6th Generation Multi-Function Active Electronically Scanned Array Successfully Demonstrated

Northrop Grumman has developed a sixth-generation digital multifunction active electronically scanned array (AESA) under DARPA’s Arrays at Commercial Timescales – Integration and Validation (ACT-IV) program. The system was recently delivered to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for continued testing by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Sensors Directorate. AESA has already completed multiple successful demonstrations and acceptance testing at Northrop Grumman test facilities.  

“This delivery is the culmination of the close collaboration between the teams at AFRL, DARPA and Northrop Grumman,” said Dr. Bae-Ian Wu, ACT-IV project lead, Sensors Directorate, AFRL. “The ACT-IV system is being prepared for initial testing by the AFRL Sensors Directorate as part of a strategic investment to develop and test the technologies for multifunction digital phased array systems in an open-architecture environment for the larger DoD community.”

The ACT common module – an advanced semiconductor device – which makes up the core of the system, was manufactured in commercial silicon developed by DARPA’s Arrays at Commercial Timescales (ACT) program. It is a digitally interconnected building block from which large systems can be formed, making it a more efficient alternative to using traditional monolithic array systems.

The ACT-IV system utilizes a computational model capable of efficiently receiving and computing the significant amounts of input data generated by each module. The system can perform radar, EW, and communication functions simultaneously by controlling a large number of independent digital transmit/receive channels, using the digital AESA technology. It is intended to lay the foundation for a new generation of digitally reprogrammable multifunction radio frequency (RF) systems.

“The development of the ACT-IV system is a breakthrough in AESA performance and marks an important milestone in the nation’s transition to digitally reprogrammable multifunction radio frequency (RF) systems,” said William Phillips, director, multifunction systems, Northrop Grumman. “The new ACT-IV capabilities have the agility to defeat complex emerging threats and will be used to enhance the next generation of integrated circuits and AESAs that are currently in our digital AESA product pipeline.”