Radio Technical development concept

11 July 2014

Where we are

Currently in Russia production of radio-technical systems is the province of state enterprises, former research institutes grown into a business enterprises, or former production facilities now trying to set up development of new products. Neither of the models has proved to be worthwhile in more than 20 years.
State designers are too strained by bureaucracy, thus lack the required flexibility in HR, management of complex projects, assimilation of modern quality management systems, etc.
These are inevitably fraught with low labor capacity, high development price, long performance periods, and often low quality. All these with few and rare exceptions make Russian radio products inappropriate and they cannot compete with the world’s best companies in this business.
The solution to the problem is to start a private establishment of a new type, where development will be the key process. Everything else will support it. This will lay the groundwork for starting an effective designing facility. It is these conditions that will pave the way for the development of the engineering and scientific school of thoughts long lost in the 1990s.

Development technology, major challenges and ways to overcome them

Modern radio-technical systems result from joint efforts of engineers of various specialties and incorporate special SW to a great extent. To make the development of such systems effective, required are special technologies that would guarantee quality, ensure the performance of the end-product while meeting the deadlines without going overheads in terms of funds and labor.
Attesting to the need in such technologies in the world are, for example, SW certification procedures established in the U.S. and Europe for avionics and ground ATM systems.
Major technological reasons precipitating poor assembly quality and even failure of entire projects are lousy specifications that among other unpleasant outcomes lead to an unsatisfactory verification level. This results in critical defects starting teething at a later designing state, when remedial actions set the company back quite a fortune, dozens or even hundreds of times more expensive. It is not at all uncommon when serious defects are discovered in deployed systems. The price for correcting them then skyrockets and becomes thousand times the original amount.
Another serious problem is that technical risks are not sufficiently elaborated at earlier stages. Experience suggests that only a few percents of all work in a new project really bears risks and it is them that keeps the company from completing it in time. To minimize technical risks, designers have to conduct researches continuously to work out new technological solutions, find and test new technologies. This also benefits every new product making it really innovative.
A considerable factor having impact on deadlines today is the development of electronic components. The guaranteed period for development and production of a complex printed-circuit board of 10-14 layers with installation of all components is 4-5 months, of which supply of electronic components accounts for most of the time budget. The next challenge facing today’s designers in electronic engineering is access to a quality surface-mounting technology. In this respect, the company has to develop such technologies itself or establish strategic ties with contract manufacturing establishments.

Reuse of proven solutions is essential for boosting labor capacity of designers

The main idea behind boosting labor capacity in radio electronic engineering is to accumulate, reuse and capitalize on proven solutions. The term ‘reuse’ encompasses all artifacts of the development process, including requirements, tests, test environment, development of the code and electric circuits, design documents, etc. If adopted, the practice will help save years of the efforts of engineers.
Despite the great differences between various products, in most cases one can reduce them to ‘standard’ components that take a heavy toll on the designers.
These include:
— VHF power amplifiers of various bands for concentrated transmitters
• 2 KW, L-band 1,030/1,090 MHz for secondary radars, active multilateration surveillance systems utilizing secondary radar signals to find the location of the signal source,
• 2 KW, L-band 1,500 MHz for IFF systems,
• 1.5-1.8 kW S-band 2,700-2,900/3,100 MHz for primary radars,
• Other frequencies and output at the request of the Customer.
—  Phased-array antennae receivers and transmitters in the aforementioned bands, as well as X-band transmit-receive modules with a capacity of 100 W,
—  Platform for construction of digital beamforming phased arrays of any band with distributed or concentrated signal synthesis,
—  SoC computer platforms combining the functions of:
• Multiple core processors featuring OS, drivers and instrumental series for the development and adjustment of application SW and drivers, including real-time debugging aid,
• Network interfaces Ethernet of various physical layer types (100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-TX/FX) providing a capability to create IEEE-1588 based common-timing system,
• FPGA co-processors, means for interfacing the co-processors with the CPU and corresponding OS drivers,
• Utility SW for low-level testing of peripheral devices and their drivers,
• CDR high-speed multi-gigabit serial interfaces providing data transmission over fiber optic with standard or custom-made protocols, as well as high-speed synchronous data transmission assets,
—  Digital synthesizers capable of SW generation of signals consistent with virtually any amplitude or angle modulation laws,
—  HW/SW analogue and digital components for digital signal processing,
— HW platforms complete with workbenches appropriate for programming digital signal processing algorithms, or already preset to provide primary radar signal processing,
—  HW/SW for processing signals and data in various secondary radar modes, including RBS, ATC, Mode S or ADS-B 1090 ES, as well as monopulse processing assets,
—  Antennas and their components, including passive phased arrays or beam-forming arrangements for them, omnidirectional or sectoral antennas.

All HW and HW/SW components are put through rigorous testing using modern measuring equipment consistent with methods and practices approved by the Customer.

Depending on specific features of different products the Reuse principle can be achieved at various levels:
Reuse of ready components: ‘Take and Use it Now’ - boards, units, cabinets, SW and HW components, i.e. system architectural components,
Reuse of components not yet shaped into a solution: ‘Custom-made’ - circuit design and technological solutions that are tailored to specific requirements of the Customer,
Reuse of expertise and proven technologies to generate custom-made solutions.
Depending on the level of integration, standard can be considered an electronic circuit board or a full-fledged monopulse secondary radar channel or ADS-B system fitted into a cabinet featuring HF input and output for messages consistent with a standard data transmission protocol. The second approach is the most effective, for it allows cutting dramatically the number of interconnections, reducing equipment volume, enhancing reliability and production effectiveness, as well as cutting the price.

Cooperation of establishments in projects
It is common in designing facilities that originated in the Soviet Union as research institutes and design bureaus to lack sufficient engineering resources required to maintain high technical and technological levels of the equipment. The issue grew more acute in the past several years when the facilities faced the urgent need to develop and produce world-class equipment.
This obviously can be solved by setting up an independent company that would track cutting-edge technologies and technical capabilities in radio technologies and use them to develop competitive components. Continuous focus on all development aspects will be instrumental in providing ceaseless improvement of expertise of engineers and technical management, as well as technological capabilities that ultimately will translate into high labor capacity and quality of the end products.
The philosophy is based on a layered model of competencies.