You took over the Aerospace and Defense business at ADI about a year and a half ago, what were the main strategies you implemented for growth in the first year?
In every new role, the first step is determining where you are now and where you need to be in the future. Within the Aerospace & Defense organization, we are embarking on an exciting journey to shape the future of a dynamic and changing industry. To do this, I assembled a cross-functional team from across Aerospace & Defense and other markets within ADI to examine trends that are paving the way for future possibilities. Our task was to define our distinct position while the world shifted around us. Our objective was to develop and present a compelling vision that would pave the way for the necessary transformation to capitalize on these prospects.
We identified six essential areas for strategic planning and involvement:
- Best in Class Customer Enablement
- Complete Antenna to Bits
- Differentiated Talent
- SWaP+C through Advanced Integration
- Product Platforms that Enable AI
- Ubiquitous RF Sensing & Communications.
We are now concentrating our efforts on increasing innovation in these areas.
You have an extensive background in account and sales management; how did that prepare you for the GM position?
Businesses that thrive do so by prioritizing customer-centricity. In my opinion, customer empowerment at the highest level is critical to success. To begin, my sales experience honed my listening skills. In sales, you are effectively attempting to solve a puzzle without the luxury of seeing the entire picture. To complete the puzzle, you must pay attention to how the image is described. At ADI, our Aerospace & Defense Group places the customer at the center of all we do. We listen to our customers attentively and align every employee in our organization with the customer mission—not just our own.
To enable best-in-class customer experiences, every stage of the customer journey must be examined. On the front-end of the client journey, our current focus is on platform development. Are we enabling clients to resolve complex challenges quickly? On the back end of the customer experience, we're examining the most effective approaches for facilitating a frictionless transaction. Are we adaptive and agile at the end of the customer journey? Finally, longevity of support is critical in our industry. By embracing a continuous improvement culture, we are able to commit to products for decades, rather than years.
What are your major areas of investment and development in new technologies and products?
We pursue numerous technology strategies, including RF/uW MMICs, integrated solutions, MEMs, high reliability space products and high speed converters and transceivers. The RF amplifier product line leverages GaAs and GaN technology to address the aerospace and defense markets with wideband amplifiers for EW applications, mmWave amplifiers for improved resolution in radar applications, and GaN power amplifiers and front-end modules for high-power radar, EW and communication applications.
ADI also invests in beamformer ICs for SATCOM payloads and airborne terminals as a result of our focus on phased array antenna applications. We are advancing navigation and monitoring solutions with differentiated performance in linear motion and vibration in harsh environments through our MEMs portfolio, with SWAP-C optimization targeted to different use cases. High reliability products for space is a critical ADI investment area, as we aim to decrease our customers' development time with a commercial space portfolio.
Analog Devices is well-known for its high speed converters and transceivers. We are continuously pushing the boundaries of what is achievable in phased array radar, electronic warfare and military communications applications. Constraints on size, weight, and power frequently force system engineers to integrate via system-in-package (SiP) and module-level solutions. We create highly distinctive, high performance sub-system and module solutions by capitalizing on the strength of our RF, power and converter product lines.
ADI is unique in providing for the full signal chain; how does that fit the way you approach the market, and what advantages does that give ADI?
ADI is a one-of-a-kind firm in terms of how we conduct business in the Aerospace & Defense market. We are a commercial business that simultaneously serves as a defense contractor. Analog Devices operates on a commercial company's R&D basis, but we can also accept direct government contracts. Flexibility in business models enables us to operate in the most profitable manner possible for our customers. We design and manufacture high performance components and also integrate them on chip, in package or in system. From antenna to bits, we innovate solutions. When our customers face SWaP + C limits, we can merge many functions onto a single chip or in a SIP solution. Additionally, we can construct sub-systems, leveraging our commercial expertise to influence our operational procedures for creating a high-quality, reliable, high performance product.
Our mission is to enable and defend the quality of life by collaborating with customers to anticipate and deliver transformative solutions. Aerospace and Defense is a lean, adaptable organization with the resources of a major high-tech enterprise.
What unique technologies does ADI have in packaging and integration to address SWAP reduction and improved performance?
ADI assists in overcoming size limits by leveraging our experience in integration—on-chip or in package —to deliver superior performance. We are unique in our ability to leverage a full array of ADI components in order to meet signal chain requirements while maintaining a small package size. This includes incorporating components at the die level that are not commercially available. We’ve successfully produced various integration types in large quantities, including our power micro-modules, MEMs multi-die IMUs, SIPs and connectorized modules.
SWaP and better performance are primarily accomplished through SIP technology. Heterogeneous process integration (GaAs LNA, GaAs/GaN amplifier, SOI switch) provides high performance RF signal chain SIPs with a size reduction of up to 70 percent. Two examples of this integration capability include the ADMFM2000 and ADMFM2001, high-isolation wideband (2 to 30 GHz) up and down converters.
It’s not widely known that ADI provides many integrated solutions and higher-level assemblies. What type of solutions do you provide at sub-system/system-level and how does ADI decide at what level to participate in a program?
We share capabilities with our customers and engage in architectural discussions to identify what level of participation helps our customer best to meet their goals. If that simply means selling high performance components, that is what we will do. With the acquisitions of Hittite, Linear Tech and Maxim, combined with the legacy of ADI, our expertise shines on RF through digital.
ADI offers frequency synthesizers, exciters, receivers, block converters, frequency tuners and RF distribution modules and sub-systems within X- and V-Band frequencies. Our broad semiconductor portfolio (RF, power, data converters) achieves high performance, highly integrated and differentiated solutions that significantly improves our customers’ time to market. For example, we’ve created a five-channel (4R/1T) 2 to18 GHz RF tuner designed in 3U VPX form factor, which significantly improves density and performance when compared to today’s products in the market.
What are you doing in software-defined radios and other configurable solutions, and how is that affecting your traditional business?
Software-defined capability is becoming more ubiquitous. There are ever-increasing demands on radio equipment to support more bands, more spectrum and more waveforms. A key method for supporting software-defined capabilities is to create scalable platforms. These software-defined platforms will help enable systems that can be reconfigured for different missions on the fly and adjust within a mission. To accomplish this, tight coupling between RF and digital enable tradeoffs to be made as needed, without the need for manual intervention.
Software-defined systems also have a critical challenge in power consumption. We have been focused on bringing more of the data stream on chip, allowing for better power efficiency. This can also offload the FPGA and allows for more flexible fabric to be free for customer use.
The combination of bringing the data stream on-chip and providing reference designs and hands-on tools to show how to integrate data streams is enabling the industry to move faster towards software-defined systems. Our goal is to help provide essential building block hardware platforms which serve multiple functions with the aid of software control. Customers can then build upon a common base infrastructure across multiple projects and applications to facilitate faster time-to-market, which ultimately will allow faster adaptation to threats.
How are you addressing reduced design cycles and constant demands for reduction in SWaP in an operational and design sense?
We are witnessing a significant shift in market dynamics, with our customers under pressure to turn solutions quickly. Our adversaries’ capabilities are strengthening, and we need frequent technology insertions to stay ahead of the game. ADI’s Aerospace & Defense enablement strategy builds turn-key, system-level, open platforms to assist customers utilizing our high performance products with minimal time, effort and investment on their side. We can save our customers months of design time and retire system risk by building open development platforms that show the full RF-to-bits system working across multiple channels, multiple parts and multiple boards.
Customers then develop their own software and algorithm IP on top of the platform, which is translated to end system later. For example, earlier this year, we released a quad MXFE development platform to demonstrate multi-channel synchronization and SNR improvement for phased array radar. We are also creating beamforming “bits-to-beams” platforms which allow the customer to go into an anechoic chamber and prove beamforming algorithms. We can then take these fully integrated RF, clocking, data converter, and software-defined local processing platforms and build them in a standard military form factor that can plug right into customer backplanes. The goal is to deploy the ADI system solution to the field so customer can verify performance and win opps at the mission system level. Creating quick-turn packaging for prototypes of advanced capabilities allows us to Win or Fail Fast. We are also creating an accelerated path to production through this development effort.
What opportunities and challenges are you seeing in the New Space market?
Simply stated, the opportunity in New Space today is scaling to high volumes, something we haven’t seen previously in this market. The challenges are the development timeline and cost pressures. New disruptive companies entering the space market are pushing innovation across many vectors. Satellite mission lifetime has decreased from 10-20 years to five to seven years, allowing for less stringent requirements such as a reduced level of radiation tolerance. While launch costs were reduced, the size of satellite constellations significantly increased. Customer timelines are now compressed and measured in months instead of years.
ADI has a long heritage in space, and we are responding to the New Space market needs by introducing options in our Commercial Space portfolio. The portfolio more closely aligns requirements with mission needs, enabling the adoption of plastic components for improved SWaP + C and faster time to orbit. Our focus has been to bring the advanced technology available in commercial applications, like our 28 nm data converters, into space. New and commercial space customers have been quick to embrace. Traditional space customers are more conservative but recognize that full space qualification may not be required for many applications. We work across all customers in this exciting market to define solutions that add value without adding unnecessary cost.
What trends are you seeing with multi-mission solutions like combining radar, communications and EW and how is ADI addressing them?
We see increasing demand for multi-mission systems, driving a need for systems to operate over a wide frequency spectrum with increased bandwidth requirements. Additionally, for supply chain simplicity and to enable quick technology insertions, there is a push to use one signal chain for all frequency bands. Historically, the challenge with this approach was that performance degraded with a wideband solution vs. a narrow band one. However, we have been witnessing significant advances in GaN technology that have allowed for superior performance in power and efficiency while also increasing frequency and gain. Additionally, improvements in direct RF sampling capability are taking us from L- and S-Band today, to X-Band in the near term, while maintaining a wide dynamic range and high instantaneous bandwidth. Being able to directly digitize spectrum in wide frequency blocks, and to acquire and learn quickly from the data, is fundamentally advancing our EW defense.
What new markets is ADI exploring, such as quantum technologies, hypersonics and autonomous drones/vehicles, where high performance A&D products would be beneficial?
We see it as a predetermined element that UAVs will continue to perform high-risk missions, including surveillance and offensive attack. As the intelligence in UAVs increases, the need for sensors, navigation, stabilization and communication will multiply tenfold, with a fixed, if not decreasing power budget. In addition to advanced sensors and connectivity, essential capabilities to address for drone applications include synchronization algorithms and low latency conversion of data to information at the edge. Size constraints will force integration, whether on-chip or in package—we have many years of experience with integration to achieve small size. Our in-house SIP capabilities enable collocated RF sensing and edge processing, which reduces overall system power. Swarming and Micro Drones will push the boundaries on what we can achieve with very low SWaP. Higher value UAVs with higher value cargo will require full high reliability and certification, which plays well into Aerospace & Defense strengths and understanding.
A second area of exploration is AI and machine learning (ML). AI and ML build autonomy into platforms, enabling them to address threats locally and quickly, whether the platform is securing the spectrum or making decisions on object identification and classification. As a result, AI and ML have the potential to radically change the response time (and implementation of RF/microwave sections) from a systems perspective. The ability and need to adapt quickly within a mission will drive reconfigurability of front-ends, on both TX and RX. Calibration of phased arrays and digitally assisted corrections to the RF section, like digital pre-distortion and QEC, will couple the front-end and digital engines more closely. We see how important it is to have the full system co-designed. An important strategy to address this growing trend is creating product platforms that enable AI—whether through calibration AI, RF conditioning algorithms or creating a s/w infrastructure that allows easy plug of new AI IP.
Hypersonic missiles are a serious threat to the homeland today from our key adversaries. Hypersonic missiles are difficult to detect; when you do detect them, their maneuverability makes tracking challenging. Because they travel at such fast speeds, we have limited time to react and neutralize. The threat from hypersonic missiles is driving significant work on sensor technologies and networks required to detect and counter an attack. While the problem is complex, radar technology will be an important element of the sensor suite required. Specifically, we need higher power ground-based radars with better resolution. This need drives technology improvements in GaN power amplifiers, high-speed digitization, pushing performance into high frequencies. Additionally, hypersonic missiles are an example of where Artificial Intelligence will be critical—as we need accelerated decision making.
What major trends do you see in the A&D market over the next few years—do you expect continued market growth?
A top priority we have all heard about in the news is minimizing supply chain fragility and ensure secure a supply chain for electronics. There are multiple ways to solve this problem, and frankly, we will likely need advancements in each thread of the solution. ADI is focused on enabling efficient porting between foundries. There will always be a blend of needs across on-shore and off-shore when you look at both the defense and commercial industries. We’ve seen how the Defense industry is becoming more open to leveraging commercial R&D. How do you keep this benefit while mitigating risk? Perhaps, instead of purely on-shore, I should state trusted foundry and quantifiable assurance. The government needs to assure the integrity and confidentiality of ICs during design and manufacturing. ADI can work in this trusted environment.
In addition, ADI wants to drive a rapid process migration methodology for semiconductor manufacturing which allows easy porting of chip production across technology nodes. This exists today in big digital but is a work in progress for analog and mixed signal. Ultimately, this will reduce the time and cost to on-shore critical semiconductor products designed on overseas advanced silicon technology.
A second imperative is enhancing our ability to adapt to rapidly evolving threats. The DoD is driving need for the most advanced technologies available (electronics, sensors, AI/ML), accelerating the adoption of next-generation platforms. For example, we hear the need for passive Battlespace Awareness being critical. Wider BW spectrum awareness, high-frequency resolution, dynamic range and sensitivity are all high priority. This drive supports the need for continued innovation on our best-in-class ADCS with a wide dynamic range, high sample rate and good linearity. Overall, the DoD wants stronger collaboration between defense and commercial industries. We need to work together to influence policy and regulatory bodies and to develop critical skillsets and talent to strengthen the defense industry.