table? Mario LaMarche, product marketing manager at Mercury Systems, says, “The term ‘digital transceiver’ in this case represents a digitization front end that takes an analog signal and then digitizes that signal. The DCM6112 then utilizes integrated FPGA devices to provide low-latency digital signal processing. The signal can then be converted back to analog and transmitted. This functionality allows the user to perform real-time processing to mitigate electronic threats.”
The flexibility to support a wide range of applications is one of the DCM6112’s prime benefits. LaMarche explains, “Generally, for these digital transceivers, we’re not developing the application-specific algorithms for the FPGA blocks. Instead, we’re leaving it very open so that the transceiver can be used in a wide range of applications. However, some of the design characteristics of the DCM6112 make it particularly well-suited for applications that require real-time, low-latency processing.”
Leveraging Commercial Technology Innovations
While Mercury Systems is known as a provider of solutions for defense applications, the company is implementing a business approach that involves leveraging commercial technology innovations. LaMarche adds, “Company-wide, Mercury has developed a business model that leverages the significant technology investments of commercial industries. Over the recent decades, we have been witnessing an increasing level of commercial technology investment—especially around semiconductor devices. Leveraging this high commercial technology growth rate requires the ability to add mission-specific customization and ruggedization to these devices.”
How does this practice of leveraging commercial technology specifically apply to the DCM6112? LaMarche points out, “Some of the semiconductor devices that are integral to the performance of the DCM6112 represent the latest commercial digitization technology. We have methods of taking these commercial devices and packaging them into a subsystem so that they can be used in a defense application. And because of the rapid pace of technology improvement in the commercial space, we use a modular architecture that allows us to take this commercial innovation and very rapidly deploy it to defense applications.”
Easy Integration Plus Modularity
The DCM6112 is compliant to the OpenVPX standard, which, according to LaMarche, “allows customers to use it in their systems with very minimal integration time by avoiding the need for custom-designed form factors. This allows for rapid upgrades as new technology becomes available.”
One attribute already mentioned is the DCM6112’s modular design. Such modularity enables Mercury to better prepare for next-generation technology. “The modular design allows us to make upgrades faster as next-generation technology becomes available,” says LaMarche. “The digitization chipsets are located on a mezzanine card that sits on the FPGA base module. That allows us to make incremental improvements by simply pulling off one mezzanine card and putting on a new one. Through this modular design and an open-architecture framework, we can very quickly take the next generation of commercial technology and apply it to the defense industry.”
In terms of its functionality, the DCM6112 features four 12-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC) channels along with four 12-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) channels. These ADC and DAC chipsets are located on a mezzanine card, as mentioned.
LaMarche explains that two different modes of operation are possible. “One option involves taking a signal directly from an antenna, digitizing that signal, and performing the processing,” he says. “Another option is to take an intermediate-frequency (IF) signal from the output of a microwave transceiver and process that IF signal. Once you digitize this analog signal, the very low latency of the digitization chipset enables us to quickly take that digital signal and route it to the FPGA processing blocks. After real-time processing is applied, the signal can be converted back to analog and transmitted.”
Regarding the process that’s enabled by the DCM6112, LaMarche explains, “As new threats emerge across the electromagnetic spectrum, they can be received, digitized, and processed with application-specific digital-signal-processing (DSP) techniques. The signal can then be retransmitted to mitigate the electronic threat.”
One additional benefit of the transceiver lies in Mercury’s coherency technology. With this feature, the multiple channels on the board (i.e., mezzanine card) can be run coherently so that they are aligned with the output.
LaMarche notes that this coherency technology is also scalable. “The board supports the hardware to scale it with multiple boards, so you can scale up the number of coherent channels,” he says. “This is important for applications such as direction finding, in which you not only need to mitigate these threats, but you also need to know the direction they’re coming from. By having multiple highly scalable coherent channels, a customer can very quickly take advantage of the open architecture and the scalable channel counts to develop a system that can not only mitigate electronic threats, but also locate them.”
Mercury Systems is now accepting orders for the DCM6112 digital transceiver, available in both standard configurations and custom variants for specific program needs. For more information, visit www.mrcy.com/dcm6112.