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An Introduction to RF and Microwave Front Ends

An Introduction to RF and Microwave Front Ends (On-Demand Course)

An Introduction to RF and Microwave Front Ends (On-Demand Course)

Course Length: 24 hours total - delivered across 8 sessions of 3-hours each. Each session contains lecture and practical problems.

    PLEASE NOTE: This course will be delivered through Adobe Connect. To ensure your computer system has access to Adobe Connect, please test your system HERE.


Electronic warfare (EW) inherently deals with the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). As a result, an understanding of the EMS and how electronic systems interface with the EMS is essential for all EW practitioners.

Perhaps more importantly, the analogue interface to the EMS is more important than ever before despite – or more likely, because of – the fact that we live in a digital age. This course will give attendees an introduction to the most important properties of electromagnetic waves and consider the analogue components used to interface between the EMS and electronic systems (RF and microwave front ends). The presentation will build up to a consideration of the front-ends of some common systems including laboratory equipment and EW systems. In this way, the influence of basic EM theory, and RF and microwave components on the performance of systems exploiting the EMS will be explained.

Course Delivery

There is a downloadable course syllabus provided for each session. It contains copies of all visual aids and problem worksheets for that session. It will be available for download in the meeting room.

Each session was presented LIVE by an actively engaged instructor. The virtual classroom allowed learners to “raise a hand,” ask questions audibly or type them in the chat, and the instructor responded in real-time. It’s just like sitting in the classroom.

These "Live Educational Courses" presented by AOC are recorded when broadcast live and are subsequently made available to registrants for 30 days in our "On-Demand Educational Courses" catalog.

You can now benefit from this course catalog with your purchase.

Who Should Attend

The course is targeted at individuals working in EW who would like to better understand the EMS and the analogue portions of such systems as a key to better understanding the systems as a whole. No specific background knowledge is assumed, and the presentation will make minimal recourse to mathematics.

  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 1 - Basic Electromagnetic Theory
  • Basic electromagnetic (EM) theory necessary to understand the concepts considered later in the course will be presented. The exposition will include such fundamental concepts as wavelength, propagation velocity, reflection, refraction, transmission lines, S-parameters, and VSWR.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 2 - Propagation
  • The atmosphere can have a dramatic effect on EM waves propagating through it. Anomalous effects such as rain, ducting and multipath can have serious negative effects on system performance and thus need to be understood to ensure systems are used to their full potential. On the other hand, systems such as HF links and weather radars inherently rely on the properties of propagation through the earth's atmosphere to function, making an understanding of the relevant propagation mechanisms crucial. Important propagation mechanisms such as multipath and issues such as absorption and scattering will be presented with the emphasis on their effect on EW systems.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 3 - Antennas
  • Antennas form the interface between propagating EM waves and the systems which exploit those EM waves. As a result, the performance of a system is strongly influenced by the properties of the system antennas. Fundamental concepts such as gain, directivity, beamwidth, impedance bandwidth, radiating bandwidth, and sidelobes will be described and illustrated by considering examples of a number of widely-used antenna types.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 4 - Amplifiers
  • Amplifiers are necessary throughout any system to improve sensitivity, boost the signal level and provide high-power outputs. As a result of their many uses, the properties of amplifiers dominate many aspects of system performance, and many measures of system-level performance arise largely as a result of the properties of the relevant amplifiers. The basic properties of amplifiers such as gain, noise figure and output power will be described, along with how system-level performance is influenced.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 5 - Mixers and Filters
  • Most systems require some form of frequency translation, usually to convert high-frequency signals to the lower frequencies at which digital systems operate. Frequency-conversion devices such as mixers, frequency multipliers and dividers will be considered to illustrate the issues surrounding their use. Most frequency-conversion devices have outputs which contain both desired and undesired frequency components, so filters are necessary to suppress the unwanted frequency components. The operation of filters and their main parameters such as bandwidth and out-of-band suppression will also be considered. The interaction between frequency-conversion devices and filters will thus be highlighted as the other major driver of system-level performance along with amplifiers.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 6 - Oscillators and Synthesizers
  • Reference signals which are significantly higher than is possible with digital technologies are required to allow operation at RF and microwave frequencies. The necessary high-frequency signals are generated by a combination of oscillators and synthesizers. The most important properties of signal-generating systems will be considered with the emphasis on their influence on the performance of real-world systems.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 7 - Miscellaneous Components
  • A wide range of components which are useful in real-world systems, but which do not fall under the categories of previous lectures, also exists. While not necessarily as fundamental to the operation of systems as amplifiers, mixers, filters and oscillators are, they nevertheless provide important functionality. Examples of the components which will be considered are isolators, circulators, switches, couplers, splitters, combiners, phase shifters, attenuators and limiters. The main characteristics, properties and applications of each of these components will be outlined.
  • Intro to RF & Microwave Front Ends Session 8 - System Examples
  • The material covered in the course will be summarized by showing how real-world systems are constructed. Examples will include laboratory instruments such as oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers and network analyzers as these are well-known and widely-used systems. A DRFM front-end will also be considered as a representative example of an EW system.

Please Note: Access to the course materials will be provided within one business day of registration. 

AOC Members - $1600

Non AOC Members - $1650

  • NOTE: Each registration is for one (1) participant ONLY. Distributing your registration URL or allowing others to participate in this course with you or under your account is grounds for removal from the course without refund of any kind.

Dr. Warren du Plessis received the B.Eng. (Electronic) and M.Eng. (Electronic) and Ph.D. (Engineering) degrees from the University of Pretoria in 1998, 2003 and 2010 respectively, winning numerous academic awards including the prestigious Vice-Chancellor and Principal's Medal. He has been working in EW and radar since 2006 and is currently Associate Professor at the University of Pretoria. Warren is a Senior Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a Lifetime Member of the Association of Old Crows (AOC), and a member of the AOC Aardvark Roost Board. He is author of 46 published and accepted peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, and is lead or sole author of 30 of these. While best known for his work on cross-eye jamming, Warren has also published in a number of other fields related to EW including thinned antenna arrays, communications intelligence (COMINT), and the role of EW and its relationships to other similar fields.

Dr. Warren du Plessis

With over 13,000 members internationally, the Association of Old Crows is an organization for individuals who have common interests in Electronic Warfare (EW), Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Operations, Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), Information Operations (IO), and other information related capabilities. The Association of Old Crows provides a means of connecting members and organizations nationally and internationally across government, defense, industry, and academia to promote the exchange of ideas and information, and provides a platform to recognize advances and contributions in these fields.