We often have customers who need a custom product fast, and at high volume. Here is one of those products. This week we delivered a series of about a 150 radome covers that were custom designed, manufactured, machined, painted and finished within a short turnaround window. While we can do large, complex structures with all the rigid requirements needed for space applications, we can also handle a fast turnaround, simple programs that can meet baseline technical requirements affordably.
Rock West worked in close collaboration with this customer, from the initial concept to full production run. We went through multiple design iterations to achieve RF performance and manufacturability. Several prototypes were created and performance tested before the design was finalized. Using in-house machining and painting capability helped to keep schedule short and low risk.
Radomes are an area of specialization for Rock West. You can read more on our Radomes page.
Radome covers, corner view
Subset of the radome covers delivered to our customer
We are proud to support the US Navy through this SBIR program making affordable broadband high-speed radomes. While we’ve talked about this radome program before and even written a case study about it, we’re excited to have been highlighted as a success story by the Department of the Navy’s SBIR/STTR Transition Program office.
We have a total order for 160 radomes to be delivered over four years and are delivering on schedule or earlier.
“The new radomes improve RF transmission, enable faster flight profiles, and are capable of higher temperatures for a significantly lower cost than the radomes they are replacing. A nose radome that can withstand the supersonic environment and have broader bandwidth inherently allows the sensor designer and the mission planner more flexibility in design of the antennas that can be included in the nose radome.”
At Rock West’s new headquarters, we have an RF test lab to support our many radome, antenna, and integrated RF structure programs. Recently we had a radome that required physical characterization of performance as part of its testing and verification plan.
For this particular program, the radome provides high-performance, low loss protection for modern radar equipment. It has both military and commercial applications and is built under the support of solution provider R4 Integration, Inc.
The radome is a multi-layer sandwich construction using low dielectric materials that are optimized to provide low transmission loss over wide broadband frequencies. This customer had narrow frequency bands of interest, and we were able to tune the radome for best performance within those specific frequency bands.
This program required physical test verification at a large amount of view angles, to map the radome’s performance over the entire surface. To test many view angles efficiently, our team had commissioned a custom structure to position the radome at 5 degree increments in both the azimuthal and elevation planes. It’s built mostly of wood and fiberglass to minimize structural RF interference. These are images from the testing process.
The successful testing and characterization of this radome enabled our customer to provide system-level performance feedback to their customer, meeting requirements for both the airborne terminal and the satellite-based communication systems.Rock West produces radomes from L-band to Ka-band with transmission loss typically below -1.0 dB, with many radomes tuned for loss below -0.5 dB in primary transmit and receive bands. Our in-house testing capability enables us to quickly test prototypes, shorten program schedules and reduce risk for programs with strict RF requirements.This radome is designed, analyzed, and qualified to FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) requirements. Rock West has heritage in FAA qualification for wide range of aircraft and radome types.
We have been highlighted in this month’s Spotlight from the Department of the Navy’s SBIR/STTR Transition Program. We are working on a multi-year Phase III SBIR building ceramic nose radomes for the program known as Coyote, i.e., the Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST). Our radome design improves performance and saves costs while enabling faster flight. This program is executed in collaboration with the US Navy and other contractors. Collaboration is in our company’s DNA; and this program, which involves the government, primes, and subcontractors, is a great example of how we can work seamlessly with others to reach an end objective.
SBIR projects have been instrumental to the growth of the Rock West Composites’ business overall. The program has turned into a significant production program for us, which is the best outcome we could have hoped for.
Here is the January 2022 Spotlight from the Department of the Navy’s SBIR/STTR Transition Program, which features these radomes.