C4iSR: Joint & Common Equipment

Tactical radio manufacturers eyeing GaN semiconductors as material costs decrease

13 May 2019

Persistent Systems has adopted GaN technology for use with its MPU5 series of MIMO tactical radios, exploiting the advantages the material offers in multiband coverage. Source: Persistent Systems

Gallium nitride (GaN), increasingly used in radar design, appears to now be migrating into tactical radios as well.

In the communications domain, GaN can help reduce physical space and system complexity. An example of this is in wideband communications. Traditionally, tactical radios would have needed more than one transistor to cover each of the frequency bands used by the transceiver - in other words, a multiband radio would need multiple transistors.

Employing GaN enables a single transistor to perform multiband transmissions. Furthermore, a single wideband power amplifier using GaN components can perform the tasks of several narrowband amplifiers, each covering the radio's wavebands. These attributes are helping GaN to migrate into the tactical radio domain. For example, Harris is using GaN in its Falcon series of transceivers, and Persistent Systems has employed GaN in its MPU5 Wave Relay mobile ad hoc networking tactical radios.

This technology is particularly appropriate for the multiple-in/multiple-out (MIMO) approach that Persistent Systems employs on its MPU5 radio. This enables the equipment to overcome the restrictions that built-up environments usually impose on tactical radio users employing very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) wavebands for communications.

V/UHF signals rely on a line-of-sight range and can be disrupted or obscured by large objects such as walls or buildings. MIMO can divide a single signal into three, convert the signal to higher bandwidths such as L-band (1-2 gigahertz), and then transmit these signals to another MIMO radio where the disparate transmissions are then merged back into a single signal - but that process is reliant on the benefits provided by GaN.

GaN's hardness makes it ideal for use as a semiconductor as it can withstand high temperatures. In the radar domain, this translates into a material that can withstand higher operating temperatures than its Gallium Arsenide (GaS) counterpart.

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