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Key trends include migration, modularity, interoperability, and long-term support


核心提示:Military and aerospace applications present significant test challenges, which companies are addressing with products in
 Military and aerospace applications present significant test challenges, which companies are addressing with products including a wide variety of software tools, instruments, modules, and systems. The specific application areas are diverse, ranging from shipboard power to rocket telemetry and from spectrum management to smart weapons. But common themes emerge: Cost is critical, but so too are the needs for long-term support; modular, open architectures; migration from legacy to new platforms; more power in smaller form factors; and interoperability.

According to Marvin Test Solution’s CEO, Major General Stephen T. Sargeant, USAF (Ret.), “We see an ongoing trend in the industry to move to open, modular test-system architectures. Whether on the flightline, depot, or manufacturing floor, systems-based standards, such as PXI, continue to be the dominant platform because they offer value, performance, and a compact footprint. Additionally, we see user-programmable FPGAs as a key enabler for those users needing customized solutions for specific applications. The performance and capabilities of today’s FPGA devices are key enablers for instrument suppliers and test system users alike. Finally, cybersecurity is a growing concern, and we are adding secure features to both our hardware and software offerings.”

Bob Stasonis, director of sales and marketing at Pickering Interfaces, sees various trends, including VXI to PXI migration, with users updating old VXI systems to new PXI versions with the same functionality—with long-term support. He also sees requirements for higher voltages—greater than 1 kV—and an increase in fault-insertion requirements, driven by increased channel count and the number of fault lines required. “Our BRIC PXI Fault Insertion matrix was designed to be scalable for these requirements,” he said.

“Many of the prime contractors are outsourcing test to third parties,” Stasonis continued. “For this reason, switching vendors need to be in more places than ever before.”

And of course, “Budget is always an issue!” emphasized Norton Alderson, vice president of marketing at Universal Switching Corp. Commenting on recent U.S. government moves, he said, “Perhaps now that a real budget has been passed, the debt ceiling increased, and ‘sequestration’ spending limits removed, we’ll see more activity and actual buys. The last few years have been difficult with continuing resolutions. With the uncertainty of continuing resolutions, program managers try to keep the people they need, and wait to make hardware buys and other improvements.”

Herman vanEijkelenburg, director of marketing at Pacific Power Source, cited a common trend in military and aerospace markets. “One of the biggest challenges our MIL/Aero customers face is the need to support existing test platforms much longer than originally planned,” he said. “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, test and measurement 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. In the case of Pacific Power Source, several of our programmable AC power sources have been deployed in these ATE systems for 30+ years, and we continue to support these with service, spares, upgrades, and in many cases new production units. One key advantage PPS offers is a common user interface and programming syntax across its entire product line, making upgrades easy without impacting TPSs.”

vanEijkelenburg commented on products the company offers for MIL/aero applications. For example, “Pacific Power Source recently launched its all new digital-platform-based AFX Series high-power, programmable AC and DC power-source systems,” he said. “These power sources offer superior power density and a smaller footprint than other productS starting at 6 kW on the market today. This allows legacy MIL/areo ATE systems to receive significant power upgrades to meet growing power needs without the need to redesign or relayout cabinets to make room for bigger supplies.” Figure 1 shows an AFX source.

Figure 1. AFX high-power programmable source
Courtesy of Pacific Power Source

He added that the company offers a range of single-phase and three-phase switch-mode AC as well as AC+DC programmable power sources for MIL/aero test customers. “For the most-demanding applications, we also offer a complete line of linear AC sources,” he said. “Other manufacturers have mostly abandoned linear, but their super-quiet output and high peak current delivery capabilities are still unmatched by any switch-mode power source.” He added that the company also offers a large software library for MIL/aero power compliance testing to standards like MIL-STD-704 and DO-160-16 for both AC and DC power applications.

Shrinking footprint

According to Jon Semancik, director of marketing, AMETEK VTI Instruments Inc., “Space will always be at a premium, especially for shipboard applications, so people will continue their efforts to reduce their test-system footprint. For example, smaller form-factor power supplies offer opportunities to save space within a system. Our AMETEK Asterion AC power supplies can pack the same capability into a 1U or 2U form factor that once required a 3U or 4U form factor. Modularity and commonality/reuse across test systems will also be important because the availability of spares is critical; given the limited amount of storage space available in shipboard environments, if a system goes down, and you can’t install a spare quickly and efficiently, it can impact a mission-critical function.”

Semancik described the Asterion (Figure 2) as a 3-kVA high-power AC source that offers high power density and touchscreen simplicity. He said other recently introduced products from AMETEK with MIL/aero test applicability include the EX1401 thermocouple/voltage instrument, which offers high accuracy and speed, signal isolation, and Power Over Ethernet+; EXLab Express, an easy-to-use plug-and-play data-acquisition software package that allows users of the EX1401 to acquire data without programming; and the EMX-75XX Series PXI Express digital I/O modules, which expand the company’s Core Automated Test Equipment (Core ATE) PXIe functional-test platform.

Figure 2. Asterion AC power supplies
Courtesy of AMETEK

Software for MIL/aero test

Marvin Test Solutions offers a variety of products for military and aerospace applications, including its flagship ATEasy software. ATEasy has hundreds of applications in the commercial space, as described in the article beginning on p. 14, but also serves to automate test applications for the flightline, intermediate level, and depot as well as manufacturing environments, according to Ron Yazma, VP of software engineering for Marvin Test Solutions and the architect of ATEasy.

“Specifically, these test systems are used to test and verify a wide range of mission-critical products including satellite, aircraft, avionics, armament, and munitions,” Yazma said. “Specific examples include comprehensive testing of Hellfire, Maverick, and other ‘smart’ munition systems.”

The company is also using ATEasy to support handheld flightline testers such as its MTS-3060 SmartCan handheld universal O-Level armament test set (Figure 3), which is capable of testing both legacy and “smart” MIL-STD-1760-based weapons systems. “ATEasy is used to develop the TPS, which is then compiled and executed on an ARM-based embedded operating system,” Yazma said. “By employing ATEasy as the development environment, TPS development and deployment can be achieved in a very small amount of time and with minimal effort—enhancing the value and flexibility of the SmartCan product.”

Figure 3. MTS-3060 SmartCan handheld universal O-Level armament test set
Courtesy of Marvin Test Solutions

Yazma said all MIL/aero applications require functional test, and that ATEasy’s framework is designed specifically for complex functional test applications that can require significant development time. “The framework presents to the test engineer a TRD [Test Requirement Document] environment that offers a standardized, consistent framework for all test engineers, regardless of the test program or application they may be developing,” Yazma said. “The TPS development process, regardless of complexity, offers an incremental and rapid test-development process that allows the test engineer to easily test small portions of the application using the DoIt! or TestIt! tools, avoiding long development cycles and facilitating deployment of the test applications. ATEasy’s programming environment is also flexible and easy to use for both test engineers and software engineers, facilitating the productivity and efficiency of test-development teams.”

Marvin Test Solutions in January announced that it has received new contracts for its SmartCan from multiple international customers to support armament systems test on different platforms. When deployed, the SmartCan’s international customer list will grow to 12 countries using eight different aircraft of various types and blocks. The new SmartCan contracts cover F/A-18, Hawk, F-16, and F-15 as well as the first Army test application.

MTS CEO Sargeant has frequently commented on the armament test gap.1 When asked if these orders suggest a closing of the gap, he replied, “Yes, we are seeing a strong uptick in orders for the SmartCan from both domestic and international customers. With the ongoing acceptance and migration to more sophisticated armament systems and munitions, operators are now realizing that making do with obsolete legacy flightline test solutions is not viable.”

Sargeant explained that the 1760 bus is critical to the effective operation of smart weapons and that in 2018, the SmartCan provides armament test that confirms not only the absence of stray voltage and good continuity or wiring, but the actual functionality of the MIL-STD-1760 bus. “No other handheld armament test set today checks the functioning of the 1760 bus, and that makes the SmartCan our most sought-after test set,” he said.

In related news, the company announced in January that it is a member of the BAE Systems-led team that won the U.S. Air Force Bomber Armament Tester (BAT) program competition in September 2017. The BAT will be the U.S. Air Force’s common armament tester for the B-1B, B-2A, and B-52H, supporting flightline and intermediate-level testing of all bomb ejector racks, rotary launchers, and pylon assemblies used by the nation’s bomber fleet. MTS will be a significant provider of hardware, software, and design support for the BAT Core Tester. In addition, in February the company announced that it has been awarded an $8.6 million Firm-Fixed-Price (FFP) contract by the U.S. Air Force to provide chassis and instrumentation for the production of PATS-70A test sets used for O-Level and I-Level maintenance of A-10/C aircraft, as well as upgrade kits for existing PATS-70 test sets to the PATS-70A configuration. Work will be performed at the company’s Irvine, CA, facility with expected completion by mid-2019.


Drilling down on migration, Stasonis said Pickering Interfaces realizes that the MIL/aero test market needs to migrate from existing obsolete VXI-based test systems to a well-supported platform such as PXI or LXI. “We have a cross-reference chart on our web site that offers PXI-based alternatives for the popular VXI switch modules of the 1990s,” he said. “For example, our PXI models 40-139-101, 40-161-101, and 40-755-010 are a good fit for many popular VXI switch modules. As our PXI switch modules function in our modular LXI chassis (models 60-102, 60-103, 60-104, and 60-105), we can migrate VXI applications to either PXI or LXI.” Figure 4 shows LXI chassis.

Figure 4. LXI chassis
Courtesy of Pickering Interfaces

He added that Pickering offers software drivers that support all major operating systems, including Linux, and most popular programing environments. “For very complex switching applications, our Switch Path Manager signal-routing software can create complex switch commands by just defining the end points, manage multiple switch paths simultaneously, and protect against accidental shorts to ground or VCC,” he said. “The switching calculations are faster than our competitors and repeatable, ensuring more accurate testing.”

Stasonis cited another issue related to test and switching. “When creating a test system, one of the more tedious portions of testing is designing cabling between the instruments, switching system, and the DUT,” he said. “Pickering is the only switching manufacturer that provides cables, breakouts, and connectors for all our modules. If a custom cable is required, our free online cable design tool lets the test engineer select connector types (even for our competitor’s products), wire types and lengths, and cable markings in a drag-and-drop environment. Once complete, the user can print out a complete datasheet of their design. From there, Pickering can quote the cable assembly, or you can even submit your datasheet to another company for a competitive quote.”

A final topic Stasonis commented on is diagnostics. “As switching is primarily a mechanical environment, it is possible that the switching system could be damaged by either a bad piece of test code or even a defective DUT,” he said. “To address this, Pickering offers BIRST (Built-In Relay Self-Test) at no extra cost on many of our high-density switching modules. For other switch modules, we have our eBIRST test tools—these are optional external tools that connect to the front panel of the module and look for defective relays. Both BIRST and eBIRST provide high accuracy diagnostics and graphical display of the location of the defective relay.”

Switch and distribution matrix

When asked what products Universal Switching has introduced recently for MIL/aero applications, Alderson said, “We just introduced a brand-new precision switch and distribution matrix that typically is used in a testing environment such as a laboratory or a test/evaluation location.” He described the product as a 64×64 matrix with high-impedance differential inputs and single-ended outputs. It handles signals up to ±10 V. Input impedance is greater than 1 MΩ. “Our first client is NASA Langley,” he said.

When asked what is unique about the company’s MIL/aero test capability, he said, “We have a DC to 18-GHz matrix that provides for user-replaceable relay elements in just a minute or two. Our MS2010A units are only 2RU high with a proprietary relay element developed by Universal Switching that can be replaced with a simple hand-tool. A matrix like this can be used to connect up to 12 inputs to any 12 outputs with 1:1 connectivity, greater than 100-dB isolation, and minimal loss or signal degradation. The application limits for this unit are determined by the imagination of the test engineer. Other competitors may provide the connectivity function, but without user replaceable elements and with two to three times the rack space. We also provide internal counters of relay actuation so replacement of a relay element can be planned for from extended usage prior to EOL.”

Spectrum interference

Spectrum usage is a key area of interest for Tektronix. “Spectrum interference continues to grow as many authorized users must share a congested spectrum between systems employing dynamic spectrum accessibility as well as other nonauthorized users’ encroachment within the operational system frequency,” said Debbie Nielsen, military/government segment manager at Tektronix. “Proactive management and the control of the occupied spectrum in military operations has a significant and direct impact on mission readiness and successful operations, presenting a unique challenge for engineers on the range or performing outdoor testing to have real-time situational awareness and the ability to ‘Detect, ID, and Record’ important events in real time.”

Describing Tektronix products that can address the challenges, she said, “The portable, ruggedized RSA300/RSA500 Series analyzers combined with DataVu-PC software allow you to create very long recordings, with the ability to manage the large data for efficient post-analysis.”

DataVu-PC (Figure 5), she said, allows users to configure dual RSA300/RSA500s to detect, identify, record, and analyze signals of interest (SOIs), using one of the analyzer’s sweep of several spans per second to capture hard-to-detect or low probability of intercept (LPI) signals. “Once detected, the second analyzer provides a higher fidelity, real-time capture and record, while analyzing only the signal of interest,” she added. “DataVu-PC hosts the ability to record for any required length or duration, providing tools enhanced by a multithreaded core capability to quickly find important events within the data.”

Figure 5. DataVu-PC software targeting an infrequently hopping signal
Courtesy of Tektronix

She noted that DataVu-PC provides search tools enabling easy navigation and replay of select portions of recorded events based on unique time- or frequency-domain criteria, such as power-threshold search, frequency-mask search, and pulse-qualified search, as well as the ability to see the entire recording in a power-vs.-time overview. “Once important events in time are discovered, DataVu-PC allows you to save only the selections you care about in compatible format to perform in-depth analyses later,” she said. “Large files are not a problem, as DataVu-PC takes advantage of multicore/multiprocessors to enable fast searches through large data files to find signals of interest quickly.”

Nielsen concluded, “Having the enhanced resources to ‘search wide and analyze narrow’ using the dual RSA/DataVu-PC configuration solves many of the challenges regarding live recording and monitoring for test accountability during range operations or outdoor evaluations of a military system.”

Radio interoperability

According to Ken Carolus, business development lead at Keysight Technologies, MIL/aero customers are looking for improved interoperability between systems by connecting radios to a broadband network. He also sees a trend toward modernization of communications equipment for first responders and toward enabling advanced communications and capabilities in radios, including video plus data plus voice. Throughout 2018, he sees a trend
toward growth in LTE-TDD-capable radios for FirstNet public-safety radios.

To address the trends Carolus has identified, Keysight offers the M8920A PXIe radio test set, which features a scalable modular architecture for efficient and comprehensive testing for manufacturing and depot testing (Figure 6). “This test set supports APCO25 and other analog/digital formats and connectivity standards (LTE, WLAN, etc.),” Carolus said. “You can test from 100 kHz to 6 GHz with modulation bandwidths up to 160 MHz for complex waveforms. Keysight’s M8920A PXIe Radio Test Set combines hardware with software in a flexible scalable chassis, providing broad multiformat coverage for current and next-generation radio testing.” When asked about unique features of Keysight’s product portfolio for MIL/aero test, he said it allows testing of LMR analog/digital radios with WLAN, LTE, and Bluetooth capabilities, as well as MilCom radios with custom waveform formats.
The International Wireless Communications Expo March 5-9 in Orlando offered Keysight an opportunity to highlight the M8920A as well as 18- and 50-GHz versions of the FieldFox analyzer, the N9344C 20-GHz handheld spectrum analyzer, the U2042XA USB power sensor, and an electrical calibration module.

Figure 6. M8920A PXIe radio test set with N9093 radio test software
Courtesy of Keysight Technologies

Optical networking for weapons

Optical networking for weapon systems has been a focus of Teradyne’s Defense and Aerospace Group. Optical networking is central to recent platforms such as the F-35 and F-22 as well as upgrades to legacy systems such as the F/A-18, EC-130H, and C-17, according to Tony Erwin, a product manager in the group. But while the use of optically networked assemblies in defense and aerospace weapon systems is growing rapidly, “…the optical test capabilities of the associated ATE is generally inadequate to provide critical fault detection,” he writes in the article in this issue. Further, he adds, whereas two decades ago, defense and aerospace test systems were able to employ much the same optical instrumentation as commercial applications, “…defense and aerospace test requirements have evolved, and existing equipment and techniques are inadequate to ensure proper optical network operation.”

To address the issue, Teradyne has introduced its VERTA optical power-management and switching instrumentation, which supports link-integrity test, optical power management, and concurrent and parallel test. VERTA instruments consist of foundations and I/O modules. For each instrument, a foundation provides power, cooling, and an LXI interface along with switching to interconnect the I/O modules. The I/O modules, in turn, provide switching to connect UUT ports to bus instruments.

I/O modules include a basic multiprotocol switch module with switching capabilities provided by standard Small Form-Factor Pluggable (SFP/SFP+) transceivers. The optical power and switch module provides optical power control and measurement plus matrix switching. And the wide-range power module features an optical-to-optical capability with a 35-dB power range for measurement output and control.

Functional test

Functional test is a focus of AMETEK VTI Instruments. “Functional testing of complex systems requires flexible automated test systems that can be adapted for a variety of Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) and subassemblies,” said Semancik. “AMETEK VTI Instruments’ functional test solutions are widely used to test the most complex test structures and electronics in the world.”

Yet another focus is product longevity. “Committing to production and support cycles that last 15 to 20 years and beyond is a commonplace requirement for defense and aerospace applications, where obsolete hardware can force costly redesigns,” Semancik said. “AMETEK VTI Instruments has a proven track record of successful installations in test systems that were designed more than a decade ago and are still in production. In fact, the first product we brought to market in 1990 is still in production today. Our instrumentation and switching offerings have been consistently upgraded over the years to phase out obsolete components while maintaining backward compatibility. That means customers can be confident that their system designs today will still be viable years from now.”

Semancik also commented on modularity and scalability. “Applications like testing gas-turbine engines and avionics are extremely complex and often require integrating instrumentation from multiple suppliers,” he said. “This is especially true with devices like precision strain measurement instrumentation and power supplies. AMETEK is committed to delivering solutions that conform to modular open-architecture standards such as PXIe, LXI, VXI, and VME. Test-system designers can be assured that our instruments will integrate seamlessly into their designs.”

Looking ahead

Companies will have an opportunity to present their products for military and aerospace test at IEEE Autotestcon Sept. 17-20 in National Harbor, MD. Our September issue will preview exhibitors’ plans for the show and provide an update on MIL/aero test news from companies that don’t plan to exhibit. Meanwhile, Universal Switching will be attending DATT Summit (DATT stands for Defense & Aerospace Test & Telemetry) June 4-7 in Orlando. “Telemetry is part of a backbone of the military test and evaluation,” Alderson said. “Testing a plane, rocket, or munitions…doesn’t happen in a lab, but in the field, and the data is sent back or recorded for evaluation later.



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