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Advanced Radio Frequency (RF) Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC)




Develop Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) that have high dynamic range (> 90 dB) and large instantaneous operational bandwidth (> 10 GHz), with digital signal processing at native Radio Frequency (RF) or Intermediate Frequency (IF). PICs are expected to operate from L to Ka bands (specifically, 950 MHz to 40 GHz); wider upper frequency range is also desired.


The Wideband Anti-jam Modem System (WAMS) modem is the Navy's next generation software-defined wideband modem for both transponded and processed satellites and will be integrated with the Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT) on ships and submarines, Commercial Broadband Satellite Program (CBSP) on ships, and the Modernization of Enterprise Terminal (MET) on shore for communications. WAMS will enhance shipboard and submarine wideband functionality to provide resilient communications. The WAMS modem will provide protected communications through two waveforms: Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW) and Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). These waveforms require both wide bandwidth and high dynamic range, which requires relatively large Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) with current conventional electronic circuits.

PICs offer numerous advantages such as greater operational bandwidth and reduced SWaP requirements. PICs may offer the ability to directly sample wide swaths of RF bandwidth and process them directly at the antenna. Optical transport of signals over relatively low cost and highly durable optical cables offer the potential to significantly reduce operational and maintenance costs. Further, optical transport is more immune to Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) and, complementarily, less likely to produce EMI.

Unlike electronic integrated circuits where silicon (Si) is the dominant material, PICs have been fabricated from a variety of materials (e.g., gallium arsenide, lithium niobate). Each material provides different advantages. This SBIR topic will explore the variety of fabrication materials for PICs and develop an advanced signal processing system to yield high dynamic range and wide bandwidth capabilities for the WAMS modem.

This SBIR topic falls under the NDS Alignment of "Modernize Key Capabilities" and the DDR&E (RT&L) Tech Priority "Microelectronics."


Explore a variety of fabrication materials for PICs and investigate their performance in regard to bandwidth and dynamic range. As some materials used in PICs are considered rare earth materials, investigate the ease of acquiring and manufacturing for the materials explored.

Develop a concept for the architecture of an optical signal processing system that can directly capture and process wide band RF or IF at the antenna or up/down conversion subsystem, respectively. The optical signal processing system should perform all the necessary frequency translations in the optical domain and render the bands of interest in digital electronic form. Consider in the research that the ideal formatting for the electrical signals will be in VITA 49.2 or ANSI 5041 standard; however, contractor format is acceptable for Phase I. Ensure that the minimum analog - digital bit depth shall be 16 bits each for I and Q signals.

Describe the most promising technical solutions based on the investigations and technical trade-offs performed earlier in this phase.

For the identified technical solutions, develop the SBIR Phase II Project Plan to include a detailed schedule (in Gantt format), spend plan, performance objectives, and transition plan for the identified Program of Record (PoR).


Develop a set of performance specifications for the Advanced RF PIC and conduct a System Requirements Review (SRR).

Establish a working relationship with a candidate WAMS modem contractor to perform initial integration activities and identification/development of any necessary Pre-Planned Product Improvement (P3I) requirements on the candidate WAMS modem. Engage with the Program Office to assist in the identification, introduction, and collaboration with the candidate WAMS modem contractor.

Develop the prototype Advanced RF PIC for demonstration and validation in the candidate WAMS modem or equivalent development environment. Conduct Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the Advanced RF PIC prototype and commence development of an Engineering Development Model (EDM) system. Conduct Critical Design Review (CDR) prior to building the EDM.

Develop the lifecycle support strategies and concepts for the Advanced RF PIC.

Develop SBIR Phase III Project Plan to include a detailed schedule (in Gantt format) and spend plan, performance requirements, and revised transition plan for the identified PoR.


Refine and fully develop the Phase II EMD to produce a Production Representative Article (PRA) of the Advanced RF PIC and integrate into the final target WAMS modem.

Perform Formal Qualification Tests (FQT) (e.g., field testing, operational assessments) of the PRA Advanced RF PIC with the WAMS modem and associated terminal.

Provide life-cycle support strategies and concepts for Advanced RF PIC with the WAMS modem contractor by developing a Life-Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP).

Investigate the dual use of the developed technologies for commercial applications such as in telecommunications. With 5G, new waveforms must be capable of supporting a greater density of users (e.g., up to a million devices per square kilometer) and higher data throughput (speeds in the Gbps), and provide more efficient utilization of available spectrum. Advanced RF PICs can potentially provide the high dynamic range and spectral processing power to meet these needs. Another potential commercial application is optical or photonic computing where high performance computer systems are required to process and transport petabyte scale data within and among distributed computing environments.

KEYWORDS: Navy Multiband Terminal; NMT; Commercial Broadband Satellite Program; CBSP; Wideband Anti-jam Modem System; WAMS; WAM; Satellite Communications, SATCOM; Military Satellite Communications; MILSATCOM; Photonic Integrated Circuit; PIC; RF; Radio Frequency; Operating Systems Design and Implementation; OSDI; VITA 49.2; Communications Satellite


1. "Photonic Integrated Circuit." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, March 3, 2020.

2. "Photonic Integrated Circuit." Circuits Today, 2020.

3. "Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, May 1, 2020.

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