Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Electronic Warfare

Manipulation of the electromagnetic spectrum for military advantage

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For decades, the United States has successfully countered the threats of competitor nations by harnessing advanced technologies to create exceedingly robust and capable military platforms. But as advanced technologies have become more readily available to adversaries on commercial markets, the Nation’s focus on ever more complex weapons systems has become not just a strength but also a weakness. Effective as they are, U.S. military systems today are often too expensive to procure in the quantities needed, and may take so long to develop that the electronic components they contain are obsolete by the time they become operational.
DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) has demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests. The achievement of government acceptance for field trials marks the end of the program’s laboratory development phase and the beginning of a new and challenging set of tests against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
By combining complementary mindsets on the leading edges of electronic and radiofrequency device engineering, a pair of researchers in DARPA’s Young Faculty Award program have devised ultratiny, electronic switches that approximate inter-neuron communication. These highly adaptable nanoscale switches can toggle on and off so fast, and with such low loss, they could become the basis of not only computer and memory devices but also multi-function radiofrequency (RF) chips, which users might reprogram on the fly to behave first like a cell-phone’s signal emitter but then, say, as a collision-avoidance radar component or a local radio jammer.
DARPA has awarded a contract for the third and final phase of its Advanced RF Mapping program, known as RadioMap, which seeks to provide real-time awareness of radio spectrum use across frequency, geography and time. Akin to smartphone maps that show color-coded current traffic conditions, RadioMap is developing technology that visually overlays spectrum information on a map enabling rapid frequency deconfliction and maximizing use of available spectrum for communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems.
Competition for scarce electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is increasing, driven by a growing military and civilian demand for connected devices. As the spectrum becomes more congested, the Department of Defense (DoD) will need better tools for managing the EM environment and for avoiding interference from competing signals. One recent DARPA-funded advance, an exceptionally high-speed analog-to-digital converter (ADC), represents a major step forward. The ADC could help ensure the uninterrupted operation of spectrum-dependent military capabilities, including communications and radar, in contested EM environments.