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Published by: npkkumar on Nov 28, 2010
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Before we begin discussing TACAN, you need torecall the definition of the polar-coordinate system.The polar-coordinate system is a geometric systemused to locate points on a plane. In electronics, it isusually used for plotting antenna directional patterns.TACAN is a polar-coordinate type radio air-navigation system that provides an aircrew withdistance information, from distance measuringequipment
and bearing (azimuth)information. This information, as shown in figure 2-1, is usually provided by two meters. One meterindicates, in nautical miles, the distance of the aircraftfrom the surface beacon. The other meter indicatesthe direction of flight, in degrees-of-bearing, to thegeographic location of the surface beacon. By usingthe TACAN equipment installed in the aircraft andTACAN ground equipment installed aboard aparticular surface ship or shore station, a pilot canobtain bearing to and distance from that location. Heor she can then either:(1) fly directly to that particular location, or
Figure 2-1.—TACAN aircraft indication.
(2) use the bearing and distance from a specificbeacon to fix his or her geographic location.
The distance measuring concept used in TACANequipment isan outgrowth of radar-rangingtechniques. Radar-ranging determines distance bymeasuring the round-trip travel time of pulsed rf energy.The return signal (echo) of the radiatedenergy depends on the natural reflection of the radiowaves.However, TACAN beacon-transpondersgenerate artificial replies instead of depending on
natural reflection.
Now look at figure 2-2. The airborne equipmentgenerates timed interrogation pulse pairs that thesurface TACAN system receives and decodes. Aftera 50-µsec delay, the transponder responds with areply. The airborne DME then converts the round-trip time to distance from the TACAN facility. Thefrequency and identification code provide thegeographic location of the transmitting beacon.
TACAN transponders use twin-pulse decoders topass only those pulse pairs with the proper spacing.The purpose of this twin-pulse technique is toincrease the average power radiated and to reduce thepossibility of false signal interference.After the receiver decodes an interrogation, theencoder generates the necessary pulse pair requiredfor the transponder’s reply. A TACAN pulse pairgenerated by airborne or ground equipment is shownin figure 2-3.
In principle,reply to aircraft
the TACAN transponder need onlyinterrogations at 30 pulse pairs-per-
Figure 2-2.—Distance measuring round-trip travel time.
second, per airborne equipment, to supply thenecessary distance data. However, the total pulseout put of the transmitter constantly varies, accordingto the number of interrogating aircraft. In addition,random noise may trigger the transmitter.
Figure 2-3.—TACAN pulse train.
For the transponder to provide azimuthinformation, the average power supplied to theantenna must be relatively uniform over time. Toaccomplish this, the transponder is operated on theconstant-duty-cycle principle.In this method of operation, the receiver usesautomatic gain and squitter (noise generated output)controls to maintain a constant pulse output to thetransmitter, as shown in figure 2-4.If fewinterrogations are being received, the gain and squitter
of the receiver increase and add noise-generated pulses
to the pulse train. If more interrogating aircraft comeinto range, the gain and squitter decrease and reducethe number of noise-generated pulses.The relationship between the gain and the numberof pulses is such that only a 2-dBm change insensitivity occurs between reception from 1 aircraftand those from 100 aircraft. An added advantage of using a constant duty cycle is that overall transmitterpower drain remains constant.
Before an aircrew can use TACAN informationthat its equipment receives, it must positively identifythe transmitting TACAN station. To meet this need,the ground station transmits an identification code atapproximately one-half minute intervals. It does thisby momentarily interrupting the transponder distancedata and squitter-generated output with pulse groupsspaced at a 1350-pps rate. Each pulse group containstwo sets of 12-µsec pulse pairs spaced 100 µsec apart.The duration of the identification pulse groups varies,to represent Morse-coded characters. The durationfor a dot is 100 to 125 ms, and for a dash 300 to 375ms. An identification group is shown in figure 2-4.
Figure 2-4.Transponder output pulse train.
The rf energy from the TACAN transmitter is fedto the antenna central element, which has noThe timing of the transmitted pulses supplies thedirectivity in the horizontal plane. Parasitic elementsactual distance information to the aircraft. This leavespositionedaround the central element
amplitude modulation as another medium for theelectronically rotated (switched on and off) at 15transponder to convey other information to therevolutions per minute. (See the section below on theaircraft. The TACAN beacon-transponder modulatesOE-273(V)/URN antenna group). The distancethe strength of the pulse to convey bearing information
between the central element and the parasitic elements
by producing a specific directional-radiating patternis selected to obtain a cardioid radiation pattern. Torotated around a vertical axis. This signal, whenan aircraft at a specific location, the distance dataproperly referenced, indicates the aircraft’s directionpulses appear to contain a 15-Hz amplitude-modulatedfrom the TACAN facility. This signal and distancesignal because of the rotation of the cardioid radiationdata give a two-piece fix (distance and direction) forpattern. This pattern is showndetermining specific aircraft location.and view B.in figure 2-5, view A

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