The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a phase I contract to Northrop Grumman to develop next-generation communications technology to support defence communications, aircraft and space systems.

Under the $28.9m nitride electronic next-generation technology (NEXT) contract, Northrop will develop the next generation of gallium nitride (GaN) technology.

The GaN transistors and integrated circuit technology developed under this programme will enable high-performance analogue-to-digital converters for future advanced electronic systems.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems NEXT programme manager Mike Wojtowicz said the goal of the NEXT programme is to increase the operating frequency of GaN devices to 500GHz while maintaining its high breakdown voltage in a large-scale integration process.

“This will enable the next-generation, high dynamic range mixed-signal technology and high-frequency RF power sources,” he said.

Partners on the NEXT programme include the University of California Santa Barbara, Arizona State University and Pennsylvania State University.

The first phase of the contract is worth $12.4m.