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Medium Caliber Projectile Conformal Antenna RF Seeker


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, 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 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation.


OBJECTIVE: Develop conformal antennas for a medium-caliber projectile. Develop capability to survive gun launch environment. Improve target angle rate error. Improve performance of aperture-limited antennas. Demonstrate breadboard-level seeker functionality.


DESCRIPTION: The DARPA MAD-FIRES program seeks to use a medium-caliber guided projectile to engage maneuvering threats. Current projectile technologies have been demonstrated in flight maneuver, but only recently have advances in electronics and gun survivability opened the possibility of projectile-based seekers. One possible seeker type is RF seekers. Current RF systems require apertures larger than projectile diameter for target tracking in terminal engagement.

A novel approach is needed for achieving sufficient gain at small diameter to enable medium-caliber RF seekers. The alternative solution of command-guidance from ground radar places significant accuracy requirements on that radar, which becomes prohibitive for very long-range acquisitions. Optical sensors offer high accuracy, but are limited in range and require hot targets or daylight illumination. RF seekers are the primary candidate for maturation.

DARPA seeks a novel antenna and seeker approach that will allow successful antenna integration on a mediumcaliber projectile. The antennas must reside within the outer mold line of a medium-caliber projectile and survive gun launch and ballistic fly out. The antenna should provide sufficient gain in the forward direction to track targets during fly out and terminal engagement. The antennas must support accurate measurement of line of sight to target for terminal phase guidance.

This RF seeker shall provide a higher Pk than existing approaches, which will benefit the DoD and the warfighter by fewer shots required per target, lower cost per intercept, and greater survivability of the defended asset.


PHASE I: Develop and design antennas for the MAD-FIRES projectile, simulate performance for configuration selection, and trade size and shape against performance to allow antenna selection trades for projectile integration. Analysis should reveal the antenna performance characteristics in a relevant environment across frequency and angle of approach to target. The proposer shall further the proof of concept study by evaluating component survivability during launch up to performing shock testing to simulate various representative launch loads. A final proposed design with a discussion of trades and details of expected performance is expected at the completion of Phase I.


PHASE II: Complete a detailed antenna design for the MAD-FIRES projectile culminating in a critical design review of the concept. Upon successful review, fabricate prototype antennas for potential live-fire testing. Measure performance of seeker in hardware demonstration and use results to update error model and refine algorithm, as necessary. Phase II deliverables will include: 1) fabricated prototype seeker and platform mock-up, 2) quantified results of performance measurements taken during hardware demo, and 3) updated/validated seeker error model, suitable for use in 6DOF simulations. The Phase II final report should describe the seeker design, the measured performance and the final seeker error model.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Small, survivable, lightweight antennas and receiver hardware will enable unique commercial applications for systems requiring highly directional and robust receiver solutions such as commercial satellites, relocatable communications nodes, and vehicle ranging sensors for autonomous vehicles. Inclusion on small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) would create selectable, directional datalinks improving link margin for mesh networking and reducing power requirements for downlinks. This technology provides design flexibility to all size constrained systems such as UAVs and satellites. The ability to position antennas longitudinally (lengthwise) while achieving the same performance as a traditional front facing antenna provides many more options for antenna placement and orientation to optimize overall miniaturization and compact system design.

Military applications will focus on the DARPA MAD-FIRES platform, supporting the government system analysis that will inform the MAD-FIRES contractor concepts. Additional applications will include C-RAM and strategic defense missions, including adaptations for projectile and missile host platforms.


KEYWORDS: Medium caliber projectile, ballistics, guided bullet, guided round, target intercept, RF seeker, miniature seeker, precision-guided munition

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