Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List


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In 1960, ARPA helped establish what now is the burgeoning field of materials science and engineering by announcing the first three contracts of the Agency’s Interdisciplinary Laboratory (IDL) program. Following these initial four-year renewable contracts to Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern University, the Agency awarded nine more IDL contracts around the country. The program lasted just over a decade when, in 1972, the National Science Foundation (NSF) took over the program and changed its name to the Materials Research Laboratories (MRL) program.
In the early 1990s, DARPA developed an airborne, all-weather, radar-based mapping capability that generated maps of the terrain with an accuracy to within six feet of elevation and that could do so day or night, and in adverse weather conditions, such as thick cloud cover or rain. Under DARPA sponsorship, the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) carried out the project and mounted an interferometric radar system on a Learjet 36A to collect data, which was then processed on the ground into digital elevation models.

In the mid-1970s, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force jointly developed an airborne target-acquisition and weapon-delivery radar program, Pave Mover, under the Agency’s Assault Breaker program. The Pave Mover system relied on even earlier DARPA-sponsored research into moving target indication (MTI) radar for detecting slowly moving targets. As the program progressed, researchers added a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to analyze areas for which the MTI radar could not detect a moving target, as well as capabilities for detecting helicopters and even rotating antennas. Also originally a part of Pave Mover was a weapon guidance feature.

These and other technologies became the basis for the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) in the 1980s. And by the early 1990s, the system proved its value in Operation Desert Storm as real-time support to commanders for both battle-area situation assessment and targeting roles.

Although both the radar and the weapon guidance elements were demonstrated in the DARPA Assault Breaker program, the weapon guidance part was later dropped from the Joint STARS Program. In 1996, the Department of Defense approved JSTARS for production and deployment. The Air Force executed contracts with Northrop Grumman to modify seventeen Boeing 707-300 series aircraft into what a fleet of E-8C JSTARS, which have undergone multiple modifications and upgrades over the years.


The Microwave and Millimeter Wave Integrated Circuit (MIMIC) program’s objective was, according to a review by one of its program managers, “to develop microwave/millimeter-wave subsystems for use in military weapon system ‘front ends’ that are affordable, available, and broadly applicable.” The program catalyzed multi-faceted research in materials (gallium arsenide), device design, integration, defect management, manufacturing, and other areas. The work yielded a new infrastructure for MIMIC technology with specific applications proliferating throughout the military and commercial sectors.

Phased-array radar systems were among the technology’s earliest uses for defense, but as the technology progressed toward greater yields and cost reductions, cell phone designers turned to MIMIC-based power amplifiers, which placed far more communications reach in smaller packages than ever before. The program provided foundations for follow-on technology development and has served as a model for subsequent programs for pushing microwave, millimeter-wave, submillimeter-wave and THz-frequency solid-state electronics forward. In 1993, The Space Foundation, citing DARPA’s pivotal role, inducted MIMIC Technology into its Hall of Fame.

In 1999, the first flight test associated with the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) program, which begun in 1995, took place. With origins in the tradition of metal radar-confusing chaff dropped from aircraft, the point of MALD was to develop a small, inexpensive decoy missile to counter air defense measures.