Novel piece of test technology offers an innovative approach to system design

April 11, 2013

Story Highlights

  • In developing OMEN, ARL adopted a "better, faster and easier" approach, which has resulted in a modular design that is highly adaptable
  • Designing a multifunction-solution system does require a higher investment of resources and time so that subsystems are independently upgradable. But the result is a flexible and easily adaptable system that, while complex in its development, is necessary for operating in the rapidly changing threat environment
  • As one of the first multifunction solutions at ARL, OMEN exemplifies an advanced approach to system design

The electronic warfare (EW) teams at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate (ARL/SLAD) have recently developed the Optimized Modular EW Network (OMEN), a powerful new tool that aids in investigating the survivability, lethality, and vulnerability (SLV) of DoD systems.

By controlling waveforms, power, timing and digital signal processing capabilities, SLAD personnel accurately replicate the electromagnetic environment in which DoD systems must operate. OMEN represents a paradigm shift away from developing single-point solutions towards creating flexible, upgradable systems. This innovative approach allows systems to be easily adapted for use across a variety of tests and experiments.

OMEN comprises a waveform generator and an amplifier, which together occupy roughly two cubic feet, making the system highly portable. It is reprogrammable quickly and easily so that one moment it can generate a waveform that replicates a complex radar system then switch to emitting a waveform that can jam a radio. And multiple OMEN systems can be linked in the field or hardwired into a lab test or anechoic chamber to produce a highly controllable, dynamic and complex EW environment.

In developing OMEN, ARL adopted a "better, faster and easier" approach, which has resulted in a modular design that is highly adaptable. Its systems and subsystems operate within an open-architecture format: all subsystems are independently upgradable and have associated interface control documentation to allow for future modification and growth.

Because such components as OMEN's computer and receiver can easily be upgraded individually (a key first), OMEN's functionality can be continually increased, which ensures that it will be capable of replicating the electromagnetic environment of the battlefield of tomorrow. By contrast, the typical approach to building an EW-test system has been to identify the functions required to execute a specific test and then design a system with the sole purpose of performing those identified functions. This typical approach resulted in single-point-solution systems that, although highly effective within the specific test, lacked flexibility, breadth of utility and hence efficiency. For most such systems, adding additional functions requires significant modifications or a redesign—if the system is even capable of such adaptation.

Designing a multifunction-solution system does require a higher investment of resources and time so that subsystems are independently upgradable. But the result is a flexible and easily adaptable system that, while complex in its development, is necessary for operating in the rapidly changing threat environment.

Shane Cunico, chief of the Experimental Support Branch at WSMR explains, "In the current environment, with advancements in technology, telecommunications and electronics, we cannot build single-point solutions to test or analyze systems. The technology that we are trying to counter is moving so fast that we cannot play catch-up; we have to have adaptability and be agile enough to develop modular, upgradable systems. If we don't, we will always be behind the power curve and chasing the adversary who will always have the upper hand."

As one of the first multifunction solutions at ARL, OMEN exemplifies an advanced approach to system design. Developed upon ARL/SLAD's unrivaled expertise and experience in EW SLV analysis, OMEN's modular design and open-architecture format ensure that it will remain a fundamental resource for ARL's EW capability in the future.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: April 11, 2013