Recent defense industry developments center around future platforms with the US Navy looking ahead to the 2030s for a new fighter that could be unmanned. Other areas of focus included next generation systems underpinned by new technologies. The Strategy Analytics Advanced Defense Systems (ADS) service report, “Defense Electronics Industry Review: May 2012,” reviews significant defense industry news, including product announcements, milestones, contract activity and defense industry financial performance.
Even though the JSF has yet to make its operational debut, the US Navy is already looking ahead, issuing a Request for Information (RfI) for a new fighter, which could be manned or unmanned, to replace the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler in the 2030s. In the short term, unmanned platforms remain in focus also with Northrop Grumman announcing a deal for NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system which includes five Block 40 Global Hawk UAS. Elbit Systems was also active in Europe with a contract that will see the company supply UAS platforms over the next two years. Also in Europe, BAE Systems has begun testing technology to enable conventional aircraft to fly safely without pilots, including weather-avoidance and emergency landing systems.
New technologies will underpin these new platforms and the capabilities that they bring. For example, the Block 40 UAS platforms for the AGS program will utilize the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor which uses active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology based using compound semiconductors like gallium arsenide (GaAs). In other radar related news, Selex Galileo will begin delivering a new version of its Raven ES-05 AESA radar for integration with Saab's two-seat demonstrator for the next-generation Gripen E/F. Progress is also being made on the Euroradar Captor-E AESA for Eurofighter Typhoon where Cassidian is acting as design authority.
Other examples of semiconductor technologies underpinning the next generation of systems include the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) electronic warfare program, which is providing opportunities for companies such as ITT Exelis. It will utilize AESA technology based around gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors. Cassidian is also using GaN technology for the electronic components that will be used for the German Armed Forces' new software-defined radio communications system (KommSysBw).
On the research front, TriQuint has been selected by DARPA to lead a development program focused on ultra-fast GaN switch technology for the Microscale Power Conversion (MPC) program. TriQuint is teamed with Rockwell Collins, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Northrop Grumman to create a new generation of RF power amplifiers that use contour modulation for very high efficiency performance that exceeds the capabilities of devices currently available.
GaN continues to play a large part in future defense systems and is also gaining traction in the commercial world. Strategy Analytics explored this technology in detail last week during IMS 2012 in Montreal, Canada. Our special panel session, “Where are the emerging RF market opportunities for GaN?” attracted over 130 participants and provided a great overview of where this technology is going. Thanks to Microwave Journal for working with Strategy Analytics to set up the event and a special thank you to Cree, Nitronex, NXP, RFMD, TriQuint and UMS and Nitronex for presenting such great insightful content.
Finally, laser weapons appeared to be once again in vogue. Northrop Grumman test fired the first product in its next-generation FIRESTRIKE™ family of high-energy, solid-state lasers demonstrating that the laser could burn through the skin and critical components of a target drone. Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is looking to develop a solid-state laser weapon prototype for multi-mission capabilities aboard a ship.
Clients of the ADS service can read the full report here.
Also, don’t miss this month’s column in the Microwave Journal’s Military Microwaves.
Finally, I’ll be attending IQPC’s Military Satellites 2012 conference this week including a site visit to the headquarters of Surrey Satellite Technology to learn about micro and nano-satellite development from a leader in the global satellite market.
See Defence iQ for more analysis on the defense industry, related news and events.