Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List


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On February 7, 1958, Neil McElroy, the Department of Defense Secretary, issued DoD Directive 5105.15 establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), later renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Agency’s first three primary research thrusts focused on space technology, ballistic missile defense, and solid propellants
The Geographic Synthetic Aperture Radar (GeoSAR) program was an airborne radar-based project for simultaneously mapping foliage canopies along with the terrain underneath the canopies. Begun in 1996, the program outfitted a commercial Gulfstream II business jet with a dual-band (P-band and X-band), dual-sided, interferometric mapping radar, designed to efficiently map wide-areas in a single pass of the aircraft.
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.