Open Source SDR: a Faster, Better Way to Develop and Deploy EW Capabilities

February 08, 2022

Open Source SDR: a Faster, Better Way to Develop and Deploy EW Capabilities

Published in Military Embedded Systems
Written by Chad Augustine and Haydn Nelson

Maintaining dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum has never been more critical to mission success. The challenge facing system designers is how to accelerate the transition of new communications and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities from concept to the laboratory and then expedite the deployment of those new capabilities to the warfighter.

Delivering new wireless technology for defense applications requires significant time and cost to experiment, engineer, and iterate novel techniques. For example, software-defined radio (SDR) system designers typically develop and test novel wireless, sensing, and electronic warfare (EW) methods on the very same rugged and costly SDR mission system hardware on which those waveforms, such as MUOS, SINCGARS, and MN-MIMO, will be deployed. This approach increases development schedules while reducing engineering flexibility and often locks the developer into a vendor’s very specific software framework.

A new breakthrough approach for SDR waveform development offers a better way by leveraging proven commercial SDR USRP [Universal Software Radio Peripheral] technology for lab development. Originally developed by Ettus Research, commercial USRPs are tunable hardware transceivers containing FPGA [field-programmable gate array] and processor resources that, when connected to a computer, provide engineers with access to the electromagnetic spectrum with the use of open-source software tools. By leveraging USRP hardware, the resulting waveforms can then be seamlessly deployed on rugged 3U OpenVPX boards aligned to the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA) Technical Standard or aligned to C5ISR/Electronic Warfare Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS). Now, they are based on the exact same USRP architecture as the lab system on which they were developed.

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What is Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA)?

The SOSA Technical Standard defines a common framework for transitioning sensor systems to an open systems architecture. The SOSA standard leverages OpenVPX to define card profiles with specifications for features such as pinouts, Ethernet capabilities, and serial ports.

VPX3-E320 Ruggedized Universal Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

The VPX3-E320 3U VPX ruggedized, user-programmable software-defined radio card is ideal for low-to-medium bandwidth RF applications and aligned to SOSA and U.S. Army’s C5ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) Technical Standards.