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Partnership Demonstrates True Real-Radar Processing on Commercial Hardware



British Aerospace Defence Systems, the Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA) and SKY Computers Ltd have collaborated within a DERA-funded Pathfinder programme to develop an innovative software which performs all the radar signal processing functions needed for naval surveillance and target indication radars on a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computer. Their success in processing large volumes of high-speed radar data significantly extends the ability to employ industry-sourced hardware to support military radar requirements.

The software suite - written in the portable, high-level "C" language - runs on an array of six Power PC SKYbolt II processor cards contained within a single VME frame. It replaces dedicated digital circuitry which required six similar card frames.

Each card supports four Power PC 604e processors and connects to the VME frame active backplane, which transfers data at rates of up to 320Mbytes/second. The incoming video signals are sampled at a 10MHz rate by 12-bit analogue-to-digital converters. The resulting 160Mbytes/second data stream is distributed to the array of processors. All radar signal processing functions - such as clutter control, ambiguous range trap and plot extraction - are applied to the data with such a low latency that the plot stream is output in real time. Previously, this has only been possible using high-speed bespoke hardware.

The success of the concept was established when the software-based signal processor was connected in parallel with the digital processing system of the British Aerospace Defence Systems Type 996 radar system. When the plot streams were output to adjacent displays to permit a one-to-one comparison, excellent correlations were achieved.

There are many user benefits to be achieved by the further development of this technology. They include lower equipment volumes combined with reduced power supply and cooling requirements; higher performance; lower acquisition costs; reduced cost of ownership through failure tolerance, improved availability and lower spares holdings; and hitherto unachievable flexibility through software upgrades and the ability to reconfigure systems to meet developing requirements.

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Partnership Demonstrates True Real-Radar Processing on Commercial Hardware