BAE Systems has signed a cooperative agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for the first phase of a technical effort to transition GaN semiconductor technology developed by the U.S. Air Force to BAE System's Advanced Microwave Products (AMP) center.
BAE Systems will transfer and further enhance the technology, scale it to 6-in. wafers to reduce per-chip cost and improve the accessibility of the technology. Under the agreement, BAE Systems will work with AFRL to establish a 140 nm GaN MMIC process that will be qualified for production by 2020, with products available to Department of Defense (DoD) suppliers through an open foundry service.
Work will primarily take place in BAE Systems' 70,000 square foot Microelectronics Center (MEC) in Nashua, New Hampshire. There, the company researches, develops and produces compound semiconductor materials, devices, circuits and modules for a wide range of microwave and millimeter wave applications. MEC has been an accredited DoD Category 1A Trusted Supplier since 2008 and fabricates ICs in production for critical DoD programs.
The AMP Center team will work closely with the company's FAST Labs™ research organization and MMIC design experts from ENGIN-IC, a fabless design company based in Plano, Texas and San Diego, California.
"Millimeter wave GaN technologies today are produced in research and development laboratories in low volumes at high associated costs or in captive foundries that are not broadly accessible to defense suppliers. This effort will leverage AFRL's high performance technology and BAE Systems' 6-in. manufacturing capability to advance the state-of-the-art in GaN MMIC performance, reliability and affordability, while providing broader access to this critical technology." — Scott Sweetland, Advanced Microwave Products director at BAE Systems
The effort to commercials AFRL's technology recognizes that GaN provides broad frequency bandwidth, high efficiency and high transmit power in a small footprint, making it ideal for next-generation radar, electronic warfare (EW) and communications systems.