Phased array technology uses an arrangement of antenna elements where the relative phase of each element is varied to steer the radiation pattern or beam. The beam can be aimed in various directions electronically, overcoming the limited speed and reliability problems of a mechanically steered antenna. As a result, it greatly reduces size, weight and power (SWaP), making it an attractive technology for defense applications such as radar, communications, space, and electronic warfare.
Digital beamforming has gained traction more recently with its ability to support many beams simultaneously offering a very flexible system. Advances in data converter technologies with advanced process nodes have made direct sampling of RF frequencies possible. A variation of this is hybrid beamforming where sub-arrays are created, each having its own signal processing and data converters.