Security, tools, and specialization highlight today's FPGA trends in aerospace and defense applications

By John Keller

Security, advanced programming tools, and increasing specialization for an ever-broadening number of potential applications are primary trends in today's field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology for aerospace and defense. FPGAs represent one kind of programmable digital processor with many gates that enable systems designers to custom-program the device on the fly for security, functionality, power consumption, and other benefits.

"One of the most important trends coming up now is security," explains Young Kwon, product marketing manager for aerospace and defense at FPGA specialist Xilinx Inc. in San Jose, Calif. "We have two different kinds of security: information assurance, which is cryptography and keeping adversaries from decoding what you are saying; and anti-tamper, which comes into play when you want to prevent an adversary from reverse-engineering a piece of equipment."

Xilinx officials pride themselves on the ability of the company's FPGA devices to support on-board cryptography. "We have a unique way that reduces the number of pieces of hardware you need to implement it," Kwon explains. "We have single-chip cryptography where we can do many of these functions in one piece of silicon. We released that capability first in our Virtex 4 FPGAs."

Xilinx also considers itself a leader in anti-tamper technology, which can prevent an adversary from reverse-engineering FPGAs to learn about their capabilities. A Xilinx FPGA with anti-tamper capability "in general will destroy itself, or least destroy the information it contains" in case of an unauthorized attempt to reverse-engineer the device. Reverse engineering essentially seeks to take a device apart to learn its secrets.

Anti-tamper capability is key for today's complex military applications, such as smart munitions, which contain intellectual property that enables U.S. defense capability to stay ahead of those of potentially hostile nations and terrorist organizations.

Where FPGA programming tools are concerned, some of today's most notable technology trends involve helping systems designers comply with the DO-254 standard for assuring quality and safety for airborne electronic hardware for commercial aviation.

"There is an increasing awareness and desire to comply with DO-254, which requires assistance from the tools vendors," says Ken O'Neill, director of marketing for the Space Products Team at the Microsemi SoC Group (formerly Actel) in Mountain View, Calif.

"Compliance with DO-254 requires assistance from the FPGA tools vendors because there are requirements to provide documentation and traceability. The tools vendors have been doing a lot to provide easier and more comprehensive ways to ensure that compliance," O'Neill explains.

In addition, O'Neill says, FPGA tools vendors also are helping device manufacturers with difficult problems like providing triple redundancy for dealing with radiation-induced single-event upsets (SEUs) in space applications. "A synthesis tool that takes care of that redundancy for you is a handy thing to have," he says.

O'Neill singles out Mentor Graphics in Wilsonville, Ore., and Aldec Inc. in Henderson, Nev., among the FPGA tools vendors that are helping device manufacturers with DO-254 compliance. O'Neill sites Mentor Graphics and Synopsys Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., among the tools providers helping with tasks like triple redundancy.

Perhaps most significant of trends in FPGAs is the breadth of aerospace and defense applications that these devices enable. "There is greater specialization in FPGAs today, with a greater variety of features in our products and those from other vendors," O'Neill explains.

"If you survey the market, you see FPGAs based on digital signal processing (DSP) applications, and different ranges of devices with on-board microprocessors to meet needs for general-purpose processing," O'Neill says. "Some integrate well with the analog world, and some are optimized to minimize power consumption. We see that level of specialization increasing as time moves on."

Embedded computing specialist Mercury Computer Systems Inc. in Chelmsford, Mass., is making a move into electronic warfare and signals intelligence applications, and its engineers find that today's FPGAs-particularly from Xilinx-"are very good at the processing that has to happen to deal with the radio-frequency spectrum," explains Tom Roberts, solutions marketing manager at Mercury.

"For the counter-improvised explosive device (IED) implementations we have worked on, receiving a signal, understanding its components, and enabling the exciter to understand what kind of frequency it needs-really fast and highly parallel-are all done in the FPGA on XMC cards," says Anne Mascarin, another solutions marketing manager at Mercury.

More Military & Aerospace Electronics Current Issue Articles
More Military & Aerospace Electronics Archives Issue Articles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

VPX3-453 3U VPX Virtex-6/8640D Digital Signal Processor

The Curtiss-Wright VPX3-453 is a high performance 3U VPX DSP and FPGA processor card that combine...

CHAMP-FX4 6U OpenVPX Virtex-7 FPGA Processor Card

The CHAMP-FX4 is the flagship 6U product in Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions’ family of user-prog...

PMC-E2001 Audio/Acoustic Waveform Generating PMC Card

PMC-E2001 Delta-sigma PMC features 16-bit resolution with 8 Analog Outputs and 4 Analog Inputs wi...

General Micro "Horizon" C299

The C299 Horizon is a third generation, 6U cPCI SBC module based on GMS’ upgradable CPU technolog...

RR2P Removable Canister RAID System

Transportable data storage for mobile field use aboard planes, ships and ground transport. 2U, du...

General Micro "Atom" XPC40X Rugged, Ultra-Small, Ultra-Low-Power Intel Atom™ CPU SBC

The XPC40X Atom is a rugged, low cost, ultra-low power, lightweight, Atom™ based computer system....

General Micro's VS295 Eclipse

The VS295 Eclipse is fifth generation, VME SBC module based on GMS, upgradable CPU technology. It...

ADEPT3000 Automatic Video Tracker

GE Intelligent Platforms ADEPT3000 is a cost-effective SWaP optimized automatic video tracking so...

6U OpenVPX HPEC Starter System

GE Intellligent Platforms new HPEC Application Ready Platforms (HARP) products respond to governm...

DSP280 - Rugged Dual Socket 2nd Gen Intel Quad Core i7 Multiprocessor

The DSP280 is a rugged, 6U OpenVPX dual socket Intel 2nd generation Quad Core i7 multiprocessor d...

Related Companies

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

Innovative Integration

  Since 1988, Innovative Integration has grown to become one of the world's leading suppliers of DSP and data ac...

General Micro Systems Inc

Since 1979, General Micro Systems has been providing the most diverse line of single-board computers in the industry....

Winchester Systems Inc

At its founding in 1981, Winchester Systems introduced its first 5 MB disk system for Intel development system users....

Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc (X-ES)

 Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc. (X-ES) is a leader in the design, manufacture, and support of standard and ...


Provides a lightweight, compact aluminum connector. M-series connector is focused on the design that requires a MIL-3...

GE Intelligent Platforms

Provides embedded computing solutions. Products include single-board computers, networking products, avionics interfa...

Omnetics Connector Corp

Omnetics Connector Company is a privately held, world class connector design and manufacturing company with over 25 ...

Dawn VME Products

Dawn provides customers an in-depth and broad range of system and product knowledge and expertise coupled with the la...
Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Low Viscosity, One Part Cyanoacrylate Is Non-Toxic and Meets ISO 10993-5 Specifications

Master Bond MB250NT is widely used for a variety of applications ranging from repair to high speed producti...

Thermally Conductive, Two Component Epoxy Passes USP Class VI Tests and ISO 10993-5 Specifications

With biocompatibility and cytotoxicity certifications, Master Bond EP21AOLV-2Med is often selected for bond...

One Component, Snap Cure Epoxy Features High Strength Properties

Suitable for a variety of applications in the electronic, aerospace and OEM industries, Master Bond EP3SP5F...

One Part Epoxy Resists up to 500°F and Meets NASA Low Outgassing Specifications

Master Bond Supreme 12AOHT-LO is a one component epoxy for a variety of bonding and sealing applications in...

VICTORY Shared Processing, Fire Control Computer, and Switch for Ground Vehicles Introduced by Curtiss-Wright

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has introduced a new fully i...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation’s Defense Solutions division applauds Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) o...

Curtiss-Wright’s New Rugged Mobile IP Router Subsystem Features an Integrated Cisco® 5915 ESR Router

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division, a Cisco® Systems Solution T...

GE Announces First Sub-Credit Card-Sized Multi-Function High Definition (HD) Video Tracker

HUNTSVILLE, AL.— OCTOBER 13, 2014—GE’s Intelligent Platforms business today announced at AUSA (October 13-...


Meeting the Gen3 backplane challenge with OpenVPX and COTS

Tight Pentagon budgets mean military systems must stay in the field for longer than ever before. This doesn't mean obsolete technology, however. Today's military electronics are being upgraded constantly, an...
Sponsored by:

Design Strategy Considerations for DO-178C Certified Multi-core Systems

Join Wind River to learn how system architecture and design choices can minimize your DO-178C certification challenges.

Sponsored by:

Flying, Sailing or Driving - The Rugged, Embedded Intel-based Server that goes where you need it!Flying Sailing or Driving

Leveraging the power of server-class processors is no longer relegated to the confines of data centers. Through several innovations, Mercury Systems has ruggedized Intel’s server-class chips for deployment. ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

April 2015
Volume 26, Issue 4

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles