Radar warning receivers get a boost with help from Team Robins member

ROBINS AFB, Ga. -- A Team Robins member's problem solving skills helped create a digital crystal video receiver design, which will revolutionize the future of radar warning receivers in aircraft throughout the Department of Defense.

Charlie Clark, a member of the 579th Software Maintenance Squadron, has worked with radar warning receivers for more than 20 years in support of the 542nd Combat Sustainment Group. Mr. Clark has been working at Robins since 1980 and began working in the Electronic Warfare Avionic Integration Support Facility in 1985, where he has dedicated his efforts to RWRs, which is a pilot's first line of defense. The RWR detects and displays threat identification to the aircrew. The added situational awareness provided by the RWR provides the warfighter with the information needed to avoid threats or to take counter measures.

Though his supervisors have always applauded him for making innovative contributions to the system, recently one of his ideas to solve an existing problem resulted in a patent for his ability to implement leading edge technology.

The problem was providing a clean signal from both a close threat encounter or high power and one from further away or low power while using an analog system such as an extended range detector log video amplifier. The new digitized system solves that, while providing a higher quality product at a lower cost.

The system required the receiver to be able to receive and split the signal. On one path the signal gets amplified while the signal on the other path doesn't. Then the two signals are combined together again in order to process both high and low powered signals. However, the signals wouldn't come together without causing a mismatch in the signal output.

"This is not rocket science. You've got a real problem and you just use the basics to try to solve that problem," Mr. Clark said.

The new design allows both of the split signals to be digitized. Then the disturbance is removed through computer software as the signals come back together. The objective was to find a way to get the analog circuits to line up, which would eliminate any problems with the analog output, Mr. Clark said.

"In an analog world you have to get the components just so. In the digital world, all you have to do is change a little program to get the system to do what you want it to do," Mr. Clark said.

When Mr. Clark first started looking in 1989 for a way to be able to receive close range and far range signals without any problems, he would have never imagined the answer would be found in the digital age.

"When we first started, the technology was not there," Mr. Clark said.

After three failed attempts to create an analog circuit that would work, the economical technology to digitize the split signals became available.

"It was a learning experience, deciding when to jump on the technology wagon," Mr. Clark said. "If you jump too fast you have to spend a lot of money to make it work and if you jump too slow, then you are left behind."

He added that the three-man team including himself, Michael Willis and Michael McGuire, worked together to create the digital solution.

Today, he and his partners from the Georgia Technical Research Institute have received a patent for their endeavors to digitize the older analog receiver.

"What the patent does is take an old analog receiver, and digitizes the signal through a computer. It really perfects the problems with the analog receiver," Mr. Clark said.

Though the concept was Mr. Clark's, the patent is a joint endeavor between the Georgia Technical Research Institute and the government.

"The concept upgrades an older analog crystal detector or logarithmic amplifier technique by using a combination of cheaper analog and digital components," said David Schuler, 579th SMXG Flight C chief. "By characterizing cheaper, less adequate analog circuitry and then using digital look-up tables for compensation, this new concept can easily outperform the older form of crystal video receivers."