Northrop to cut RF and microwave interference
ARLINGTON, Va., 8 Nov. 2016. RF and microwave experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. are trying to develop RF analog signal processing that performs unprecedented levels of in-band interference suppression as a way fundamentally to transform military RF systems. Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va. announced a potential $7.8 million contract on Friday to the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., for the Signal Processing at RF (SPAR) project.
Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va. announced a potential $7.8 million contract on Friday to the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., for the Signal Processing at RF (SPAR) project.
SPAR seeks to mitigate interfering signals of known and unknown characteristics using analog signal processing techniques and chip-scale circulator approaches to help clean up U.S. military radar, communications, and other RF systems in RF-contested environments.
Ultimately DARPA may choose several contractors and spend as much as $30 million on the SPAR program. Thus far Northrop Grumman is the program's first and only contractor.
The Electromagnetic spectrum is a scarce resource, in which a variety of friendly, unfriendly, and neutral entities contend for available spectrum, DARPA researchers say. As a result, military communication networks and radar encounter an increasing amount of RF noise and interference.
Military RF and microwave applications must operate in an unpredictable electromagnetic environment that confronts warfighters with strong uncooperative RF interference due to high-power close-proximity jammers.
In-band jammers can overwhelm an RF receiver’s analog front-end well before digital signal processing can reduce noise effectively. This limits the interference tolerance of the receiver while also limiting the number of users who can occupy the same spectrum.
The DARPA SPAR project seeks to develop an analog-matched filtering capability to provide additional protection of the front-end receiver to alleviate the effects of in-band interference in military RF systems -- a capability that is no available today.
RF and microwave experts at Northrop Grumman and at any future SPAR contractors will develop the underlying technologies to suppress in-band interference directly at the antenna and prior to the receiver electronics.
The goal is to design, build and demonstrate RF signal processing components that can remove in-band interferers from the desired receive signal prior to the receiver electronics. Components developed under the SPAR program must be able to isolate signals and offer low noise and high linearity for components operating at the RF front-end.
Northrop Grumman and any future SPAR contractors will develop reconfigurable components to support a large number of matched filter codes for friendly spectrum users. This should enable radio and radar operation in increasingly congested and contested RF environments, DARPA researchers say.
In addition, SPAR will enable RF systems to transmit and receive simultaneously at the same frequency, which could double spectrum efficiency.
The DARPA contract to Northrop Grumman is $2.9 million for the SPAR program's first phase, a $2.3 million option for the second phase, a $2.4 million option for the third phase, and an additional $244,603 option for the program's third phase. The project should last until March 2020.
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