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Multiband Equipment for Spectrum Agility (MESA)

Description:

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Info Systems 

OBJECTIVE: Develop cost-effective modules or antennas that will enhance the spectral agility of legacy radios through multi-band operation. 

DESCRIPTION: Current tactical data links such as Link 16, Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT), Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL), Multi-Function Advanced Data Link (MADL), etc. each require a dedicated set of radio frequency amplifiers, filters, and antennas, which negatively contribute to the size, weight, and power (SWaP) of airborne platforms. Supporting multiple unique systems is particularly difficult on space-constrained unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and tactical platforms. Programs such as the Battlefield Aerial Communications Node (BACN) payload have had success in bridging the gap between these various data link types, and other Air Force developments are investigating the advantages of directional data links for spectrum re-use and reduced probability of intercept. Extending both concepts such that the multi-band/multi-waveform gateway includes spatial directionality can provide additional cost and SWaP savings while enhancing connectivity. The spectral and spatial agility provided by such a system will also have benefits for mitigating friendly RF congestion and adversary jamming. Systems will be required that include low SWaP multiband RF electronics and antennas, as well as resource management techniques to efficiently utilize systems capable of simultaneous frequency and spatial diversity. The MESA antenna system should support airborne data links at 10-45Mbps and ranges of 100-300nmi. 

PHASE I: Phase I will study candidate designs for multi-band modules/antennas and their performance and anticipated size, weight, and power - cost (SWaP-C) for different con-ops. Phase I results should quantify the benefits of different approaches for varying link distances, interference levels, and scintillation environments using analysis and/or simulations, accounting for practical implementation constraints. Work with the government to identify the requirements for a Phase II demonstration. 

PHASE II: Implement the selected technology in hardware and demonstrate the gains at an AFRL test range. Present a path toward optimizing SWAP-C. Show compatibility among demonstrator systems and legacy (in-use systems) radios. 

PHASE III: Develop and deliver flight-qualified units with a complete RF system for transition to appropriate platforms. The product could be used in a variety of homeland security areas, such as border patrol and the Coast Guard. 

REFERENCES: 

1. T.F. Brukiewa et al, “Demonstration of an X/Ku band multi-link antenna system for CDL communications”, 2003 IEEE International Symposium on Phased Array Systems and Technology, 14-17 October 2003, Boston MA.; 2. B. Trent et al, “DYNAMICS: Inverse mission planning for dedicated aerial communications platforms”, 2015 IEEE Military Communications Conference, 26-28 October 2015, Tampa FL; 3. G. Wang et al, “A novel MAC protocol for wireless network using multi-beam directional antennas”, 2017 International Conference on Computing, Networking and Communications, 26-29 January 2017, Santa Clara CA

KEYWORDS: Multiband, Spectrum Agility, MIMO, Airborne Networking, Software Defined Radio 

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