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Wideband 16x12 Non-Blocking Radio Frequency Switch




OBJECTIVE: Develop a dynamically reconfigurable, minimal latency 6U Virtual Path Cross-Connect (VPX) wideband non-blocking radio frequency (RF) switch that can simultaneously handle thousands of diverse signals from multiple apertures to multiple channels on a single processing card to increase autonomy while addressing emerging and dynamic threats.


DESCRIPTION: Signal intelligence (SIGINT) is the intelligence obtained by the interception of communications and electronic signals. An Electronic Support Measure (ESM) provides the passive capability to search, intercept, collect, classify, geo-locate, monitor, copy, exploit, and disseminate these signals over a specific RF range. A key subsystem to an ESM is the RF distribution, a unit which routes the incoming RF signals to the appropriate channel for processing and analysis. Current 6U RF switches are limited in the exploitation of the frequency spectrum due to size, weight, power, and cooling (SWaPC) constraints associated with the frequency response of the components in the signal conditioning path.


This SBIR topic’s goal is to develop a 16x12 non-blocking switch that operates from 1.5 MHz to 18 GHz. The proposed non-blocking RF switch should maintain present 6U SWaPC constraints. The non-blocking RF switch must be a single processing card while maintaining the following open interface standards: ANSI / VITA 46.0 VPX Baseline Standard.


The non-blocking RF switch must be able to route any of the 16 input apertures to any of the 12 output tuner channels while remaining dynamically reconfigurable via a sensor open systems architecture (SOSA). The Application Programmer Interface (API) and Interface Control Documents (ICD) will be supplied during Phase I.


An RF Cascade analysis of the design should address the non-blocking RF switch’s performance in signals’ Gain, Isolation (input-coupled and output-coupled), Noise Figure (NF), Input third order Intercept Point (IIP3), 1 dB Compression Point (P1dB), and switching time at a minimum. Hardware must be delivered with software and firmware APIs and development kits for rapid integration into U.S. Government Labs.


Design tasking in Phase I and Phase II will not be classified. Analysis tasking associated with hardware in Phase II may become classified.


Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by 32 U.S.C. § 2004.20 et seq., National Industrial Security Program Executive Agent and Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material during the advanced phases of this contract IAW the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), which can be found at Title 32, Part 2004.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Reference: National Industrial Security Program Executive Agent and Operating Manual (NISP), 32 U.S.C. § 2004.20 et seq. (1993).


PHASE I: Design and develop an initial non-blocking RF switch solution for airborne platforms in maritime environments including an assessment of the ability of the technology solution to meet SWaPC form factor as detailed in the Description above. Additional ICDs and APIs will be supplied in Phase I to develop a conceptual architecture of the RF switch. An initial design of the RF Switch is required as a product of the Phase I effort, along with initial SWaPC analysis. The Phase I Option should lay out initial design requirements for the operating bandwidth of the RF switch; the RF switch’s NF, Isolation, IIP3, and P1dB; verification of operational performance requirements through modelling and simulation (M&S); and prototype plans to be further developed under Phase II (e.g., associated documentation; i.e., initial block diagram, schematic, capabilities description).


PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a prototype hardware and firmware solution, or engineering demonstration model (EDM), which builds upon the proposed solution and architecture developed in Phase I with a brass-board, proof-of-concept design. A design review should be conducted early in the development phase. The effort shall include a lab demonstration, that is, the prototype hardware should be delivered at the end of Phase II, ready to be tested by the U.S. Government. The final report should include a lab demonstration plan and results, and a transition plan for Phase III focusing on an integration of the RF switch, including further technical maturation and manufacturability of the resulting prototype for an airborne military environment.


Analysis tasking associated with hardware in Phase II may become classified. Please see note in the Description paragraph.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Refine the design, lab (or ground) test, and integrate the RF transceiver solution within a government systems integration lab (SIL). If not completed during Phase II, the Phase III design should focus on the manufacturability, production, and sustainment for compliance with the military operating environment (military standards and handbooks such as MIL-STD-810, MIL-STD-704F, MIL-STD-461, MIL-STD-464C should be used as reference until exact specifications are supplied). Phase III deliverables will include documentation not addressed during Phase II such as, but not limited to, Critical Design Review (CDR), associated Qualification Testing and analysis to support Flight Testing, performance requirements, associated ICDs, and manuals.


Dual use in the commercial sector is presently limited; however, some commercial companies are addressing this with the FAA. FedEx is reviewing to install self-defense systems similar to military aircraft and helicopters, and its proposal for anti-missile infrared laser countermeasures to the FAA states “in recent years, in several incidents abroad, civilian aircraft were fired upon by man-portable air defense systems”. As missile protection for commercial aircraft (RF systems) continues to be explored, a modified EMS system may be used as an early warning system.



  1. Working Group. (2019). ANSI/VITA 46.0 VPX Baseline Standard. VITA.
  2. Working Group. (2020). ANSI/VITA 48.2 Mechanical Standard for VPX REDI Conduction Cooling. VITA.
  3. Oppenheim, A. V., Schafer, R. W., Buck, J. R. (1999, January 10). Discrete-time signal processing (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall.
  4. Karam, L., AlKamal, I., Gatherer, A., Frantz, G. A., Anderson, D. V., & Evans, B. L. (2009). Trends in multicore DSP platforms. IEEE signal processing magazine, 26(6), 38-49.


KEYWORDS: Signal Intelligence; SIGINT; radio frequency; RF switch; ESM; Electronic Support Measures; ANSI/VITA; Digital Signal Processing; DSP; High bandwidth Processing; Signal Detection; Spectral Awareness

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