Thales UK selects XJTAG system for development of SDR boards

  • XJTAG boundary scan development system to be used initially to debug and test the baseband printed circuit boards (PCBs) that form part of Thales’ market leading MSN 8100-H software defined radio (SDR).
  • XJTAG selected ahead of competition due to its price, speed of development, reusability of scripts and ease of integration with other test equipment, such as LabVIEW’s graphical development environment.

CAMBRIDGE, England, October 17, 2005 Thales UK ( has selected XJTAG’s boundary scan development system to debug and test complex printed circuit boards (PCBs) used in its market-leading range of software defined radios (SDRs).

Thales has adopted the XJTAG system for use by development and production engineers at its Crawley, West Sussex (England) facility. The XJTAG system is also being used by Thales’ contract manufacturing partner.

Initially, the XJTAG system will be used to debug and test the baseband PCBs that form part of the Thales MSN 8100-H software defined radio (SDR), the first European operational software radio. This radio is designed for naval and ground based applications and will be used on the Royal Navy’s next class of Destroyers, the Type 45, scheduled to enter service in 2009.

Simon Holder, hardware design manager at Thales UK’s Crawley facility, said: “XJTAG is a fast, extremely versatile and cost-effective tool for generating high test coverage on PCBs containing both JTAG and non-JTAG devices. The XJTAG system has enabled us to cut the development time for debugging and testing boards by around 20 percent and it has provided the basis for a common design for test strategy, spanning development, first article build, production and field service.”

“We looked at other boundary scan solutions but we opted for XJTAG due to its price and ease of use, and the fact that test scripts are device rather than board-centric, which makes them reusable on different projects,” added Simon Holder. “The fact that XJTAG integrated seamlessly with other systems, in particular the LabVIEW graphical development environment, was also a major benefit.”

Thales UK’s defence activities encompass optronics, air defence, sensors, communications and naval systems. It is the UK’s second largest defence contractor and employs 10,000 staff. The company’s MSN 8100-H software-defined radio platform has been designed as the primary component of a comprehensive high frequency communication network benefiting from the attributes of a versatile, programmable and configurable multi-channel receiver/exciter.

“Our SDR platform, as with many of today’s network-centric systems, uses the very latest technology. For example, the baseband boards in our MSN 8100-H are densely populated and use fine pitch high density connectors, as well as large and expensive BGA/FPGA devices, all of which make the boards difficult to test by traditional methods,” said Gary Delamare, senior engineer, Thales UK. “It made sense for us to use the JTAG chain for debug and testing, as more and more devices on our boards were JTAG-enabled and we opted for the XJTAG system as it was the best and most cost-effective solution.”

“The XJTAG system is truly intuitive – it’s almost a plug and play solution. We were up and running within half a day using the tutorial and development board, and test coverage, for digital circuits, is up around the 80 percent mark already,” added Gary Delamare. “In addition, the fault finding capability of XJTAG is first rate, and we were particularly impressed by XJAnalyser (circuit visualisation tool) which provides the capability to read and write to all of the JTAG pins in the chain and see the results graphically on the computer screen.”

The ability to program Flash memories and other non-JTAG devices was an important factor for Thales. By using XJEase (the XJTAG system’s high-level, BASIC-like test description language for manipulating non-JTAG devices), engineers had a rapid means of programming Flash memories both at the development stage and through into production. “Unlike other JTAG tools, XJEase enables circuit developers to re-use XJEase scripts in different projects,” added Gary Delamare. “This portability is really valuable and is not available with traditional programming tools which tend to be tied to one particular processor.”

The powerful and easy-to-use XJTAG Development System is designed to cut the cost and shorten the development cycle of electronic products and provides a unique solution that can test JTAG as well as non-JTAG devices. XJTAG can test a high proportion of a circuit including ball grid array (BGA) and chip scale devices, SDRAMs, Ethernet controllers, video interfaces, Flash memories, FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays), microprocessors and many other devices. XJTAG also enables In-System Programming of FPGAs, CPLDs (Complex Programmable Logic Devices) and Flash memories.

The XJTAG Development System can migrate through the product life cycle from early design to field support and repair. XJTAG enables circuit designers to shorten the development cycle and prototyping process by facilitating early test development, early design validation of CAD netlists, fast generation of complex functional tests and test re-use across circuits that use the same devices. XJTAG test scripts are also re-usable and portable across different boards, due to the novel device-centric approach that the designers have adopted.

Simon Payne, chief executive at XJTAG, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by Thales, a global electronics giant, to provide our systems for debug and testing products for use in defence applications. There is huge potential for XJTAG across all markets and demand is growing as awareness increases among design and test engineers for the value of our unique solution, which unlocks the power of boundary scan.”

For more information about the XJTAG Development System, please contact XJTAG, St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0DS, UK. Telephone +44 (0) 1223 223007, fax +44 (0) 1223 223009 or email Alternatively, visit

About Thales UK (

Thales UK’s defence activities encompass optronics, air defence, sensors, communications and naval systems. The company is the UK’s second largest defence contractor and has been a supplier to the MoD since the First World War. Thales employs 10,000 staff in the UK and 60,000 people in 50 countries. In 2004, Thales UK’s revenues were £1.1bn.

About XJTAG (

XJTAG Limited is a specialist design and test tool developer. Its JTAG (Joint Test Action Group) development system offers a competitive solution for designers and developers of electronic circuits. Utilising XJTAG allows circuit development and prototyping process to be shortened significantly by facilitating early test development, early design validation, fast development of functional tests and test re-use across circuits that utilise the same devices. The company is based in the U.K. at St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge. XJTAG is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Cambridge Technology Group (

What is JTAG?

Advances in silicon design, such as increasing device density and, more recently, ball grid array (BGA) and chip scale packaging, have reduced the efficacy of traditional electronic circuit testing methods. In order to overcome these problems and others, some of the world’s leading silicon manufacturers combined to form the Joint Test Action Group (JTAG). The findings of this group were used as the basis for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) standard 1149.1: Standard Test Access Port and Boundary Scan Architecture and subsequently the standard became known as JTAG.

Images (Click for high resolution versions)

(L to R) Simon Holder, Hardware Design Manager, Thales (Crawley); Gary Delamare, Senior Engineer, Thales UK

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