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> From Aug. 26-29, the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, MD will welcome IEEE AUTOTESTCON 2019, bringing together the military/aerospace automatic test industry, government/ military acquirers and users to share new technologies, discuss innovative applications, and exhibit products and services. There are plenty of other industry events throughout the year that highlight solutions and applications within Mil/Aero test, but AUTOTESTCON hits it right on the head. Besides hosting 50+ exhibitors, the conference offers plentiful education opportunities for anyone in the industry to get the latest on technology developments in Mil/Aero test.

The event was originally scheduled for September, but a large increase in attendance and exhibitors since AUTOTESTCON was booked resulted in a need for additional exhibiting and meeting space, and thus a date change.

Timing with AUTOTESTCON, we at Evaluation Engineering sought to provide our readers with an in-depth report on the topic of Mil/Aero test, asking vendors for their thoughts on trends in technology and the general market, innovation challenges they're facing, customer demands, and what new Mil/Aero solutions they've recently put on the market. Read on to learn what they told us.

What's trending?

What technology or market trends are vendors seeing in the area of Mil/Aero test?

Stephen T. Sargeant, Major General, USAE (Ret.) and CEO of Marvin Test Solutions: "There is a clear trend to consolidate test solutions across multiple platforms by creating common scalable solutions, thereby reducing the overall test footprint and total cost of test. The use of a common test platform has historically been confined to depot test, but this concept is now moving to the flightline and backshop with programs such as BAT (Bomber Armament Tester), which will support all three currently operational USAF bombers at both the organizational and intermediate levels. The MTS-3060A SmartCan Universal O-Level Armament Test Set is another example of a common test set that is already deployed supporting all armament systems on multiple manned and unmanned aircraft including F-16, F-15, F/A-18, T-50, FA-50, Hawk, F-5, and more. We expect the use of common test sets for fighter aircraft, as well as rotary wing and unmanned aircraft, and munition systems to expand in the near future."

"The use of a common software development environment and test executive, which can be leveraged to cover the functional requirements from the flightline to depot, is also gaining traction. A common software development environment can maximize the utilization of resources and training."

David Vondran, Sr. product marketing manager atAstronics Test Systems: "We see a wide variety of test requirements coming from legacy platforms as well as modernized platforms. For instance, tactical radios continue evolving to not only supply secure communication, but higher data rates via software defined radio (SDR) architectures. Subsequently, test must be in front of this technology trend; in particular, the emerging vital need for field test: Returning defective units (or communication systems) to the factory is no longer a viable option. Instead, depot and truly portable test are emerging as strategically important for maintenance activities."

Paolo Colombo, global industry director for aerospace and defense atANSYS: "The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is at a pivotal crossroads, with an exponential number of new technologies and applications like additive manufacturing, advanced electronics, hypersonics, and digital twins changing the way we design, test, sustain, and operate aircraft and weapon systems. This presents a challenge because younger technologies require extensive (and expensive) testing and validation before adoption, yet the pace of innovation is so fast that a technology could become obsolete before it reaches the market. Maintaining technology superiority is paramount today, and slowing down new technology adoption is simply impossible. This requires a holistic view of the product's entire lifecycle and digitalization."

Applications engineers at Amplifier Research: "While test standards are always slow to change, there does seem to be a trend--even if unintentional--to better harmonize Mil/Aero standards. For example, the latest version of MILSTD-461 (G) has incorporated indirect lightning testing (CS117) from DO-160G, as well as ESD testing (CS118). Both standards continue to evolve and take new and emerging technologies and threats into account."

Herman van Eijkelenburg, director of marketing at Pacific Power Source: "Historically, Mil/Aero power systems have been powered with voltages of 115VLN for single-phase and 200VLL for three-phase AC power at 400Hz and 28Vdc for DC power. With the demand for onboard power growing rapidly over the past few years, new power systems using both higher voltages and higher frequencies have been introduced. This includes wild frequency systems with variable frequencies from 360Hz to 800Hz, which simplifies onboard engine driver power generators' mechanical reduction gear requirements. It also involves boosting voltage to support more power without increasing current levels which would require heavier and larger power cable harnesses. AC voltages have risen to 230V/400V, and DC power systems of +/270Vdc are proliferating in new airframes. This trend is driven by what is called the more electric aircraft (MEA), where an increasing number of hydraulic systems are being replaced by electrical systems, which require less maintenance."

Bob Stasonis, technical product specialist at Pickering Interfaces: "Today's Mil/Aero market testing requirements very closely track the commercial industries in terms of increased bandwidth, complexity, and intelligence. Whereas the commercial industry is always abandoning old technology for the "next big thing," the problem--or rather, balancing act--with Mil/Aero test systems is always to have the most up-to-date test system that ALSO supports older defense programs. That increase also emphasizes the need for hardware-in-the-loop simulation (HILS) testing. A weapons system needs to continue to function as predictably as possible when damaged by enemy fire. So, testing LRUs to see how they react in a bad situation calls for HILS applications."

Darren McCarthy, A&D technical marketing manager at Rohde & Schwarz: "A major challenge for Mil-ATE customers is staying vigilant to the latest threats on instrument security. Modern test equipment utilizes the latest computing processing power available and often runs on embedded versions of industry-standard operating systems such as Windows, iOS, and Linux. With modern connectivity of LAN, USB, and even Wi-Fi control in some cases, operating procedures must be maintained to reduce the vulnerability to cyberattacks and an environment free from malicious threats."

Glenn Woppman, CEO of ASSET InterTech: "In terms of ATE testers, continuing to try to standardize and use more commercially available solutions like eCASS tester-leveraging solutions from LM-Star testers."

Blaine Barnard, Sr. manager, military and government product marketing at Tektronix: "With the increase in field-based threats being triggered through RF signals, there is a need to evaluate/ detect specific spectra in the field with ruggedized, portable spectrum analyzers, which enable Mil/Aero engineers to bring greater measurement capability to field and range environments. Increasingly higher frequency designs allow engineers to monitor and detect specialized threats with more confidence."

Nick Butler, head of global aerospace & defense marketing at National Instruments: "On the aerospace side, the "race to space" is heating up with more and more countries planning manned missions to the moon and private entities looking at everything from public space travel to a better way to provide launch services for small satellites. The proposed DoD budget for 2020 even includes funding for a new military branch called U.S. Space Force, which will undertake missions and operations in the rapidly evolving space domain. These developments will be an incredible undertaking for test engineers in the coming months and years as rapid development times will create increased pressure on the test and measurement cycle."


What key challenges are vendors or their partners facing in Mil/Aero test?

Sargeant, Marvin Test Solutions: "Product life cycle management continues to be a concern as aircraft are facing service life extension programs (SLEP). These SLEP efforts often add smart weapons and armament and demand more advanced maintenance test equipment. The support equipment is often overlooked, forcing maintainers to launch sorties without the benefit of new, technologically enhanced test sets. Selecting a maintenance test solution provider that understands the operational requirements of advanced weapons and armament is critical. The limited funding available to procure advanced maintenance test support equipment makes it imperative that an aerospace test & measurement company be involved. Aerospace test & measurement companies understand the necessity to provide support for the life of the SLEP'd aircraft fleet's new test equipment--if procured--as there will typically not be additional funding available, once purchased to upgrade or replace the test sets that non-aerospace test companies allow to become obsolete soon after they are fielded."

Vondran, Astronics: "Using tactical radios as an example, support for secure modulation waveforms impose higher performance prerequisites on the requisite test architecture. To complicate matters, tactical radios also trend for more test data to identify outliers and/ or latent defects. The trickle-down effect to field test is higher performance instrumentation with greater spectral purity, more precise amplitude/phase readouts, faster automated measurements, and provisions to simulate more crowded spectrums for interference issues. There are additional practical test issues to consider in the field as it pertains to cables, connectors, antennas, and other sources of environmental contamination. Quickly finding and repairing defect mechanisms is becoming more complex and timeconsuming--not just in the depot--but also field (ideally using the same automation software). With that said, providing portable, easy-to-use, and rugged tools across various user scenarios also represents a key challenge to ensuring secure communications."

Amplifier Research: "One of the most challenging aspects of Mil/Aero testing is achieving the required radiated immunity field strengths. These sectors often require the highest field strengths as the equipment under test are used in the most severe environments. When it comes to generating these required extreme field strengths, the equipment required to do so are often pushing the electrical and physical boundaries of available technology. Enormous amounts of power are required to be delivered to antennas to generate the thousands of volts per meter required by Mil/Aero test standards. The amplifiers that generate this power are significant undertakings."

Colombo, ANSYS: "There are many challenges. One is integration, as we are moving from a siloed view of the assets' lifecycle to a more integrated one. Digital and physical testing will complement each other much more, both concurring to assets' validation and certification. It's important to understand and embrace this revolution because it offers huge growth opportunities for those who will be able to operate in partnership."

Butler, National Instruments: "Digital transformation--the need to acquire, process, store and analyze extremely large amounts of data to extract insights that will improve operational efficiency, as well as the need to connect and remotely manage dozens--to potentially thousands--of test assets and systems across the enterprise. This introduces challenges in terms of security, process management, and cross functional collaboration."

Barnard, Tektronix: "All Mil/Aero test vendors face the challenge of presenting next-generation testing capabilities--higher bandwidths, sharper software, more advanced triggers, etc.--to Mil/Aero customers in a product architecture that is going to be available for program support over a long period of time; sometimes as much as a decade or more."

Eijkelenburg, Pacific Power Source: "One of the biggest challenges our Mil/Aero customers face is the need to support existing test platforms much longer than originally planned. Test platforms are not being replaced in a timely matter, due to budget constraints. This is shifting increased focus from developing new test systems to upgrading and supporting existing aging testers. As a result, T&M equipment manufacturers are asked to support their products for long periods of time--far longer than would be the case for industrial or commercial use test systems."

Stasonis, Pickering: "Many Mil/Aero test systems need to migrate from existing obsolete VXI-based test systems to modern, well-supported platforms such as PXI and LXI. We have a cross reference chart on our web site that offers PXI-based replacements for the popular VXI switch modules of the 1990s and early 2000s. Security is an important issue for Mil/ Aero Applications. As our modules carry minimal memory and rely on the system PC to do the "heavy lifting," it is relatively simple to clear the memory, ensuring that no sensitive information can be carried out of the test environment."

Woppman, ASSET InterTsch: "Unknown potential risk due to industry consolidation and its impact. With Raytheon and UTC, plus L-3 and Harris, and potentially others, it is not certain what risks might be posed for the test vendors."

McCarthy, Rohde & Schwarz: "To support our customers, it is incumbent for test equipment suppliers like Rohde & Schwarz to provide users with the necessary tools to demonstrate compliance with security procedures. This includes hardware, software, and documentation such as:

* USB mass memory write protection option

* Security write protection for solid-state drives options

* Removable hard drives

* Instrument security and erasure procedures

* Write protection utility installation procedures for each operating system

* A letter of volatility"

What are customers asking for?

What features or innovations are customers asking for in Mil/Aero test?

Sargeant, Marvin Test Solutions: "Customers are often seeking innovative test solutions that can quickly and accurately diagnose problems with increasingly complex and sophisticated aircraft armament and munitions. In addition, many of these same customers face major obsolescence issues, as they are being asked to extend the service life of existing aircraft with advanced armament and weapons--placing further demands on maintainers forced to use outmoded and obsolete test sets. MTS' focus is on delivering solutions enabling common maintenance test equipment that can support multiple aircraft across all maintenance levels, thus streamlining logistics and training."

R&D, quality assurance, test labs, and production engineers at Kikusui Electronics: "The frequency used in aircraft (at the generator) was 400 Hz in the past, but recent models are using variable frequency of 360-800 Hz. Some defense-related aircraft demands test frequency of 2-3 kHz. At the same time, we see increasing demand on power capacity based on the MEA trend. In order to provide high quality output with low distortion for evaluation test even at a higher frequency and higher power, we redeveloped our circuit design and were still able to keep the footprint small."

Vondran, Astronics: "In depot settings, the automation of electrical test simplifies maintenance activities and enables maximum up-time of the tested platform. As defect mechanisms become more complex, the test solutions must evolve to maintain ease-of-use while reliably finding faults. Depot test needs suppliers to ruggedize, automate, and optimize solutions to last longer, which is fueling the shift to modular instrumentation. Depot test or backshop testing of field return devices frequently reveals no fault found (NFF) or cannot duplicate (CND) results (i.e., the radio is working properly). In this case, the root cause of the original fault lies elsewhere in the field. Moving a more resilient analysis closer to the original diagnostic can minimize the NFF/CND problem. A truly portable solution is necessary to simplify maintenance activities to find the root cause."

Amplifier Research: "Customers continue to ask for full turnkey systems and full automation of said systems. While it is difficult to automate some of the tests required per Mil/Aero standards, it is a challenge that test equipment manufacturers have to overcome. To better suit the market, equipment manufacturers and integrators are finding new ways to better integrate equipment into more easy-to-use packages."

Butler, National Instruments: "In areas like RADAR and EW, customer require things such as:

* Multichannel, phase-coherent RF measurements in frequency bands up to 40+GHz

* The ability to stream large amounts of data across a bus, backplane, or even over-the-air

* The capability to perform real-time, deterministic, inline signal processing on multiple channels in parallel

* The ability to create or simulate dozens to potentially thousands of multi-emitter scenarios to test and validate RADAR or EW system performance

* High dynamic range to detect both large and small signals within a single system

* High instantaneous bandwidth to be able to monitor, process, and/or create signals across a wide spectrum of frequencies simultaneously"

Colombo, ANSYS: "From our point of view, customers want to speed up the technology insertion and certification systems, which grow in complexity year-after-year. Take the F-35, for example. It has 177 times more software on board than the F-16, with a development effort estimated to be 298 times greater. This software is supervising critical activities, so it must be verified and tested in every possible situation. The next generation of aircraft will be even more complex: testing can only be digital. Another important request involves evaluating COTS parts to ensure they can be used in a warfare environment with confidence."

Eijkelenburg, Pacific Power Source: "Customers are asking for more flexible programmable power solutions that not only support higher power levels found in newer airframes, but also higher voltage ranges and the ability to test both AC and DC power systems."

Stasonis, Pickering: "Diagnostics--As switching is primarily a mechanical environment, it is possible that a switching system can be damaged by events such as a mistake when generating the test code or the testing of a defective DUT. To facilitate the timely field repair of a damaged switch module, Pickering offers BIRST (Built-In Relay Self-Test) at no extra cost on many of our high-density switching matrices."

McCarthy, Rohde & Schwarz: "Support for beamforming and antenna array measurements from the IC test, to the T/R module, and even including over-the-air testing. Fielding new technologies such as the multifunction radar or phased-array LEO tracking antennas is one of the biggest challenges facing the aerospace and defense industry."

Woppman, ASSETInterTech: "We are beginning to see adoption of fast in-system programming solutions as memory size increases."

Barnard, Tektronix: "1) Ruggedized, portable systems for field and range testing applications. Increased channel counts and frequency are of related importance to many range-focused Mil/Aero customers. 2) Recording capabilities that enable extended logging of real-time RF I & Q data at high bandwidths. 3) Advanced triggers that allow real-time spectrum analyzers to detect spurious, intermittent, or anomalous signals that swept-tuned instruments will miss."

Now on the market

Here are the Mil/Aero test solutions that vendors told us they've recently made available.

Sargeant, Marvin Test Solutions: "Flightline test continues to evolve with the enhanced capabilities delivered by our SmartCan Gen2 Universal O-Level Armament Test Set (MTS-3060A). The choice of an ever-growing number of customers worldwide for O-Level test of both smart and legacy armament systems, the SmartCan replaces multiple inadequate or obsolete test sets with an easy-to-use handheld test solution. The MTS-3060A provides increased test functionality, expanded weapons capability, enhanced cybersecurity, extended battery life, and more communication channels than any other handheld armament test solution on the flightline today. The ability to test the functionality of the MIL-STD 1760 Bus, combined with the simultaneous testing of multiple squib signals and a unique cross-fire algorithm, provides a robust test process that is superior to the single-channel or dual-channel methods offered by legacy test systems."

Vondran, Astronics: We've grown our portfolio of PXI based instrumentation for depot-level legacy support systems. With the introduction of the ATS-3100 PXI integration platform, we've empowered our Mil/Aero customers with a path to customize test solutions in a modular and easily reproducible fashion. The recent development of the ATS-6100 portable platform, including the wire fault test (ATS-6100 WFT) solution is directly targeted to support field level test for cabling and other signal-based issues plaguing the aging fleet of aircraft in service today. Our radio testing capability continues to evolve through our software-defined test applications capability."

Amplifier Research: "AR has developed the AA series of field generating products for producing high-frequency, low-level electric fields. For traditional test configurations, today's current market requires expensive solid-state or TWT amplifiers to generate field strengths of 20-50 V/m from 18-40 GHz. These are the same amps that are used for generating 200 V/m. Rather than requiring customers to pay for power they don't need, the AA series products are a fraction of the cost of traditional amp/antenna solutions, while offering greater reliability than TWT amplifiers."

Colombo, ANSYS: "ANSYS recently acquired DfR Solutions, an engineering consultant that owned Sherlock, the industry's only automated design reliability analysis software. Currently, electronics reliability analysis is often skipped or performed late in the product design process. Our Sherlock Automated Design Analysis software offers a unique, fully validated, turnkey solution for analyzing the physics of failure for a wide variety of electronics systems and components. Using independently validated algorithms, engineers can subject their products to virtual constant temperature, thermal cycling, power-temperature cycling, thermal shock, random vibration, harmonic vibration, mechanical shock, and flexure to help ensure manufacturability and maximize product lifespan."

Barnard, Tektronix: "Tektronix recently upgraded its flagship RSA7100 real-time spectrum analyzer with time-qualified triggers in response to Mil/Aero customer feedback. We also increased the frequency of our field-portable, ruggedized spectrum analyzer (RSA518A) to 18 GHz. Last but not least, Tektronix added the AWG70000B Arbitrary Waveform Generator with new capabilities for more dynamic sequencing of waveforms and deep memory options for long-duration radar pulse generation."

Kikusui: "We recently launched PCR-WE/ WE2, which is a new series of multifunctional switching AC power supplies that combines accurate, high power output and ultra-compact design. The 15 model lineup ranges from 1 kVA to 36 kVA AC/ DC with single- & three-phase variable output from 6 kVA and up. The PCR-WE/ WE2 also features a regenerative mode that can drastically reduce power consumption and cut the costs of operation. The PCR-WE/WE2 also supports mixand-match parallel operation up to 144 kVA for large-scale test systems. Output frequency up to 5 kHz is also available with all models for critical AC applications in the avionic industries."

Eijkelenburg, Pacific Power Source: "Our new AFX Series of AC and DC power sources fits the need for more flexible, capable and higher power programmable test solutions. With a power density of 15kW in only 4U (7 inch) or ATE rack space, the AFX Series is unchallenged on price, performance, and power density in the industry. A modular architecture supports power systems ranging from as little as 6kVA to as much as 180kVA, all using the same redundant units. This provides incredible flexibility to the end user."

McCarthy, Rohde & Schwarz: "The R&S ZNBT is the first multiport VNA offering up to 24 integrated test ports. The instrument can simultaneously test multiple DUTs or measure one DUT with up to 24 ports, and now with frequencies to 40 GHz. The R&S ZNBT offers short measurement times, even in scenarios with a large number of ports. Other highlights include a wide dynamic range, high output power levels and inputs featuring high power-handling capacity making this ideal for easy integration into automated test systems for testing phased-array antenna measurements."

Woppman, ASSET InterTech: "Recently, we launched the ScanWorks PFx product line that supports SoCs with at-speed testing, fast device programming, and memory-tuning validation. This adds more value, in terms of increasing test coverage complementing boundary-scan test shorts/opens testing. Initial SoC support is for the Xilinx Zynq and NXP i.MX families that are being designed into new defense projects."

Butler, National Instruments: "NI recently launched a vector signal transceiver extending the frequency range up to 40GHz. With an on-board FPGA and VNA/generation capabilities, this product opensup several new frontiers for NI. What differentiates this product is its capability to make real-time measurements on wideband signals and run complex models on its FPGAs to simulate real-world operational scenarios for system-level validation of RADAR and EW systems."

Keysight Technologies: "On May 31, Keysight announced its new N5511A Phase Noise Test System models that enable users to optimize and prove performance of new designs, and meet operational requirements, as well as remain on schedule and on budget. The N5511A is geared for power users, including professionals responsible for developing high-performance aerospace and defense applications, as well as cutting-edge device characterization for 5G and other wireless communication systems--all areas with a need to validate the phase noise performance of their designs."

By Mike Hockett, Editor-in-Chief

Caption: Marvin Test Solutions' PATS-70 on the flightline.

Caption: Pacific Power Source's 3150AFX AC and DC programmable power source.

Caption: Tektronix' RSA7100A real-time spectrum analyzer.

Caption: Marvin Test Solutions' MTS-209 Common Armament Test Set.

Caption: Astronics Test Systems' ATS-3100PXI Integration Platform.

Caption: Amplifier Research's Radiated Immunity Test System.

Caption: Rohde & Schwarz' R&S FSVA3000 signal and spectrum analyzer.

Caption: A VXI vs. PXI comparison graphic from Pickering Interfaces.

Caption: Tektronix' RSA518 ruggedized spectrum analyzer.

Caption: Kikusui's PCRWE/WE2 series of ultra-compact programmable AC/DC power supplies.

Caption: National Instruments' PXIe-5831 vector signal transceiver.

Caption: Keysight's new N5511A Phase Noise Test System.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT
Author:Hockett, Mike
Publication:EE-Evaluation Engineering
Date:Aug 1, 2019
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