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A New Transmit Beamforming Algorithm for

Subarray MIMO Radar

Yong-hao Tang, Xiao-feng Ma, Wei-xing Sheng, Yu-bing Han
School of Electronic and Optical Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing 210094, China

Abstract—Benefiting from its extra degrees of freedom Some classic DOA estimation algorithms have been
brought by waveform diversity, MIMO radar allows to applied to MIMO radar, such as ESPRIT and MUSIC
optimize the transmit beam-pattern much more freely. In [7-9]. For the reason of larger virtual effective aperture
this paper, a new transmit beamforming algorithm is that obtained by MIMO radar, in some scenarios, these
proposed for subarray MIMO radar. Firstly, the correlation algorithms applied by MIMO radar will have better DOA
matrix of the transmitted waveforms is optimized to focus estimation performance than that applied by conventional
the transmit energy within the interested sectors. Then, the phased-array radar. However, the performance of DOA
eigendecomposition method is applied to calculate the estimation algorithms is still affected by SNR. MIMO
subarray beamforming weights according to optimized radar transmitting orthogonal waveforms is faced with the
correlation matrix. Meanwhile, a principle for determining problem of SNR gain loss, which is unfavorable for DOA
the number of the subarrays is proposed, which will reduce estimation.
the computational complexity for subarray MIMO radar. In In order to mitigate the effects of the SNR gain loss,
addition, simulation results show that the proposed method some energy focus methods are developed for MIMO
obtains a better DOA estimation performance compared to radar recently. These methods can be classified into two
some of the existing transmit beamforming methods. categories: the MIMO radar transmitting partially
Keywords—Subarray MIMO radar, Transmit Beamforming, correlated signals [10][11] and the transmit array
Direction-of-arrival (DOA) estimation, Eigendecomposition partitioning based MIMO radar [5][12]. The former
method. focuses the transmit energy within expected spatial
sectors by optimizing the correlation matrix of the
transmitted signals, which will help to increase the SNR
In recent years, MIMO radar as an emerging field of gain obtained at the receiver. However, the shortcomings
radar research has attracted more and more attentions of of this method are that designing the partially correlated
scientific researchers [1][2]. Compared with conventional signals according to the optimized correlation matrix has
phased-array radar, MIMO radar may have a similar array a high computational cost and errors which cannot be
structure, whereas the transmitted waveforms may be ignored. The later one partitions the transmit array of
quite different from each other. Due to the extra degrees MIMO radar into several subarrays. Each subarray
of freedom offered by waveform diversity, MIMO radar transmits different waveform independently.
obtains superior capabilities compared with conventional Consequently, transmit coherent gain can be obtained in
phased-array radar, such as higher spatial angular each subarray, which will enhance the performance of
resolution and better parameter identifiability [3-6]. DOA estimation algorithms. Nevertheless, it is a quadratic
Estimating directions-of-arrival (DOAs) of multiple programming problem to design the transmit
targets is one of the most important radar applications in beam-pattern of the transmit array partitioning based
practice. As we all known, spatial angular resolution of MIMO radar, which is often difficult to be solved by
radar is inversely proportional to effective array aperture. convex optimization algorithms directly. Actually, the two
Compared to conventional phased-array radar, MIMO types of MIMO radar mentioned above are both
radar has a higher angular resolution for its larger sacrificing part of the effective array aperture for transmit
effective array aperture provided by waveform diversity.

978-1-4673-1127-4/12/$31.00 ©2013 IEEE 255

coherent gain. pointing at the spatial angle θ can be written as
In this paper, a new transmit beamforming algorithm N

is proposed for subarray MIMO radar. The correlation s (t , θ ) = ∑ cn H a (θ )Φ n (t ) = (C H a (θ )) T Φ N (t )

matrix of the transmitted waveforms is optimized firstly,
n =1
by which the transmit energy is focused within the where C=[c1,…,cN] is the transmit beamforming weight
interested sectors. Once the optimized correlation matrix matrix with a dimension of Mt×N, and ФN(t)=[Ф1(t),…,
is obtained, eigendecomposition method is applied to ФN(t)]T is the N×1 transmitted orthogonal waveforms.
calculate the subarray beamforming weights. Meanwhile, Then, the transmit beam-pattern can be written as
fewer orthogonal waveforms are transmitted in the { }
P (θ ) = Ε s (t ,θ ) s H (t ,θ )
proposed method compared to conventional MIMO radar,
which means that less number of subarrays will be used.
{ }
= (C a (θ )) Ε Φ N (t )Φ N H (t ) (C a (θ ))
H ∗
The reduction in the number of transmitted orthogonal = a (θ )CC a (θ ) = a ( θ) RC a (θ )

waveforms can effectively reduce the computational where

complexity at the receiver. In addition, the proposed H
RC = CC . (4)
method overcomes the shortcoming of subarray MIMO
radar that it is difficult to optimize the beamforming Obviously, P(θ) is a linear function in terms of the
weights of sub-arrays directly, and enables us to design correlation matrix RC. As a result, transmit beam-pattern
the correlation matrix more freely without considering of could be optimized by convex optimization methods
the partially correlated signals design. conveniently, such as the methods in [5] and [10]. Once
This paper is organized as follows. In section II, the the optimized correlation matrix RC has been obtained, we
principle and mathematical model of the proposed could calculate the subarray beamforming weights C
transmit beamforming algorithm are discussed. The according to the equation (4). The eigendecomposition of
simulation results compared to other two methods are the RC is given as follows:
shown to prove the correctness of the proposed algorithm H
in section III. Finally, a brief conclusion is given in (5)
section IV. where Λ is the M×M diagonal matrix whose diagonal
elements are the eigenvalues of RC, and U are the
eigenvectors of RC. It is worth noting that RC is not
Consider a MIMO radar equipped with a transmit always full rank, and some of the eigenvalues are small
array of Mt antennas and a receive array of Mr antennas. relatively (often less than 1% of the largest eigenvalue). In
The transmit and receive arrays are both uniform linearly other words, these zero or small eigenvalues and their
array (ULA), and they are assumed to be closely located corresponding eigenvectors make few, if any, contribution
so that both of them can see a target located in the to the overall transmit beam-pattern. Therefore, only the N
far-field at the same spatial angle. Assume that the largest eigenvalues (whose sum exceeds 99%) and their
transmit array is partitioned to N subarrays, the transmit corresponding eigenvectors are selected to constitute the
beamforming weights of which are defined as subarray beamforming weights, i.e.
cn(n=1,…,N). Note that cn is M×1 weight vector, the zero
 ) ⋅ Δ]
 [ sqrt ( Λ
element in which represents that the corresponding (6)
antenna does not belong to the nth subarray. Therefore,
where Λ is the N×N diagonal matrix whose diagonal
the transmit energy of the nth subarray received at the elements are the N principal eigenvalues of RC,
angle θ can be written as 
U Δ is the
contains corresponding eigenvectors, and
sn (t , θ ) = cn a (θ )Φ n (t )
n = 1,..., N correction factor for transmit energy ensuring that
where Фn(t) is the nth waveform in orthogonal waveforms trace (CC H ) = E (7)
set Ф(t). Thus, the sum of all the beams of subarrays
where E denotes the total transmit energy.
menthod in [5]
III. SIMULATION RESULTS The proposed method
10 menthod in [3]
In the section, a MIMO radar system is assumed to
have a transmit array of Mt=10 omni-directional antennas

spaced half a wavelength apart, which is also used as the -1
receive array. The transmit energy E is set as 10. The
additive noise is Gaussian zero-mean σ2-variance spatially -2

and temporally white. Two uncorrelated targets are -3

located at directions -1° and 1°, respectively. For the
reason of comparison, we also give the simulations of the -4
-30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40
MIMO radar which transmits partially correlated SNR(dB)

waveforms in [5]and the transmit array partitioning based Fig. 2 Results of 400 Monte Carlo simulations versus SNR for
MIMO radar in [6]. Throughout our experiments, the ESPRIT-based DOA estimators
number of snapshots is set as L=256 and each method has
completed 400 independent runs in the Monte-Carlo It is defined in [13] that targets can be considered to
analysis and the probability of source resolution test
respectively. be resolved if the following is satisfied:
Fig.1 shows the overall transmit beam-patterns of the Δθ
three kinds of MIMO radar. It can be noticed that the θn − θ n ≤ n = 1, 2 (8)
proposed method and the method in [5] have the where θ= θ1-θ2 . Figure 3 shows the probability of
approximate beam-patterns, which are higher than that in resolution versus SNR for all the methods. From this
[6]. It is because of that the former two methods both figure, it is easy to find that the method in [6] has the
adopt the Min-max Sidelobe Beam-pattern Design in [5] worst probability of resolution under low SNR. The
and the proposed method has an approximate correlation proposed method (N=2) has the best probability of
matrix to it in [5]. However, the proposed method has the resolution performance obviously with the least
best DOA estimation performance shown in figure 2, computational complexity of O(23Mr3).
especially under the poor SNR, for the reason that less
orthogonal waveforms are transmitted in the proposed
Probability of targets resolution




menthod in [5]
The proposed method
menthod in [6]
-30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40

Fig. 3 Probability of target resolution versus SNR for

ESPRIT-based DOA estimators

Fig. 1 Overall transmit beam-patterns of the three mehtods IV. CONCLUSION

In this paper, the proposed transmit beamforming for
subarray MIMO radar can achieve a superior performance
Process., Jun. 2010,vol. 58, no. 6, pp. 3137–3151.
of DOA estimation. First, the correlation matrix of
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This work was supported by the National Natural MIMO radar systems using signal cross-correlation, IEEE
Trans.Aerosp. Electron. Syst., 2008, 44 (1) : 171 – 186.
Science Foundation of China under Grants 11273017. [11]S. Ahmed, J. S. Thompson, B. Mulgrew, and Y. Petillot,
Unconstrained synthesis of covariance matrix for MIMO radar
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