23 June 2020
BAE collaboration with AFRL speeds development of next-gen radar, EW and communications technology
BAE Systems’ FAST Labs R&D organization says that it continues to advance millimeter-wave gallium nitride (GaN) technology to support critical next-generation radar, electronic warfare (EW) and communications. Currently in Phase 3 of a multi-year, cooperative agreement with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), it continues to develop defense-critical GaN technologies and is providing Department of Defense (DoD) suppliers with access to support its warfighters.
GaN technology provides broad frequency bandwidth, high efficiency and high transmit power in a small footprint, enabling greater system capabilities for critical DoD applications. The technology fills a unique DoD need for low-cost, high-performance amplifier technology.
In the multi-phase program, Phase 1 focused on transitioning the technology to BAE Systems’ foundry from AFRL. Phase 2 is about maturing the technology and scaling to 6-inch wafers to slash per-chip costs. Phase 3, which runs concurrently with Phase 2, extends this technology and, for the first time, provides technology access to a larger community to develop high-performance integrated circuits for next-generation applications. Developing this expertise and capability onshore is part of the DoD’s ongoing effort to build a trusted, US-based supply of key advanced electronics capabilities.
Phase 3 includes a government-sponsored challenge – utilizing BAE Systems’ foundry and leveraging the firm’s expertise – that will open access to non-traditional teams from industry and universities to gain design diversity and experience in GaN across the broader community. Expanding the universe of organizations that can access GaN and develop applications utilizing the technology could exponentially speed adoption of this key technology, it is reckoned.
“This GaN program with AFRL is establishing the foundation for advanced technology development that could lead to new mission-critical technologies for a generation of warfighters,” says Chris Rappa, product line director for Radio Frequency, Electronic Warfare and Advanced Electronics at BAE Systems FAST Labs. “As a result of this multi-year, multi-phase program and our own internal investment, we have seen more than $15m worth of updates to technology and facilities that will allow additional growth, and increased capacity to help fulfil the DoD’s goal of creating additional trusted, US-based centers of excellence for next-generation technology.”
The GaN program is part of BAE Systems’ defense electronics R&D portfolio, its open foundry service, and builds on its recently announced T-MUSIC award, and its MATRICs technology. The firm is researching and devveloping microelectronic technologies, including GaN, in its 70,000ft2 Microelectronics Center (MEC) in Nashua, NH. The MEC has been an accredited DoD Category 1A Trusted Supplier since 2008, and fabricates integrated circuits in production quantities for critical DoD programs.