We are talking with one of the CROWN experts, Dr. Michael Brandfass from Hensoldt, who is the Senior Expert for Radar Systems with more than 20 years of experience in the field, which includes technical support and consultancy on all future Radar Research and Technology Programmes at Hensoldt related to Airborne, Spaceborne, and Naval & Ground Radars.
What are the main responsibilities and activity areas of Hensoldt in the CROWN project?
Hensoldt is involved in the overall system design and architecture of digital Multifunctional RF Systems including the definition of respective concepts of operation for such systems. One of our main focuses in that regard is the design of the Digital Beamforming Architecture and its corresponding algorithms for narrow as well as for broadband digital beamforming including the design of a respective IP-core for integration in a specific FPGA. Another task is the design of GaN mixers with high third order intercept point to minimize intermodulation and spurii, which would otherwise limit the ability to discriminate smaller targets against larger ones or farther distant targets against closer ones.
What does it mean for such a leading company as Hensoldt to be part of the CROWN project?
One of the major issues for Hensoldt is to work together with other leading companies in the field on technically decisive concepts for highly advanced and most flexible defence solutions for Europe. We are convinced that due to our experience in the areas of Radar, Electronic Warfare and high-end electronics in general we are able to provide substantial contributions. The exchange of technical ideas and the mutual inspiration among each other is one of the crucial factors to come up with the most promising and convincing solutions for this technically challenging CROWN project. Furthermore, the sharing of investments on large scale programmes such as CROWN and its potential follow-on programmes is another important driving aspect of such a multinational European cooperation.
Worldwide governments provide investments focused on identifying and developing enabling technologies to make multifunctional RF systems feasible, functional, and affordable. Why is it so important for Europe to create its own joint solution and foster collaboration between different EU countries and industries?
The present shows more than ever that military and industrial independence of Europe is one of the most important factors to build up and maintain the capability to defend Europe and its values. We believe that future Multifunctional RF Systems along with their enabling technologies are key to keep the upper hand in military conflict situations. In such situations it is most desirable to be independent from other third parties outside Europe. Moreover, these enabling technologies are not only important for military applications but also for civil ones in terms of miniaturization and integration of highly complex electronics.
What are the operational advantages of multifunction RF AESA-based systems?
There are multitudes of operational advantages for future Multifunction RF AESA-based Systems. For instance, the software defined integration of Radar, Electronic Warfare and Communication functions on a common hardware act as a multifunctional RF meta-sensor and -effector in network centric operation, with which huge varieties of possible task and function combinations represent a paradigm shift in performance and flexibility. Inter-coordinated Multifunctional RF sensor & platforms allow higher system-of-systems availability, higher system-of-systems reliability, and better system-of-systems redundancy. In particular, Multifunctional RF Systems permit superior jammer effectiveness from a larger stand-off range and enable a maximum resistance to jammers and to the interception of data.
Why are fully operational multifunction RF systems not yet available? What challenges do researchers and industry face in developing fully operational multifunction RF systems?
One of the greatest challenges is to develop an ultrabroadband AESA technology with similar performance as for narrow band AESA systems. The miniaturization and SWAP-C requirements which are dictated by the AESA antenna’s grid spacing along with the need for scalability and modularity is another challenge. Finally, the power efficiency of respective ultrabroadband components need to be improved.
What multifunction RF related developments are you most optimistic about? Least? And why?
We are most optimistic about the achievements of the instantaneous ultrabroadband functionalities along with the miniaturization and SWAP requirements. However, it will be a challenge to keep the price at a favourable level. Due to the in average larger number of RF channels per AESA antenna area compared to dedicated narrow band systems, the cost of such Multifunction RF AESA-based Systems will probably remain higher in the beginning.
What would be the best indicator of success of the CROWN project for you as a scientist and expert of the Radar Systems?
For us, one of the best indicators of success of the CROWN project would be the real-time testing and demonstration of the broadband digital beamformer as a basic prove of concept as well as the construction and testing of the CROWN demonstrator system in an anechoic chamber set-up.
Dr. Michael Brandfass works for Hensoldt Sensors in Germany as the Senior Expert for Radar Systems with more than 20 years of experience in the field, which includes technical support and consultancy on all future Radar Research and Technology Programmes at Hensoldt related to Airborne, Spaceborne, and Naval & Ground Radars. Dr. Brandfass completed his PhD at the Dept. of Electrical Engineering, University of Kassel, Germany in 1996 on Electromagnetic Inverse Scattering Problems with distinction. Dr. Brandfass published more than 50 scientific journal and conference publications on electromagnetic inverse scattering, fast algorithms for electromagnetic field computations and concepts of radar signal processing.