Radar, EW & ELINT Testing: Identifying Common Test Challenges

The roots of modern radar systems stretch back to 1940 when the U.S. Navy developed what was then called radio detection and ranging or RADAR. Today, this technology has been adapted to applications that range from the ubiquitous supermarket door opener, which is a simple moving-target indicator (MTI), to highly complex shipboard phased-array fire-control radars.

In military applications, two new fields followed close on the heels of radar: electronic intelligence (ELINT) and electronic warfare (EW). ELINT is used to extract information from enemy radar systems and provide insights into coping with potential threats attached to those radar signals: ships, aircraft, missiles, and so on. The associated development of EW technologies provides active and passive responses to those potential threats.

From the simplest to the most complex, all radar, EW and ELINT systems pose a variety of challenges when it comes time to test components, assemblies and systems. To complicate matters, all radars operate in an increasingly cluttered spectral environment.

For example, the airwaves in an urban setting may include countless wideband RF and microwave emitters—and therefore potential interferers—such as wireless communications infrastructure, wireless networking systems and civilian radars.

This application note focuses on test equipment that will help you address the challenges you’re most likely to face during system development. To provide context, the note starts with a review of radar, EW and ELINT basics. After providing an overview of key test challenges, the remainder of this note covers three main topics: the generation of test signals, an example of a synthetic test range, and the validation and analysis of radar signals.