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Low-Profile Wideband SATCOM Antennas (LPWSA) for Airborne Platforms


TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Air Platform, Electronics, Space Platforms

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 3.5.b.(7) of the solicitation.

OBJECTIVE: Develop low-profile, wideband antennas for SATCOM systems located on airborne ISR Army platforms with an emphasis on reverse link data rate improvement and radome height reduction.

DESCRIPTION:  There is a critical need for miniaturized advanced concept SATCOM antenna designs to improve size, weight and power (SWAP) and provide greater mounting flexibility on airborne Army Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms.  Development is needed to advance the state-of-the-art to enable bi-directional high data rates (minimum of 4.0 Mb/s target of 10.0 Mb/s) capable of handling imagery and communications intelligence (IMINT, COMINT) in standard Military bands.  In order to reduce aircraft drag count, provide mounting flexibility, improve on-station loiter time and reduce operating and support (O&S) cost, and provide substantially improved mission bandwidth, it is necessary that the size of these antennas be dramatically smaller than similar SATCOM antennas in use today for these applications.  Novel approaches to all aspects of antenna design and performance are sought.  Antenna concepts should support both transmit and receive functionality with linear (vertical and horizontal) and circular (left and right-handed) polarization and sufficient realized gain to communicate with commercial satellites and military satellites from airborne Army ISR platforms.  The target beamwidth should be less than 2 degrees to satisfy Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regulations operating at full power & dates rates. Future electromagnetic modeling of the antenna on a specific aerial platform could be necessary to account for pattern and impedance distortion caused by the interactions between the antenna and the conducting and dielectric structures on the platform.  By using electromagnetic analysis computer codes and approximate models of the platforms-of-interest (POI), the simulated radiation performance of the antenna can be calculated.  If successful, this effort will produce a novel SATCOM antenna system that will result in significant fuel cost savings for both military and commercial aerial platforms and enhanced battlefield communications and situational awareness for the Army due to its lower profile, high data rate and multiband functionality.

PHASE I:  Develop multiple design concepts, conduct a trade study, and identify the 3 most promising concepts for antennas that show promise in meeting the description above.    Analyze and report expected RF performance of these design concepts through electromagnetic simulation.  Identify risks and approaches for reducing risk toward effecting these designs.

PHASE II:  Conduct risk mitigation activities identified in Phase I then fabricate and demonstrate proof-of-concept for the most promising prototype antenna design(s) from Phase I.  Measure the RF performance (bandwidth, gain, radiation pattern etc.) both standalone and on a simulated, or surrogate, military platform to validate the proof of concept design. Update Phase I risks and approaches to risk reduction and complete a preliminary design for an aircraft mounted SATCOM antenna as described in the Description.  Conduct risk reduction activities to respond to the top two risks for the new preliminary design.

PHASE III:   Complete risk reduction activities identified in Phase II then complete design, integration, and fabrication of the advanced concept SATCOM antenna for a specific Army Aviation Platform.   Plan for and conduct developmental and operational testing of the advanced concept SATCOM antenna.  Transition this antenna technology onto 1) Army Airborne ISR (AISR) RC-12 twin engine turbo prop platforms such as the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS), and Guardrail Common Sensor, 2) the larger four engine Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL), 3) general aviation single and multi-engine military and commercial aircraft,  and 4) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) such as  the low-to-medium altitude Predator B UAS that may be found in Homeland Security and military AISR programs.  The resulting fuel cost savings from lowered aircraft drag and enhanced data rates will attract both the Military and the Commercial sectors to procure and productize the antenna technology.

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