Technological dominance where it counts: Everywhere.
Maintaining technological superiority over potential adversaries is an ongoing challenge for the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD) – today more than ever. It’s a challenge that requires innovation now, not just sometime. BAE Systems’ FAST Labs focuses on accelerating innovation of advanced technologies for America’s defense community, and our Defense Electronics R&D unit applies that focus to electronics, optics, and advanced materials to create multi-function systems.
Our Defense Electronics R&D unit’s current areas of focus are described below. While some may appear concerned with advancing one particular component, a key goal of this unit is to advance electronics in ways that escalate tasks across multiple technologies, optics that improve sensory capabilities in current and future platforms, and advanced materials that boost SWaP-C measures in every component they are used to build.
Accelerating R&D in key defense electronics focus areas
BAE Systems is one of the world’s largest defense electronics manufacturers, but that starts with having one of the world’s most advanced defense electronics research and development teams. Every day, they tackle mission-critical challenges that the USDOD needs them to focus on. Currently, that includes:
The MATRICs Transceiver is a fourth generation, wideband multichannel transceiver that transmits and receives on multiple channels simultaneously, and has an easily-adaptable IC infrastructure to address demands of communications, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence systems both now and in the future. It also delivers higher performance than any chip available commercially, including instantaneous bandwidth of 10 MHz to 4 GHz, a significantly broader frequency range, and it covers a broad range of radio waveforms.
Implementation times are accelerated and costs are kept low due to this systems-on-a-chip design which can handle multiple missions, from comms and EW to ISR, radar, and more. In fact, engineers can even reprogram this highly-adaptable chip on-the-fly to create custom radio systems in the field, with no need for application-specific chips that make development more expensive and time consuming. Plus, the reduced size, weight, and power use of the MATRICs Transceiver make it ideal for applications where light weight and low power are at a premium.
The MATRICs Transceiver is available as a kit that your team can implement or you can have our experienced RF engineers – the same ones who invented it – customize your chips for your applications, platforms, and networks. Learn more at baesystems.com/MATRICs.
The power electronics specialists in our FAST Labs Defense Electronics R&D unit develop advanced, high power radio frequency (RF) transistors and integrated circuits that amplify microwave/millimeter wave radio signals. These circuits are specially designed to operate in harsh conditions and are integrated into transmitter assemblies supporting a range of applications, including radar, communications, electronic warfare (EW) systems, and more.
These cutting edge solid state transmitters are developed using GaN (Gallium Nitride) material, a wide band gap material that enables high voltage operation leading to ~5 times more power density than GaAs (Gallium Arsenide), the preceding generation technology.
Classic silicon-based (SiC) circuit design has limitations that can inhibit innovation. BAE Systems’ Microelectronics R&D Center in Nashua, New Hampshire develops DoD-accredited Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits (MMIC) using GaAs and GaN advanced materials with a proprietary epitaxial substrate that do not have silicon’s limitations, but instead offer a technological edge that includes industry-leading performance.
Built to enable advanced EW transmitter systems, our discriminating GaN on SiC (Silicon Carbide) devices and circuits go far beyond what is available commercially. The current production process is at a 180nm node and is processed on 4” diameter wafers.
As a world leader in this technology, we provide GaAs and GaN foundry services to the U.S. defense community, offering our technologies and expertise, including opportunities for clients to design their own circuits with discriminating performance, then have them produced right there in our state-of-the-art foundry.
Learn more about our foundry services now at baesystems.com/foundry.
Digital Phased Arrays
The central mission of our advanced FAST Labs Digital Phased Array (DPA) team is to provide defense community clients with the performance and versatility they need to complete missions successfully, while adapting to real-time mission changes as events progress.
Our core Digital Phased Array developments are driven by mission directives, in both open and contested environments. Toward this, our DPA team is embedded in the electronic warfare (EW) systems division and continuously collaborates with prospective beneficiaries of the technology – both internally and externally – to ensure that these technologies are relevant and discriminating.
How do we accomplish these goals? Our RF-converged Digital Phased Arrays use a digitizer at every element, enabling software-defined multifunction capabilities that can be rapidly switched and reconfigured, and sharing of data between multiple beams across multiple RF functions.
A good example is our ORCHESTRA multi-function phased array, which integrates multiple RF capabilities on a DPA payload in an ultra-low SWaP application. With heterogeneous digital signal processing, the array performs multiple simultaneous functions, for unparalleled aperture flexibility and greater operational scalability.
To learn more, including examples that are specific to your department and its objectives, start a conversation with us.
Digital Read-Out Integrated Circuits (DROICs)
Achieving cutting edge SWaP-C microelectronics for a broad range of defense, intelligence, and commercial applications requires alignment of several integral assets, and high performance Digital Read-Out Integrated Circuits (DROICs) are high on that list.
Unlike conventional ROIC analog technology, DROICs feature on-chip signal processing, digitizing in each pixel during integration, which:
- Enables new designs with simultaneous high sensitivity, low noise, and deep charge wells – that’s performance not possible in analog ROICs.
- Allows a sensor to provide processed information to the system, so it’s available immediately and requires no or less post-processing.
FAST Labs has become a thought leader in DROIC design, trusted by DARPA, combining our mastery of high-speed digital design, our EO/IR system expertise, and the ROIC design experience of BAE Systems’ Countermeasure & Electromagnetic Attack Solutions (CEMA) group.
Among its many uses, we are now employing DROICs to develop revolutionary mission performance applications for EO/IR sensing technologies, both active and passive. They will also be used to infuse key CEMA and C4ISR products with revolutionary discriminators.
What is Defense Electronics R&D?
Defense Electronics R&D (research and development), also known as Defense Technology R&D, is a term used primarily within the defense, intelligence, and government services communities referring to the exploratory development of electronic components and systems that are specifically designed to establish or continue technological superiority in national defense. These configurations often consist of multiple electronic warfare (EW) devices and the components they are made of, including many that house multiple devices in a self-contained unit.
Systems built from defense electronics provide robust, high performance electronic detection, electronic protection, and electronic attack capabilities to support mission success and minimize casualties. To achieve cutting edge capabilities, defense electronics developers design higher capability microprocessors, transceivers, power management, photonics, and other component functions. Many of these components are specialized for military environments with challenging thermal and vibration requirements. These advanced systems can be deployed on a range of military platforms, including large and small aircraft, ships, submarines, satellites, hand-held devices, and land vehicles.
These electronic solutions are developed by multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, in collaboration with commercial and academic counterparts. Funding for Defense Electronics R&D is generally provided as part of national or allied defense research and development programs, but may also lead to related dual-use commercial advancements.
Key products developed or improved by defense electronics
Defense electronics are usually developed as separate components for the purpose of improving performance of a larger device or system. By improving a microchip design, for example, defense electronics can broaden C4ISR sensors’ data bandwidth, shrink the size, weight, and power (SWaP) needs of a pilot’s control center, or increase the speed of processing satellite images. Defense Electronics R&D applies that component-driven innovation approach to improving numerous military requirements, from communications, transportation, and tactical measures to medicine, decision support, and ordnance. Today there are many commonly-used products – some exclusively military, others also used by civilians – originally invented or enhanced by defense electronics, including:
Strong growth in Defense Electronics R&D
Over the last two decades, the U.S. electronics manufacturing sector has contracted sharply, including consolidations among what had been some of its largest defense electronics developers. But BAE Systems has grown its defense electronics capabilities significantly over that time, including our FAST Labs Defense Electronics R&D group, and we continue to develop some of the nation’s most advanced, next-generation technologies for the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Maintaining the cutting edge in defense electronics is essential to assuring that the nation’s defense systems can control the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) where and when necessary, worldwide. By doing so, we help detect, analyze, and track potential threats, providing situational awareness that a country and its allies needs to prepare defensive measures, establish diplomatic insights, and reinforce offensive options before conflicts arise.
A strong Defense Electronics R&D program can prepare advanced electronic warfare (EW) systems to intercept, identify, and decode the data of adversaries, or even use directed energy to disrupt enemy operations. In essence, BAE Systems’ FAST Labs Defense Electronics R&D infrastructure enables these development programs to assure full use of the electromagnetic spectrum in the battlespace, offering the capacity to reinforce mission success and survivability at every stage, prevent some armed conflicts before they begin, and reduce the impact and scope of conflicts underway.