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    World leading developer of HF radar technology, BAE Systems Australia uses Altium Designer to create cutting-edge signal systems for Australia's unique Over The Horizon surveillance radar.

    The need

    Monitoring Australia’s enormous northern coastline is a key element in the country’s national security program, but the huge area involved creates the challenge of detecting objects beyond the horizon. The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Jindalee Over The Horizon Radar (OTHR) system, near Alice Springs in central Australia, overcomes the normal range limitations caused by the curvature of the earth by bouncing signals off the ionosphere using a series of antennas that stretch over 3.4 kilometres.

    Leading global defence company and user of Altium Designer, BAE Systems Australia supports the ongoing development of the super-sensitive Jindalee radar with advanced receiver and signal processing systems that help to extend the capabilities of the ADF’s Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). Creating these systems requires that BAE Systems remain at the forefront of HF radar technology, including the development of RF and high-speed data processing systems.

    The challenge

    With typical HF projects requiring up to 10-layer FR4 boards that comply to strict performance goals in both the analog and digital domain, BAE Systems’ engineers require advanced tools and design systems for the successful development of the OTHR subsystems.

    BAE Systems recent Advanced Digital HF Radar Receiver project, with a concept-to-completion time of just 6 months, involved the development of five multilayer boards featuring high-perfor­mance linear amplifiers and RF filters, high-speed A/D converters plus Gigabyte Ethernet and USB2 I/O services. Featuring SMT devices on both sides of the boards along with the complex DC sub­systems required to meet receiver performance goals, developing the high-density board designs required high levels of engineering expertise plus a powerful and comprehensively-featured PCB development system.

    The solution

    Since its inception around six years ago, the BAE Systems HF radar development group has used Altium Designer* for board development, progressing through an upgrade path to its current Altium Designer 6 licences. The resulting increase

    in features and performance of the design solution during this time has kept BAE Systems’ engineers at the forefront of board design technology and given them the capabilities needed to develop the highly sophisticated board designs required to enhance the OTHR system.

    Further to this, Altium Designer’s unified board-level design capabilities, such as powerful Signal Integrity analysis, differential pair support and automated FPGA pin optimization, has improved project time frames while ensuring that designs perform as expected early in the development cycle. In an environment where cutting-edge performance is a core design criteria, Altium Designer’s unified design solution provides BAE Systems with the sophisticated board development capabilities required to meet its goals.

    The results

    BAE Systems’ engineers successfully completed the complex Advanced Digital HF Radar Receiver within the allotted time-fame where its advanced features and high RF/data performance were then ready to extend the capabilities of the OTHR system. During the project development and transition path to Altium Designer 6, Altium’s convenient web-based training played a crucial role in bringing the engineers up to speed quickly. When additional help was required, the engineers appreciated the expertise and fast response of Altium’s world-class support services. By progressively upgrading to Altium Designer 6, BAE Systems has ensured that its electronics design and board development capabilities have kept pace with the increasing demands of the cutting-edge OTHR projects.

    Product information

    The Australian Defence Force Over The Horizon Radar is an extremely sensitive HF surveillance system that delivers the range and accuracy required to monitor and detect moving objects at extreme distances from Australia’s northern coastline. The technology and subsystems used in the OTHR are being continuously developed to enhance its capability for missile defence initiatives, aircraft and ship detection and tracking, plus more recently, illegal fishing activity. Australia’s unique wide-range defence needs has helped to make the country a pioneer in the development of advanced OTHR systems and is now considered a world leader in the field.

    The Advanced Digital HF Radar Receiver developed by BAE Systems features a complex mix of analog and high-speed digital signal processing technology combined with advanced filtering systems and switching. The circuit boards developed for the project contain a total of 860 components, 15,839 tracks, 117 fills and 99 polygons.

    Customer information

    BAE Systems designs, manufactures, and supports military aircraft, surface ships, submarines, space systems, radar, avionics, electronic systems, guided weapons and a range of other defence products, many of these with international partners. It has key skills in engineering and systems integration and is a leading supplier of electronic warfare, communications, military air support, software and support services to the Australian Defence Force.

    BAE Systems Force Awareness and Protection Unit designs, develops, integrates and supports electronic warfare systems, ground-based mission support for Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C), High Frequency (HF) radar, weapon systems and integrated autonomous systems.

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