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Conformal Antenna Technology for Improved Signal Intelligence (SIGINT)


OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate conformal antenna concepts to enable tactical signal intelligence (SIGINT) for threat detection/avoidance and targeting for Special Operations AC/MC-130Js and similar legacy aircraft. DESCRIPTION: Air Force warfighters are becoming increasingly interested in employing conformal antenna technology when adding new radio frequency (RF) sensing capability to fielded aircraft. Conformal antennas add minimal weight, have minimal aerodynamic drag, and also have no visual signature. Because conformal antennas impart minimal impact to the flight performance of aircraft, they offer the possibility to install a greater number of antennas, or larger antennas, which can enable increased sensor performance. A number of conformal antennas technologies are in development. Direct write is a technology that allows antennas to be sprayed on complex geometries such as aircraft skins. Structural excitation technology uses conductive aircraft skins to serve as the antenna. Other concepts feature antenna elements embedded in composite skin panels. This effort is intended to demonstrate conformal antenna concepts that will enable tactical SIGINT exploitation of traditional and non-traditional signals of interest (NTSOI) for threat detection/avoidance and targeting for Special Operations AC/MC-130Js. NTSOI frequencies range from 10 MHz up to 6,000 MHz. Many NTSOI are vertically polarized. The C-130J has a length of 98 ft, wingspan of 132 feet, and a height of 39 ft. The aircraft has four turboprop engines and a service altitude of 28,000 ft. The aircraft features traditional built-up aluminum construction. The integration of conformal antennas with the conductive aluminum skins of the AC/MC-130Js presents a technical challenge and may require replacement of aluminum components with dielectric component. Minor aircraft modifications, such as winglets, will also be considered to provide a site to locate conformal antenna and can improve aerodynamic performance as well. Emphasis should be placed on concepts that will be inherently low cost to retrofit on the AC/MC-130Js. While not part of this development, the antenna array will require the associated backend including: receiver, processor, algorithms, cabling, and miscellaneous equipment to complete the sensor system. PHASE I: Develop a conformal antenna concept and identify installation locations on the AC/MC-130Js. Define a notional antenna backend. Predict antenna performance as installed on the AC/MC-130Js. Conduct breadboard testing of the antenna concept and demonstrate feasibility through both testing and analytical tools. PHASE II: Fabricate a scale model of the C-130 and Phase I antenna concept. Conduct performance measurements on model antenna and provide cost estimates for potential retrofits. A final presentation/demonstration will be held at the conclusion of Phase II at Wright-Patterson AFB. PHASE III: The conformal antenna technology will have many applications for SIGINT capability on existing military/commercial aircraft. REFERENCES: 1. Callus, P.,"Conformal Load-Bearing Antenna Structure for Australian Defence Force Aircraft,"2007. 2. Callus, P.,"Novel Concepts for Conformal Load-bearing Antenna Structure,"2008. 3. You, C., Tentzeris, M., Hwang, W.,"Multilayer Effects on Microstrip Antennas for their Integration With Mechanical Structures,"2007.
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