Radstone board used in Firefinder upgrade

Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. Electronic Systems division in Rolling Meadows, Ill., needed a digital signal processor (DSP) board to re-engineer the radar signal processing system of the U.S. Army Raytheon Firefinder radar.

Th Mae72223 18

Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. Electronic Systems division in Rolling Meadows, Ill., needed a digital signal processor (DSP) board to re-engineer the radar signal processing system of the U.S. Army Raytheon Firefinder radar.

The VSP-1 vector DSP board from Radstone Technology in Towcester, England, met their needs. The VSP-1 is based on the Intel i860 DSP chip.

The VSP-1 "has been utterly reliable," says Walter Steck, program manager for the Firefinder at Northrop Grumman. "We have been operating these boards for three and a half years. In the development labs, in prototype models, and through complete environment testing, we have not had a single failure of the Radstone elements of the system. Not one."

The U.S. Army Raytheon AN/TPQ-36 and AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder systems search the sky with radar for incoming mortar rounds, artillery shells, and rockets. If the radar detects a projectile, the radar stores the target`s range and altitude compares that information with the previously stored data.

Firefinder calculates the trajectory, identifies the object, and interpolates the information to predict the launch point. Firefinder then transmits this information to a counterfire battery, which seeks to destroy the target`s launcher.

The AN/TPQ-36 has a range of nearly 15 miles. The AN/TPQ-37, which does the same job to a range of 31 miles, is especially good at defending against heavy artillery and rocket fire.

Engineers from Radstone Technology teamed with specialists from Sky Computers of Chelmsford, Mass. - using a commercially-developed Sky product called Skybolt Shamrock 6U VME DSP board - to redesign the vector signal processor in the Firefinder`s operator control group, which provides the computer power for radar signal processing and other functions that control the radar.

The vector signal processor performs calculations necessary to classify incoming projectiles and predict their point of discharge. Radstone militarized the Sky device to meet environmental requirements the Firefinder upgrade.

Radstone officials who normally would prefer to offer ruggedized DSP boards of their own design, ""were familiar with Sky`s technology" and the Firefinder contract represented a large amount of business for Radstone, says Ken Tomkinson, DSP and graphics business manager at Radstone.

Northrop Grumman used the militarized Skybolt Shamrock to meet the specified maximum board dissipation of 30 watts and the maximum temperature of 85 degrees Celsius at the board`s coldwall thermal interface, while providing a minimum sustained level of 160 million floating point operations per second on each board.

Northrop Grumman engineers first used the commercial-grade Skybolt Shamrock board for software development, then plugged the first Radstone unit into the production Firefinder chassis and loaded the software.

Four VSP-1 boards sit in the signal-processing unit. Communications flow over MXE Ethernet links. The system also has a Radstone CPU-44 controller board, which manages the overall signal processing function, and a Radstone PIO-2 parallel I/O board that handles alarm functions.

"We have comfortably exceeded the performance requirements and, at the same time, we have reduced the size and weight of the radar signal processor by a factor of nearly six," Steck says. "It is now in a small box rather than a whole stack of electronic cards on an 8-foot rack."

The VSP-1 will not be as popular as SHARC-based DSP boards because the i860 is an old technology. Still, companies have a lot of i860 code and want something compatible, Tomkinson says.

Most customers who want Radstone`s SHARC products are looking for performance in the 1 billion to 1.5 billion floating point operations per second range, he says.

Northrop Grumman officials won an Army contract in 1996 to build 58 Fire-finder systems for the Army and the U.S. Marine Corps. The first systems will be deployed towards the end of this year. -- J.M.

For more information on Radstone`s DSP products contact Ken Tomkinson by phone at 011-44-1327-359-444, by fax at 011-44-1327-358-112, by mail at Radstone Technology PLC, Water Lane, Towcester, Northants, England NN12 6LN, by e-mail at tomkinson@radstone.co.uk, or on the World Wide Web at http://www. radstone.co.uk.

Click here to enlarge image

The VSP-1 vector digital signal processor board from Radstone Technology was used to re-engineer the radar signal processing system of the U.S. Army`s Firefinder radar.

More in Computers