The first wartime lesson in RF supremacy may have been in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War at the Battle of Tsushima. Limited range or the inability to send communications without alerting the enemy made radio essentially useless for both sides, and though Japan won the battle, it was not due to the strategic deployment of radios. Rather, a hospital ship at the rear of the Russian Baltic fleet formation had unknowingly sighted and hailed a Japanese patrol ship. The lesson, which is still true today, is that radio communication without RF supremacy is more of a liability than an asset in military operations.

This issue of Defense Electronics features three high-performance technologies. A GaAs MMIC process from M/A-COM, for example, will enable high-power radio amplifiers. On a different level, Aerovironment is developing a complete unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with an unprecedented endurance for remaining aloft at high altitudes. Agilent, in a similar spirit of wide observation, offers a group of components that enable the collection of voice communications.

These technologies appear to be unrelated. Yet, each can be applied to establishing RF supremacy. Certainly, one critical aspect of this effort is superior RF capacity. Higher frequencies would allow access to upper regions of the RF spectrum that may not be accessible to an enemy. Increasing radiated power would provide greater flexibility in radar surveillance, communications and electronic warfare.

In the article from David Conway, Michael Fowler and Jack Redus, entitled “Novel Process Enables Wideband High-Power GHz Amplifiers Delivering up to 20 W,” designers will read about M/A COM's GaAs MMIC process technology. This technology has been used to develop amplifiers that collectively operate in the ranges of 0.7 GHz to 10.5 GHz and 8 W to 20 W. Its potential for advancing the performance of other RF circuit functions appears promising.

Quite literally a bolt from the blue, Aerovironment's Global Observer UAS promises altitude and endurance that are unparalleled in the aerospace industry. The use of liquid hydrogen as a fuel for powering its propulsion and payload is a great achievement. However, the most important benefit of this aircraft is that it addresses bandwidth limitations on and above the battlefield. The stratosphere is an ideal place for a multi-gigabit-per-second radio relay. By virtue of that region's inaccessibility from the ground or from space, it is also a relatively safe place — for now.

In a feature by Ted Wierzbanowski, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Will Provide Access to the Stratosphere,” designers of military systems will get an inside glimpse of the Global Observer's outstanding potential to solve very real problems associated with the limits of existing military platforms. Without doubt, they will also be inspired to develop original applications.

While RF supremacy is reinforced by these physical capabilities, it has other important facets. Providing secure communications is certainly one. Another may be denying the enemy the use of the RF spectrum, or at least denying the enemy secure use of the RF spectrum. A crucial part of the latter is to monitor the RF spectrum exclusively for voice communications. This daunting task can be accomplished without brute force by using voice collection architectures with agile and controllable RF transceivers that can interface to and interact with signal processing stages.

Chris DeSalvo of Agilent Technologies explains the benefits of these alternative voice-collection architectures in “Advanced Architecture for Voice Collection Systems.” He also points designers to available components for constructing these systems.

As with many military capabilities, RF supremacy can have real commercial benefits. Certainly, the world is moving toward seamless global connectivity, and certainly the three capability sets described in this issue will contribute to achieving that goal. However, one hundred years after that famous naval battle, it has not quite yet been attained, and cell phone users may still find they have no coverage on a sailing ship.