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A critical task of a radar receiver is data association, which assigns radar target detections to target filter tracks. Motivated by its importance, this paper introduces the problem of jointly designing multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) radar transmit beam patterns and the corresponding data association schemes. We show that the coupling of the beamforming and the association subproblems can be conveniently parameterized by what we term an ambiguity graph, which prescribes if two targets are to be disambiguated by the beamforming design or by the data association scheme. The choice of ambiguity graph determines which of the two subproblems is more difficult and, therefore, allows to trade performance of one versus the other, resulting in a detection–association tradeoff. We show how to design both the beam pattern and the association scheme for a given ambiguity graph. We then discuss how to choose an ambiguity graph achieving close to the optimal detection–association trade-off.
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