BAE Systems’ research and development (R&D) organisation FAST Labs has secured a contract to develop ‘leap-forward’ technology for next-generation radar and communications systems.

The $17.5m contract has been awarded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

It will support DARPA’s Generating RF (radio frequency) with Photonic Oscillators for Low Noise (GRYPHON) programme.

BAE Systems’ technology for this programme will provide a combination of compact size, low noise, and frequency agility to support the next-generation airborne sensing and communications capabilities.

The solution offered by the company will combine the agility and efficiency of digital electronics with the bandwidth and stability of photonics to provide accurate microwave sources in a small form factor.

This further enhances the weight, size, power and cost of this mission-critical technology to be equipped on smaller platforms.

According to the company, the high-performance electronic oscillators are crucial to virtually driving all microelectronic systems, but the currently available systems are the size of a mini fridge.

BAE Systems claims that its technology can maintain and enhance performance while minimising the size of the system to a quarter.

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs chief technologist Chris Rappa said: “New science, thinking, and techniques allow breakthrough technology advances.

“The GRYPHON programme is a great example of applying new concepts, such as incorporating photonics and digital electronics, to provide leap-forward innovation.”

BAE Systems will also collaborate with subcontractor GenXComm to carry out the associated work under the GRYPHON programme.

GenXComm’s role involves leading the photonics subsystem development for BAE Systems’ technology.

It will also work on advanced micro photonics development for RF signal processing to deliver ultra-low latency, high throughput and interference-free wireless mesh networks.