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BAE Systems Gets $8m Contract For GaN Amplifier

US defense contractor BAE Systems will combine its GaN semiconductor expertise with a novel approach to printed circuit board technology to build a 160 W power amplifier for military applications.

Aerospace giant BAE Systems has won a $8 million contract from the US military to develop a GaN-based high-power amplifier.

Working alongside materials specialist Rohm and Haas, as well as the University of Colorado, the BAE Systems development team is scheduled to demonstrate a 160 W amplifier ready for deployment in 2010.

The solid-state amplifier will replace cumbersome, expensive vacuum tubes that are typically used for radar, communications and in electronic warfare, for example jamming enemy communications.

John Evans, the manager of DARPA s disruptive manufacturing technology program, said, "DARPA has identified BAE Systems GaN technology as an important material for future military applications."

The target for the initial phase of the program is to produce a proof-of-concept 20 W GaN module by 2008, before scaling up the amplifier's power.

BAE Systems is already a major DARPA partner, and has been working with the agency as part of the wide-bandgap semiconductors program, which kicked off in early 2005, under a track led by TriQuint Semiconductor (see related stories and magazine article).

However, the latest development program will not be focused on GaN-based monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs), with DARPA saying that an alternative substrate technology will result in much earlier deployment of GaN in military systems, and significant cost savings.

Instead of MMICs, the BAE Systems program will work on so-called "HyMICs" "“ hybrid microwave integrated circuits that will feature discrete GaN-based transistors directly integrated with passive components and impedance-matching circuits.

HyMICs are based on a low-cost technology called Polystrata, which has been developed by BAE Systems under DARPA s 3-D microelectronic RF systems (3D MERFS) program - also headed by John Evans.

DARPA sees Polystrata as the equivalent of a printed circuit board for microwave and millimeter-wave systems, and a way to get high-performance GaN systems into "active service" without the need to go through the expensive and time-consuming effort to improve MMIC yield from semiconductor wafers.

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