Updated July 8,
Go to our download
area and get a copy of DARPA's 2007 strategic plan. Here's two
figures from the plan that illustrate DARPA's role in technology,
if you've been to a DARPA presentation you've see these charts no
On this page we
will (in absolutely zero detail) describe some of the DARPA programs
past and present that are used to advance the state of the art in
microwave engineering, here in the United States. DARPA only takes
on far-out jobs that are high-risk/high payoff, which has led to
the expression "DARPA hard", meaning a problem that is
gonna take your best guys some time (and beaucoups dinero) to figure
out. Increasingly their mission has changed to taking cool technology
into the field, rather than pure research.
Note: all of the
information on this site was gathered from the darpa.mil
web site. You can rest assured that nothing on Microwaves101.com
is in violation of the International Traffic In Arms Regulations
budget of DARPA is $3.3B for 2007! We'll wager a guess and say
that somewhere in the neighborhood of $100M of DARPA's wallet
o'warbucks goes to develop microwave hardware each year. Who's
History of DARPA
DARPA stands for
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It one point the removed
the word "defense" from their name and DARPA became ARPA,
but that sounded like a noise that a sick manatee might make so
they went back to the original moniker.
DARPA was formed
in 1958, shortly after Sputnik was launched, so the US would not
be caught by any other surprises. It's original focus was to get
the US on track in the Space Race, but over time it has evolved
into much more.
DARPA programs have
made some of the major advancements in technology that the modern
world depends on. For example, the internet was once the ARPANET.
Here is a 185
page document that details some of the technologies that were
transitioned from DARPA to useful military and commercial products.
This includes the SR-71 blackbird, early phase array antennas, the
M-16 rifle, satellite navigation systems (which led to the global
positioning system (GPS), the Saturn V launch vehicle that put Apollo
astronauts on their way to to the Moon, and stealth fighter bomber
and navy vessels (Sea Shadow). By the way, read here the real quote
Gore "inventing" the internet. Another triumph of
conservative mind control by substance abusers Bush and Limbaugh.
In terms of microwave
engineering, DARPA was responsible for the huge cash injection that
made MMICs into a profitable industry in
the United States (for at least a short time). The "MIMIC"
program dumped wheelbarrows of cash into GaAs foundries across the
country from 1988 to 1999, each one working on different microwave
chipsets that would support defense-related hardware such as T/R
modules and EW receivers. Many older microwave program managers
get misty eyed when they think back to these exciting times, but
these dudes gotta stop living in the past... comments that start
with "I remember on the MIMIC program" have no real relevance
today, that was two wars ago. Later programs such MAFET
(Microwave and Analog Front-End Technology) achieved further cost
reductions in MMICs.
Challenge was DARPA's latest fifteen minutes of fame, where
robot vehicles competed against each other to drive across the desert.
Next up is the "Urban Challenge", where teams will compete
to build an autonomous vehicle able to complete a 60-mile urban
course safely in less than 6 hours. We'd like to suggest that they
follow up with a "NASCAR Challenge!"
Ongoing and future
2006: DARPA has reorganized, they now have six main offices.
For microwave engineering work, the MTO office is the one to watch.
Here's an org chart of DARPA, which was approved for public release:
Most DARPA programs
that have to do with microwaves come from the MTO program office.
In their own words:
in materials, devices, circuits, and mathematics to develop beyond
leading edge components with revolutionary performance and functionality
to enable new platform capability for the Department of Defense."
Here is some history
from the DARPA MTO web site. For some reason this office just
loves MEMS technology, but we're not convinced.
include 3-D Micro Electromagnetic Radio Frequency Systems (
3D MERFS). This is a cool program that seeks to make rectangular
coax cheaply, using printed wiring board technology. The contractors
are Rohm and Haas, and BAE. Who's your Papa? Check out our new
page on rectax to lean more about this
Wide Band Gap Semiconductor is a cash injection for those US foundries
that are pursuing gallium nitride (GaN) and/or silicon carbide devices.
means Intelligent RF Front Ends. This program seeks to build devices
that can operate across wide frequency bands, by self-tuning to
the desired frequency. Low loss switches are used to move matching
circuits to optimize at different bands. This is NOT a trivial problem,
but no DARPA project starts out trivial!
Scalable Millimeter-Wave Architectures for Reconfigurable Transceivers
wants to develop 3-dimensional MMIC technology so that power amps
can fit into the lattice spacing of a phased
array antenna. Northrop Grumman and Rockwell each own part of
MEMS Improvements (RF MEMS). DARPA was one of the early sponsors
of MEMS work, and even though MEMS should
be well beyond the DARPA stage of life, MEMS work goes on. Contractor
Radant claims to have solved the Riddle of MEMS.
STO was formed by merging the
Advanced Technology Office (ATO) and the Special Projects Office
(SPO). This happened over the summer of 2006. This is another organization
worth watching for microwave-related work.
The former Advanced Technology
Office (ATO) "researches, demonstrates, and develops high payoff
projects in maritime, communications, special operations, and information
assurance and survivability mission areas. These projects support
military operations throughout the spectrum of conflict. ATO adapts
advanced technologies into military systems and also exploits emerging
technologies for future programs. The ultimate goal is superior
cost-effective systems the military can use to respond to new and
This program office
may be involved in microwave technology, but at the system level.
We like to think that ATO will help prevent Nena's
worst nightmare, the 99 Red Balloon Scenario:
99 Duesenjaeger, Jeder war
ein grosser Krieger
Hielten sich fuer Captain Kirk, sas gab ein grosses Feuerwerk!
Here is the direct
translation of the song from German!
Low cost cruise
missile defense (LCCMD)
developed a Ka-band AESA (an active phased
array). This program originated in the SPO and now falls under
STO. Got that?
fortitude is a real program!