DARPA asks industry to develop electronic processor for advanced SIGINT.

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Arlington, VA. – Military researchers are asking for industry’s help in developing a combination hybrid analog, digital, photonic, and electronic processor to help analyze radio-frequency (RF) and optical signals for situational awareness.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA) in Arlington Virginia  have issued a Solicitation for the All-Signal Tactical Real Time Analyser ( ASTRAL) program.

The future of the ASTRAL hybrid analog/digital photonic/electronics processor is to demonstrate real-time nom-linear cyclostationary and convolutional processing, as well as low probability-of-intercept signal processing gain over input electromagnetic signals filling a bandwidth of 1 to 10 GHz.

The projects also seeks to identify architectures and algorithms for military applications that are well-suited to real-time wideband hybrid analog, digital photonic/electronic use. DARPA briefed industry on the program on July 18th 2017

The project seeks to plug technology gaps in the U.S. military’s ability to counter ever-increasing electronic attack and cyber technology threats from potential enemies.  The program seeks to develop and demonstrate a system for RF and optical electromagnetic signal surveillance, situational awareness, and understanding that improves current signal awareness speed and spectrum coverage by 1,000 times. This technology also should be suitable for mobile tactical operations.

ASTRAL program seeks to ensure U.S. military access to the congested and contested electromagnetic environment of the battlefield by using hybrid analog/digital photonic/electronic processor technologies of wideband real-time signal processing to detect hidden electromagnetic signals in real time and to perform high-value military signals intelligence (SIGINT), surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The electromagnetic signa environment contains valuable information about the enemy’s order of battle, their maneuvers and actions and early indications of potential threats, DARPA researchers point out.

The electromagnetic signal environment, however, is crowded and cluttered, and DARPA experts say they expect it to grow exponentially more so as new technologies enter service, like 5G wireless communications, unmanned vehicles, and millimeter wave radar.  The project seeks to enable U.S. and allied warfighters to understand in near-real-time all the waveform details, source type and class, signal format, and geolocation of detected RF signals, as well as the information these signals carry and whether or not the information is encrypted.

The ASTRAL program will enable superior electromagnetic signal awareness at the tactical edge with new technology suitable for tactical mobile units.  ASTRAL technology will enable U. S. tactical forces fighting in all kinds of conditions to understand what adversaries are doing around them, anticipate adversaries’ future actions, and recognize potential threats.

ASTRAL seeks to combine new analog photonic technology with state-of-the-art digital/electronic in a hybrid photonic/electronic processing system.  The analog photonic elements could take advantage of the wide bandwidth, wide optical dynamic range, ease of parrelization, and ability to implement multiplications by square-law detection that photonic technology offers.  The digital elements, meanwhile, could implement general algorithms, low costs, and programming flexibility of electronics.

Some spectrum awareness applications of interest to DARPA include: optical communication real-time internet protocol (IP) packet identification and exploitation for physical layer network defense; city-wide wireless device geolocation; X-Ku-Ka band low probability of intercept radar warning; and theater-wide spread-spectrum radio geolocation.

(article credit: John Keller, Military & Aerospace Electronics, August 2017, militaryaerospace.com)

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