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Aerospace and Defense Channel

Advanced Components for Electronic Warfare (ACE) Program

How the DOD is Getting Back “Big Time” into the Game of Funding Advanced Technology Development for Components and Subsystems for Next Generation Weapons Systems

September 17, 2012
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With everyone inside the Washington beltway holding their breath on what is going to happen to the DOD budget with the upcoming presidential election, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air about what is going to happen to defense spending.  Issues like mandatory budget sequestration which will be triggering Trillions of dollars in automatic defense and non-defense cuts are a reality, and with the growing US Budget Deficit concerns, it now means we are entering uncharted waters from a budgetary point of view. Will major OEMs layoff thousands of workers now before the election due to potential funding cuts.   Will budgets be fought in a “lame duck “Congressional session?  It is indeed an uncertain environment. While all this is happening, the DOD has been deliberately moving forward with re-setting their Science and Technology Priorities to address future threats with advanced weapons, sensors, and targeted investments to improve war fighter capability. And now those DOD plans are starting to come into focus.

For close to two years the DOD has been on a determined and structured path with a documented vetting process, to develop technology road maps to help build war fighter capability and capacity.  The DOD recognizes that it must invest in advanced technology for future weapons programs in order to be successful in the rapidly evolving global security environment we face. The domains of war now include land, sea, air, space and cyberspace - anytime, anywhere on the face of the globe. This initiative was an outgrowth of the recent QDR process, where the DOD, with the support of the Secretaries of the Military Departments, Directors of the Defense Agencies, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) pulled together a team effort across the Defense Department to identify the core capabilities and enabling technologies for key mission areas. Zach Lemnios, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD/RE, formerly called DDR&E), was the designated DOD team leader, and along with all other stakeholders, is overseeing the development and implementation of road maps for each priority.

This is a matter is of great interest to those of us in the microwave industry and we need to pay attention to what is happening here.  These road maps are meant to coordinate DOD component investments to accelerate the development and delivery of capabilities to support war fighter needs. This is our turf in the microwave industry and we need to help with solutions to solve war fighter problems, with the best technology we in industry can provide.

There are seven DOD S&T priorities, sometimes referred to in jest as “The Magnificent Seven”.  These included: Data to Decisions, Engineered Resilient Systems, Cyber Science and Technology, Electronic Warfare and Electronic Protection, Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction, Autonomy, and Human Systems.  The most important area to us in the microwave community is the Electronic Warfare and Electronic Protection area. It will be focused on developing and enabling components and subsystems primarily in two areas, 1) RF/MW/MMW Technology and 2) Optical/IR. We all need to pay attention to this.

There has been some initial activity to date led by the US Navy thru their Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Specifically, last April, there was the first open solicitation sent out by the DOD to try to collect ideas, gauge interest, and see the “art of the possible” for advanced technology development in Electronic Warfare systems.   The Naval Research Laboratory, the Army Research Laboratory/Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Research Laboratory all came together in one solicitation.  In it the documents requested information for a program called Advanced Components for EW (ACE). This was under an RFI defined as Solicitation NRL-12-RK01B. As outlined by the US Navy in the RFI, Electronic Warfare (EW) has been “identified as a game-changing enabler for the Department of Defense”. There have been numerous studies conducted by the Services and Defense Agencies on this subject in recent years. In their view, a common thread identified throughout these endeavors is the need for Advanced Components necessary to revolutionize future Electronic Attack (EA), Electronic Protection (EP), Electronic Support (ES), and Network Enabled Systems.

The DoD is putting in place the initial steps for the ACE Program to be similar in construct, scope, and funding to the Microwave/Millimeter Wave Monolithic Integrated Circuits (MIMIC) Program to address these forward looking weapon system goals.  This is a significant parallel.  As we all recall, the Microwave/Millimeter-Wave Monolithic Integrated Circuits (MIMIC) program, headed up by Elliot Cohen of DARPA, was a seven-year, one-half billion dollar program initiated by the US Department of Defense (DoD) in 1986 to provide affordable, available, and reliable microwave and millimeter-wave circuits for use in military electronic systems. This was followed immediately by the multi-year/ multi-hundreds of million dollar MAFET (Microwave Analog Front End Technology) program.

Have I got everyone's attention now?  There will be a lot of funding available here and the microwave community needs to actively participate in the planning, formulation and execution of this effort.

The US Navy RFI requested all interested Industry parties to submit their initial views for the ACE program, modeled on the MIMIC Program construct, that address all of the following areas and attributes:

  1. Critical technical focus areas with specific technical ideas for significant leap-ahead component improvements. For each identified component focus area provide:
    1. A description of the technology(ies) and their key attribute(s);
    2. Their current level of performance, anticipated level of performance in 5 years with no DoD initiative, and anticipated level of performance in 5 years assuming a concerted DoD initiative;
    3. An estimate for the level of effort (personnel and funding) and scope needed to make the improvements identified in item b).
    4. Key risk items (technical, programmatic, schedule) and risk mitigation strategies;
    5. Assumptions on technologies (materials, processes, expertise) that will be readily available and those materials, processes, personnel that will require DoD investment to realize;
    6. Anticipated sustainability and profitability after ACE - if successful will the underlying component technology base be self-sustaining, require continued DoD investment to maintain, or be unknown at this time?
  2. Impact on future EW operational capabilities;
  3. Implementation based upon an appropriate balance of DoD program means and the industrial base; and
  4. A program duration of not more than four years.

So it looks like the solicitation has outlined and proposed a good start, a solid plan of attack, and defined critical objectives. This initial effort by the DOD to gather information was the start of the road mapping process for Advanced Component development for Electronic Warfare. (ACE)   Don't worry if you didn't participate in the initial round.  There will be more “on ramps” for companies to participate.  Besides, everyone knows this was an initial request from the government.  From this, the DOD will collect all the industry inputs and eventually send it back out to industry for comment.  It will them for the basis for inclusion in a future SOW. This will be described in more detail below as the USAF takes on the next step in the road map process.  In addition, the DOD understands that a lot of companies will likely “close hold” some ideas and not submit their more innovative and creative ideas and concepts for later rounds where their Intellectual property (IP) will be protected.        

Now, here is something we need to pay attention to.  The next step in this process is being driven by the USAF through Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  The AFRL Sensor Directorate folks in Dayton are heading up a follow-on solicitation to carry the ball down the field on this important Mulch-service program. The have issued a Broad Agency Announcement to address what they now call the “Advanced Components for Electronic Warfare (ACE) Phase 0”.  The Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Number is BAA-RQKS-2013-0001. Their stated purpose for this announcement is to provide information for an Upcoming Industry Day for the Advanced Components for Electronic Warfare (EW) Program.  The Industry Day is scheduled for September 26, with registration by September 20th. If interested and you want to participate, you need to sign up. Details on how to do that are summarized below.

Following the DOD planning, the Advanced Components for EW (ACE) program is being identified as an anticipated requirement for DOD just yet, as they can't legally commit to a program that hasn’t yet been funded by the US Congress. But make no mistake; this program is solidly backed by DOD.  And the planning is in place to execute it.  DOD believes that Next Generation Cognitive and Distributed EW Systems will require leap-ahead component technologies to keep up with emerging threats.  The DOD ACE action Group formulated and documented a recommended plan for the ACE initiative in a “Distribution D” Report that will be made available to potential officers at the Industry Day, who show proof of a Certified, Non-Expired DD Form 2345, (i.e. ITAR controlled information).  The government report provides 1) Critical Technical focus areas with specific technical ideas for significant leap ahead components 2) Impact on future operational capabilities 3) A plan to insert the results of the initiative into the Department's EW Systems in a timely and self sustaining manner using an appropriate balance of R&D Programs and the Industrial base    and 4) A four year program plan with technical milestones and deliverables. It seems like they are on plan with their approach.

The USAF BAA wants to focus on four technology thrusts: 1) Integrated Photonic Circuits (IPC) 2) Millimeter-Wave Source and Receiver Components for EW   3) Reconfigurable and Adaptive RE Electronics (RARE) and 4) Heterogeneous Integration for Photonic Sources (HIPS).   The government report lays out a plan for a two phase initiative (Phase 1 and Phase 2) with a precursor Phase 0 modeled after the DARPA/TRI-Service Microwave and Millimeter Wave Monolithic Integrated Circuit (MIMIC) program.

The anticipated ACE Industry day will provide all bidders with Phase 0 information. The meeting will be held on September 26, 2012 from 0900 to 1200 local time at AFRL/RY Auditorium 2241 Avionics Circle Building 600 Wright Patterson AFB  OH  45433

Meeting Contacts:

Technical POC:

Stephen Hary AFRL/RYDR Phone 937-528-8727 

stephem.hary@wpafb.af.mil   FAX 937 255 8856

USPS Address:  AFRL/RYDR Bldg 620  2441 Avionics Circle Wright-Patterson AFB, OH          45433-7333

 

Contracting POCs:

Ruth Farmer Contracting officer AFRL/RQKSE Phone 937 656 9757

ruth.farmer@wpafb.af.mil   FAX 937 255 8100

Ella Himes Contract Negotiator AFRL/RQKSWE  937 255 3379

ella.himes@wpafb.af.mikl  FAX 937 255 8100

USPS Address: Bldg 167  2310 8thStreet WPAFB, OH 45433-7801

Summary

If you are interested in this and want to attend the Industry Briefings, get in contact with the Contracting POCs above. This is probably the largest government funded initiative in our area of interest in the microwave community in many years.  It has the solid backing of DOD leadership, all services and military leaders.  It is clear that this program is going to be a significant effort to enhance the war fighting capabilities of our forces.  We in the microwave community need to ensure that we all participate where we can to assist the DOD in their “game changing” technology initiative.

Recent Articles by Jim Fallon President and CEO, Fallon & Associates LLC

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