In February 2009, the USA’s Missile Defense Agency instituted the Missile Defense Advanced Technology Innovation (ATI) Program to:
“…identify and develop innovative concepts, stimulate technology innovation, and exploit breakthroughs in science to offer robust technology improvements to all elements of the [missile defense system]… The MDA contracts with private industry, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations for research in those areas covered in this BAA… MDA does not have a specified amount of funding available for BAA awards, however, if MDA decides to pursue a concept the appropriate level of funding will be identified, and a final proposal will be requested by a MDA Contracting Officer in writing.”
That was pretty vague and non-committal, but it did lay out key research areas, and invite ideas. A February 2010 update to the solicitation has added some clarification around the involvement of “foreign persons.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to take research on nitride-based electronic devices and integrated circuits – used in tactical radio systems, phased array radar, and satellite communication – to the next level. Or should we say the NEXT level?
That is the name of their research effort: the Nitride Electronic Next Generation Technology (NEXT) Program. The NEXT program is designed to enable revolutionary advances in nitride electronic devices and integrated circuits resulting in their ability to operate at very high frequencies while maintaining extremely favorable voltage breakdown characteristics.
There’ll be no tweaking of existing technology. On its NEXT Web site, DARPA declares: “Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.” In other words, only Big, Hairy, Audacious Research need apply…
The NEXT program is designed to enable revolutionary advances in nitride electronic devices and integrated circuits resulting in their ability to operate at very high frequencies while maintaining extremely favorable voltage breakdown characteristics. DARPA is looking for ways to overcome the limitations of nitride-based electronics technologies, such as gallium nitride (GaN). “GaN: DARPA’s 3-Pronged R&D Strategy” has more on DARPA’s GaN research efforts.
The program aims to develop high-speed, high-power transistors for use in radar and electronic warfare systems…
The global proliferation of advanced, ultra-quiet diesel electric submarines has prompted a number of responses around the globe, from initial-stage efforts to mimic a shark’s senses in the USA, to the most obvious route of using more powerful active sonars. In Western countries, concerns have been expressed that these sonars may disorient or scare marine mammals, leading to decompression sickness or disruption of their biological sonar navigation systems. This has led to (unsuccessful) lawsuits aimed at curtailing submarine exercises by Western navies.
In December 2007, USN Rear Adm. Lawrence S. Rice, director of Naval Operations Environmental Readiness, discussed some of the measures that are being taken to investigate the issue, and also mitigate any possible effects. In January 2008, a court battle erupted over undersea training off the coast of San Diego, CA, throwing the issue back into the limelight and potentially crippling Navy training before a dangerous deployment to the Persian Gulf. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ follow-on ruling was predictable, but in November 2008, the US Supreme Court issued its ruling.
In light of that favorable ruling, a settlement has now been reached on the Navy’s terms. The Navy has just been given permission to conduct exercises near Hawaii, and this, too, is likely to end up in court, along with its planned training near Florida. Meanwhile, the US Navy continues to fund marine mammal research – which may begin to include UUVs and/or USVs…
Like a swarm of angry bees, unmanned aerial, ground, and sea vehicles automonously converge on enemy troops, aircraft and ships, decide what to do, then engage the enemy with surveillance or weapons to help U.S. forces defeat them. All this without direct human intervention. Sounds like science fiction? The American military is one of several working on the technology, called “swarming,” in order to make this scenario a reality.
According to the SWARMS project at the University of Pennsylvania, future military missions will rely on large, networked groups of small unmanned vehicles and sensors. Groups of this type will typically operate with little or no direct human supervision most of the time. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee individual management or control in the kind of dynamic, resource-constrained, adversarial environments that characterize human warfare. Managing such large groups will thus be extremely challenging, and will require the application of new, yet-to-be-developed methods of communication, control, computation and sensing, specifically tailored to the command and control of large-scale, autonomous vehicle groups.
DID has more on a recent NAVAIR contract, and the swarm concept…
DID has reported extensively on research contracts related to Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductors, which offer significantly higher power and performance. Unfortunately, they present manufacturing and cost challenges that have stymied their use in commercial applications.
In May 2005, Compound Semiconductor Magazine offered an excellent overview of the GaN wide-bandgap semiconductors program and DARPA’s goals. Key program objectives include rapid transition of the technology developed into military systems. Other important goals include a “great” improvement in understanding the physical reasons behind device failures and the development of physical models to predict performance, reproducible device and MMIC fabrication processes, and improved thermal management and packaging. Reliability is expected to be a key challenge.
GaN represents an innovation in materials technology. DARPA’s approach adds innovative procurement strategies, via a 3-pronged approach that aims to speed the development of GaN-based microelectronics…
The US Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program works to support research that involves more than one traditional science and engineering discipline. Traditional research grants can be hard to come by in these cases, and few extend over multiple years but many complex problems require this approach. So, too, does talent development.
Hence MURI’s recent FY 2009 slate, involving $260 million awarded to 69 academic institutions, in order to fund 41 projects over the next 5 years. Exact amounts for each project will be negotiated between the winning institutions and the DoD research offices that will make the awards: the Army Research Office (ARO), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).
ARO, ONR, and AFOSR solicited proposals in 32 topics important to the DoD, and received a total of 152 proposals. Some of the project topics and titles included:
On Feb 19/09, the Australian Government formally opened an A$ 85 million Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) in Bendigo, Victoria, aimed at researching futuristic materials for the Defence industry. The DMTC is the first center to be established under the Defence Future Capability Technology Centre Program, and the project was announced in December 2007. It’s funded under a partnership arrangement, with the Australian Government provided A$ 30 million. Collaborating partners contribute a further A$ 52-55 million.
Nov 5/08: SAIC Technology Services Co., of San Diego, CA received an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for $16 million for R&D under a Broad Agency Announcement entitled “Electro Magnetic Effects Research and Development.” This research will examine aspects of high power EM lethality, with missions that include survivability of military equipment high power microwave (HPM) environments, the development of HPM weapons, and the refinement of HPM-predictive modeling for inclusion into engagement and campaign-level models. The military woul like SAIC to make optimum use of available AFRL/RDH capital assets and to augment or complement AFRL/RDH capabilities, rather than pursuing its research alone. The Air Force Research Laboratory/RDKP, Det 8 Directorate of Contracting at Kirtland AFB, NM manages this contract (FA9451-06-D-0222, P00009).
EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) is a side-effect of intense radiation bursts, usually from a nuclear weapon. Its effect is to fry most semiconductor-based electronics within its effective range, which is to say most electronics these days. This gives EMP a potential offensive use via strategically placed nuclear airbursts. Rep Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD] has led the charge on this issue in Congress, working to establish an EMP Commission that has reported on the USA’s general vulnerability to such attacks, and further research continues. HPM includes EMP, but it can also be much less dramatic. As one example, there are claims that some modern AESA radars might be able to focus their arrays, in order to produce a very localized HPM effect that could impair or even disable enemy radars. With AESA radars set to deploy in Russian and European fighters over the next decade, a better understanding of the applied physics involved makes sense for both defensive and offensive reasons.
International Business Machines Corp., of Yorktown Heights, NY received a cost type contract for $2.4 million, under the “Wafer-Scale Graphene RF Nanoelectronics effort.” This effort is connected to DARPA’s CERA(Carbon Electronics for RF Applications) effort. The project’s goal is to investigate 2 challenges that are fundamental to development of high performance carbon electronics for military radio frequency applications in military systems. The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contracts (FA8650-08-C-7838). At this time all funds have been obligated.
IBM fellow Phaedon Avouris, the manager of Nanoscale Science at the Research Center, explains: