The electromagnetic spectrum is a series of frequencies ranging from radio waves to microwaves, visible light, X-rays, and gamma rays. As the wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation shortens, the waves have a higher frequency—how quickly electromagnetic waves follow each other—and therefore more energy.
RF stands for Radio Frequency. It is a broad term that encompasses all electromagnetic radiation with frequencies ranging from below 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz). Radio waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation, meaning they do not have enough energy to damage DNA. Microwave is a subset of RF radiation with frequencies ranging from 300 MHz to 300 GHz.
Radio Frequency (RF) and Microwave (MW) technologies are essential for a wide range of military applications, including radar, communications, and electronic warfare. These technologies operate at high frequencies, which can be difficult to measure and test. As a result, there is a need for specialized RF and MW measuring equipments and testing methods.
Military RF and Microwave systems
Different parts of the spectrum serve different military purposes. Radio transmissions have relatively low data rates—particularly in the very low frequency range. However, they are able to travel long distances and pass through solid objects like buildings and trees, and are often
used for communications equipment. Microwaves have higher throughput—data upload and download rates—than radio waves and therefore are able to transmit more data, but are more limited in range and can be disrupted by solid objects. Hence, microwaves are often used for radars and satellite communications. Infrared waves, which emit energy, can be used for intelligence and targeting data because they are closely associated with heat sources.
The military uses the entire spectrum to support intelligence and military operations. These applications range from using very low frequency radio waves to communicate with submarines underwater, to microwaves as a continuous datalink between aircraft, and to lasers in the infrared and ultraviolet ends of the spectrum to dazzle satellite sensors and destroy drones. The majority of military communications capabilities use radio waves, microwaves, and infrared frequencies. Nearly every modern weapons system—airplanes, satellites, tanks, ships, and radios—depends on the spectrum to function. These applications can be combined to provide an overall military capability, such as command and control or electronic warfare.
In general, communications systems use radio and microwave frequencies; however, emerging communications technologies use lasers—transmitting light, instead of radio waves, between antennas. Radios use different frequencies depending on the range and amount of data they are
required to transmit. Ground-based radios are typically used at short ranges, limited by the line of sight. These short ranges span no more than 50 miles. In general, militaries use satellites to communicate over longer distances.
Another application of the spectrum is using radio or microwave frequencies to develop a picture of the battle space by providing the location of friendly and enemy forces. The most common application is radar, however recently light detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems are also used. Both technologies send out a signal that is then reflected back to sensors to determine the distance, speed, and potentially altitude of an object. Radars operate on different radio and microwave frequencies, depending on their purpose.
Lower-band frequencies provide a larger picture of the battle space, although, due to the amount of clutter or radar return (how much radio signal is returned to the radar), these systems are not able to provide targetquality pictures. Higher-band frequencies provide target quality pictures, yet lack the same effective range. Radar and LIDAR systems are commonly associated with air
defense, military aviation, artillery, and space systems.
Signals intelligence (SIGINT) systems primarily collect spectrum emissions. These passive systems—systems that do not emit their own signal—can listen to radio and radar frequencies or observe heat signatures of personnel, missiles, aircraft, artillery, and vehicles.
Radio frequency (RF) systems are used to power vital military electronics applications such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems; communications systems; and electronic warfare (EW) suites. These systems must be extremely reliable and continually offer high performance – in very demanding, confined, and variable environments on the ground, in the air, and at sea. Each of these applications has unique requirements, driving development of custom RF interconnect solutions to address specific challenges. While safety comes first in the design of any of these complex military RF systems, performance must also be flawless.
Radar is primarily used in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) therefore radar is highly pulsed; quick transmission and efficient analysis of the data received prevents adversaries from locating positions.
For example, EW systems perform numerous mission-critical functions, including defense against attacks and providing enhanced situational awareness. These systems use RF signals to locate and identify potential threats, landscape features, and more, and include ground-based radar, antimissile defense, guidance systems, and similar applications. Each of these applications depends entirely on continuous real-time transmission of data with high accuracy.
EW systems are also continuously evolving to counter the proliferation of spread spectrum based communication systems, multimode, and Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) radars, smart weapons and missiles in warfare, increased surveillance through Aerostats, AEW&C aircrafts, unmanned air vehicles (UAV) and satellite based communication and radar.
Military radio frequency (RF) systems must be designed to withstand the rigors of the often-harsh environments in which they will be used, while at the same time achieving extremely high performance for mission-critical applications.
Since these systems often operate under severe environmental conditions, two of the most important considerations in choosing optimal RF interconnect solutions include the use of low-smoke, zero-halogen cable and connectors and the use of assemblies optimized for high phase stability even at high temperature.
For deeper understanding of RF & Microwave measurements please visit: Comprehensive Guide to RF and Microwave Measuring Equipment and Testing
There are many forms of microwave measurements
Here are some of the most common forms of microwave measurements:
- Transmission and reflection parameters (small-signal): These measurements are used to characterize the small-signal behavior of microwave components. They include the S-parameters, which are a set of four parameters that describe the scattering behavior of a two-port network.
- Large-signal parameters (gain compression, load-pull, etc): These measurements are used to characterize the large-signal behavior of microwave components. They include gain compression, which is a measure of how much the gain of a microwave component decreases as the input power increases, and load-pull, which is a measure of how much the gain and phase of a microwave component change as the load impedance changes.
- Frequency generation and conversion: These measurements are used to generate and convert microwave signals. They include frequency synthesis, which is the process of generating a microwave signal with a specific frequency, and frequency mixing, which is the process of combining two microwave signals to produce a third microwave signal with a frequency that is the sum or difference of the frequencies of the two original signals.
- Waveform analysis (time and frequency domains): These measurements are used to analyze the waveforms of microwave signals. They include time-domain analysis, which is the process of examining the shape of a microwave signal over time, and frequency-domain analysis, which is the process of examining the frequency spectrum of a microwave signal.
- Noise figure and noise parameters: These measurements are used to characterize the noise performance of microwave components. They include noise figure, which is a measure of the amount of noise that is added by a microwave component, and noise parameters, such as noise temperature and noise bandwidth, which are used to characterize the noise properties of a microwave component.
- Signal purity: These measurements are used to characterize the purity of microwave signals. They include spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR), which is a measure of the ability of a microwave system to reject unwanted signals, and total harmonic distortion (THD), which is a measure of the amount of harmonic distortion in a microwave signal.
- Antenna patterns: These measurements are used to characterize the radiation pattern of antennas. They include gain, which is a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic field radiated by an antenna, and directivity, which is a measure of how much the radiation pattern is concentrated in a particular direction.
These are just a few of the most common forms of microwave measurements. There are many other measurements that are used for specific applications.
The Importance of Accuracy and Reliability
The accuracy and reliability of RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods are essential for the safe and reliable operation of military equipment. For example, if a radar system is not calibrated accurately, it may not be able to detect enemy targets. If a communications system is not tested properly, it may not be able to transmit or receive messages reliably. And if an electronic warfare system is not tested properly, it may not be able to jam enemy signals effectively.
The Need for Specialized Equipment and Methods
The high frequencies of RF and MW signals make them difficult to measure and test with traditional equipment. For example, a spectrum analyzer that is designed to measure lower frequency signals may not be able to accurately measure RF and MW signals. And a signal generator that is designed to generate lower frequency signals may not be able to generate RF and MW signals with the desired power and purity.
As a result, there is a need for specialized RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods. This equipment and these methods are designed to handle the high frequencies of RF and MW signals and to provide accurate and reliable measurements.
The Benefits of Using Specialized Equipment and Methods
There are a number of benefits to using specialized RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods. These benefits include:
- Accuracy: Specialized RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods are designed to provide accurate measurements. This is essential for the safe and reliable operation of military equipment.
- Reliability: Specialized RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods are designed to be reliable. This means that they are less likely to fail during testing or operation.
- Speed: Specialized RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods are designed to be fast. This allows for quick and efficient testing of military equipment.
- Cost-effectiveness: Specialized RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods can be cost-effective in the long run. This is because they can help to prevent costly failures of military equipment.
The accuracy and reliability of RF and MW measuring equipment and testing methods are essential for the safe and reliable operation of military equipment. By using specialized equipment and methods, military personnel can be confident that their equipment is operating as it should. This can help to prevent costly failures and ensure the safety of our troops.
RF and Microwave Measurement and testing systems
Military RF and microwave measuring equipment is designed to measure and test the performance of RF and microwave equipment used by the military. These instruments are highly specialized and must be capable of handling the high frequencies and power levels that are present in military applications. There are several different types of military RF and microwave measuring equipment, each with its own unique capabilities.
Test equipment for evaluating the RF/microwave performance levels of mil/aero systems and their components covers a wide range of frequencies and functions due to the diversified nature of military electronic systems. An analyzer that can digitize and accurately display the key parameters of a radar pulse may not be the best choice for deciphering the characteristics of a secure radio communications system.
- Spectrum analyzers: Spectrum analyzers are used to measure the frequency, amplitude, and power of RF and MW signals. These devices are used to display the frequency spectrum of microwave signals. They are essential for troubleshooting and calibrating RF and MW systems. Spectrum analyzers typically have a wide frequency range, from a few hertz to several gigahertz. They also have a variety of features that allow users to measure the properties of RF and MW signals, such as the signal’s amplitude, phase, and frequency spectrum.
- Oscilloscopes: Oscilloscopes are used to measure the amplitude and time-varying properties of RF and MW signals. They are useful for debugging RF and MW systems and for measuring the performance of RF and MW components. Oscilloscopes typically have a bandwidth of a few gigahertz and a sampling rate of a few gigasamples per second. This allows them to capture and display the waveforms of RF and MW signals with high accuracy.
- Signal generators: Signal generators are used to create RF and MW signals of known frequency, amplitude, and phase. They are essential for testing RF and MW systems and for calibrating RF and MW measuring equipments. Signal generators typically have a wide frequency range, from a few hertz to several gigahertz. They also have a variety of features that allow users to create custom RF and MW signals.
- Attenuators: Attenuators are used to reduce the power of RF and MW signals. They are essential for protecting RF and MW components from damage and for ensuring that RF and MW signals do not exceed the safe operating levels of equipment. Attenuators typically have a wide range of attenuation values, from a few decibels to several hundred decibels.
- Power meters: Power meters are used to measure the power of RF and MW signals. They are essential for ensuring that RF and MW signals do not exceed the safe operating levels of equipment. Power meters typically have a wide range of measurement values, from a few microwatts to several kilowatts.
In addition to the specialized measuring equipments mentioned above, there are a number of other tools and techniques that are used to test RF and MW systems. These include:
- S-parameter testing: S-parameter testing is used to measure the scattering parameters of RF and MW components. These parameters can be used to characterize the performance of RF and MW components and to verify the design of RF and MW systems.
- Noise figure testing: Noise figure testing is used to measure the noise figure of RF and MW components. The noise figure is a measure of the amount of noise that is added by an RF and MW component.
- Frequency response testing: Frequency response testing is used to measure the frequency response of RF and MW components. The frequency response is a measure of how well an RF and MW component can reproduce the input signal over a range of frequencies.
- Power output testing: Power output testing is used to measure the power output of RF and MW components. The power output is a measure of how much power an RF and MW component can deliver to a load. They are essential for troubleshooting and calibrating microwave systems.
- Transient response testing: Transient response testing is used to measure the transient response of RF and MW components. The transient response is a measure of how well an RF and MW component can respond to sudden changes in the input signal.
By using specialized measuring equipments and testing methods, it is possible to ensure the performance of RF and MW systems. This is essential for the safe and reliable operation of military equipment.
- Sweep oscillators and synthesizers: These devices are used to generate a wide range of frequencies. They are essential for testing and calibrating microwave components and systems.
- Network analyzers (vector and scalar): These devices are used to measure the scattering parameters of microwave components. They are essential for characterizing the performance of microwave components and systems.
- Frequency counters and meters: These devices are used to measure the frequency of microwave signals. They are essential for troubleshooting and calibrating microwave systems.
- Noise figure meters and test sets: These devices are used to measure the noise figure of microwave components. The noise figure is a measure of the amount of noise that is added by a microwave component.
- High-speed digitizing oscilloscopes: These devices are used to capture and display the waveforms of microwave signals. They are essential for troubleshooting and calibrating microwave systems.
- Detectors: These devices are used to convert microwave signals into other forms of signals, such as audio or video signals. They are essential for test and measurement applications.
- Curve tracers: These devices are used to measure the frequency response of microwave components. They are essential for characterizing the performance of microwave components and systems.
- Impedance tuners: These devices are used to match the impedance of microwave components and systems. They are essential for troubleshooting and calibrating microwave systems.
- RF and DC probes: These devices are used to connect microwave test equipment to microwave components and systems. They are essential for troubleshooting and calibrating microwave systems.
Greater complexity in military electronic systems requires more capabilities in the measurement equipment used to test those systems. Consequently, various market studies predict healthy growth for at least the next five years for test equipment aimed at specific markets within military electronics, such as mobile radio testing and aviation test equipment.
Here are some of the factors to consider when generating signals for military applications:
- Frequency: The frequency of the signal must be within the range of the target system. For example, a radar system will use a different frequency than a communications system.
- Waveform type: The waveform type must be compatible with the target system. For example, a radar system will use a different waveform type than a communications system.
- Power: The power of the signal must be within the safe operating range of the target system.
- Purity: The signal must be free of noise and interference.
- Accuracy: The signal must be generated with the desired accuracy.
- Repeatability: The signal must be repeatable from one test to the next.
Arbitrary waveform generators (AWGs) are a good choice for generating signals for military applications because they can be programmed to generate a wide variety of waveforms with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. AWGs are also typically very fast, which makes them well-suited for testing systems that operate at high frequencies.
Here are some of the benefits of using AWGs for military applications:
- Accuracy: AWGs can generate signals with a high degree of accuracy, which is important for testing systems that operate at high frequencies.
- Repeatability: AWGs can generate signals that are repeatable from one test to the next, which is important for troubleshooting and calibrating systems.
- Speed: AWGs are typically very fast, which makes them well-suited for testing systems that operate at high frequencies.
- Flexibility: AWGs can be programmed to generate a wide variety of waveforms, which makes them well-suited for testing a variety of systems.
AWGs are a valuable tool for military applications. They can be used to generate signals with a high degree of accuracy, repeatability, speed, and flexibility. This makes them well-suited for testing a variety of systems, including radar, communications, and electronic warfare systems.
Environmental challenges and phase stability
Phase is a key parameter for detection and measurement in many military RF systems such as radar, missile defense, EW, and many other systems that rely on continuous transmission and reception of RF signals with high accuracy and consistent speeds, regardless of temperature.
Environmental challenges can significantly impact the phase stability of coaxial cable assemblies, which in turn can affect the performance of military RF systems that require high-accuracy phase tracking. Temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors can cause changes in the dielectric constant of the materials used in the cable, altering the velocity of propagation and changing the phase of the signal transmitted through the cable.
Phase stability is critical for military RF systems because it determines the accuracy of the signals transmitted and received. Phase tracking errors can lead to inaccurate targeting and communication, reducing the effectiveness of the system. To mitigate the impact of environmental challenges on phase stability, engineers must design coaxial cable assemblies with materials that have stable dielectric properties over a wide temperature range, and employ shielding to protect against interference from other signals.
Overall, maintaining phase stability in military RF systems is crucial for ensuring reliable and accurate communication and targeting capabilities. Environmental challenges can impact the performance of these systems, and it is important for engineers to design solutions that account for these challenges and maintain phase stability under a range of conditions.
The RF test equipment market is projected to reach USD 4.6 billion by 2027 from USD 3.5 billion in 2022, at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2022 to 2027.
The growth of the market is being driven by the increasing demand for RF devices and systems in a variety of applications, such as wireless communications, radar, and satellite communications.
Surging adoption of wireless systems in residential and commercial buildings, rising number of smartphone subscriptions, increasing use of 5G-compatible devices, and growing number of IoT-connected devices are some of the major factors driving the market growth.
The market is also being driven by the increasing complexity of RF devices and systems, which requires more sophisticated test equipment.
RF Test Equipment Market Dynamics
The RF test equipment market is segmented by type of equipment, frequency range, and application. By type of equipment, the market is segmented into signal generators, spectrum analyzers, network analyzers, power meters, and other equipment. By frequency range, the market is segmented into low-frequency, medium-frequency, high-frequency, and very high-frequency. By application, the market is segmented into wireless communications, radar, satellite communications, and other applications.
Driver: Increasing use of 5G-compatible devices
5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. In recent years, there has been a significant rise in demand for 5G-compatible devices all over the world, and several sectors, such as manufacturing and telecommunications, are increasingly deploying 5G technology in cellular devices. There has been a surge in demand for RF test equipment in research and development laboratories for designing and testing 5G network-based devices. Rapid developments related to 5G technology and the subsequent increase in the demand for mobile data services, significant adoption of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication technology in industries and increased need for superior network coverage are expected to drive the growth of the market for RF test equipment designed for advanced telecommunication applications and 5G devices.
Automotive radar systems and wireless communication systems have moved to high-frequency
bands. Moreover, with technological advances, the requirements of end users are likely to change
remarkably in terms of frequencies, phase noise performance, and modulation bandwidth. The
market players are extensively focused on developing advanced RF testing solutions to meet these
requirements. For instance, modern-day vehicles are integrated with advanced driver-assistance
systems (ADAS), such as intelligent collision avoidance systems, smart braking systems, and parking systems. These ADAS are equipped with radar sensors that help drivers avoid accidents and improve passenger safety and security. Major automotive manufacturers have also started using higher-frequency radar systems that are more reliable and accurate. These systems enhance the ability of a vehicle to respond to potential dangers on the road. Such developments are expected to create the need for RF test equipment. RF transmitters and receivers integrated into onboard units (OBUs), and road-side units (RSUs) of communications systems must be tested to eliminate the safety risk arising from poor transmit conditions.
Radiofrequency (RF) test equipment is used to compute signals at a higher frequency range than that supported by any other general test equipment. Along with standard measurement functionality, they also have specialized functions to determine the characteristics of an RF signal (radio waves transmitted within the frequency range of 3 hertz to 300 megahertz). Presently, the RF test equipment market is mainly driven by increasing communication applications of RF such as cellular, radio telecommunication, broadband, satellite, radar, and navigation.
The rising demand for internet connections and RF-enabled consumer electronics, such as laptops, mobile phones, tablets, microwave ovens, and televisions among others have also been encouraging the growth of the RF-enabled components. This, in turn, has been further strengthening the growth of RF testing equipment.
Huge adoption rates of smartphones and other modules have exceedingly increased data traffic. Data traffic and the number of the data centers are expanding due to the surging bandwidth consumption for a broad variety of applications and services resulting in increased data handling.
Mobile operators are continuously upgrading the quality of their services by monitoring and controlling the output power transmitted and analyzing interpreting them with the help of excellent sources. With LTE-A standard becoming a norm, sufficing consumers’ demand, ensuring greater coverage and providing quality services is the prime focus of firms in this sector.
As RF based Radar is a valuable tool used in many applications from traffic enforcement to air traffic control and military applications, hence growing advancements in the field will also generate the need for study market’s products. Wireless Gigabit(WiGig) is one of the latest and emerging technologies (IEEE 802.11ad) that works in the bandwidth of 60GHz and delivers up to 7 Gbit/s (20 times faster than IEEE 802.11n standard connection). The development in this market will also increase the speed and applications for the studied market.
The growing 5G adoption also brings huge opportunity into the market. But most vendors need to upgrade or develop testing equipment, which is compatible with the 5G technology. For instance, Rohde & Schwarz offers comprehensive over-the-air (OTA) test solutions to pave the way for mmWave and massive MIMO antennas. The emergence of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication solutions is also expected to boost the growth further of the studied market, especially for telecommunications applications.
Owing to the demand of RF equipment surging worldwide in building communication technology in various industries and increasing presence of small and medium enterprises are the factors driving the market growth. Rising adoption of wireless devices is a key growth prospect.
Rising Applications from Automotive Industry
Automotive industry is continuously focussing on inserting technology in vehicles. RF electronic components in automobiles have resulted in much safer, efficient connected vehicles. RF applications when used in new vehicles need a thorough check up by testing transmitter and receiver systems. After the testing is done, vehicle is all set to provide technological comfort. Thus, rise of technology in automotive industries is escalating the sales of RF equipment system.
Limited spectrum and weather impact
Inconsistency of RF based wireless system, sometimes due to low network or due to climatic conditions can have a negative impact on its sales. Wireless communication need bandwidth, strong internet connection inspite of weather conditions. Furthermore, difficulty in installation and high costs are other factors that may inhibit the growth.
Modular RF test equipment to register highest CAGR during forecast period
Modular equipment are available in multiple architectural designs, such as PXI, AXIe, and PCI
Express. They are optimized to validate testing environments in manufacturing plants and designs of RF devices and can deliver results much faster than other instruments. Modular signal analyzers are ideal for applications that need fast and high-quality measurements such as large-volume manufacturing, wherein checking quality control, product conformance, and test optimization are essential. By using a single-time base for all acquisition modules and a single integrated trigger circuit to operate the entire system, a modular oscilloscope system achieves much higher synchronization accuracy.
Key players include Keysight Technologies, Inc. (US), Anritsu Group (Japan), Rohde & Schwarz (Germany), Tektronix, Inc. (US), Teledyne Technologies Incorporated (US), Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation (US), AnaPico (Switzerland), B&K Precision Corporation (US), National Instruments Corporation (US), Boonton Electronics (US), Tabor Electronics Ltd. (Israel), Cobham PLC, Viavi Solutions, Inc, and Good Will Instruments (Taiwan).
North America and Europe are the leading markets for RF test equipment, due to the presence of major players in these regions and the high demand for advanced communication technologies. However, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to witness significant growth in the coming years, driven by the increasing adoption of smartphones and other wireless devices.
Asia Pacific region is also expected to register the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The presence of established connectivity solution providers, such as Huawei (China), MediaTek (Taiwan), and Renesas (Japan) in the region and the constantly growing smartphone subscriptions in the region are some of the key factors driving the market growth in Asia Pacific. Additionally, China, being a global manufacturing hub for consumer electronic products, provides ample growth opportunities for market players offering RF test equipment.
In conclusion, military RF and microwave measuring equipment is essential for ensuring the accuracy and reliability of military RF and microwave equipment. These highly specialized instruments are designed to handle the high frequencies and power levels found in military applications and are used to test and calibrate a variety of equipment, from spectrum analyzers to power meters and sensors. Without these instruments, military communications and intelligence gathering would be much less effective and could put soldiers’ lives at risk.
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