Chapter V. Basic Research
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)


6. Electronics Research

a. Strategy

Electronics is an enabling technology for all future Army systems for the digitized battlefield of Force XXI and the Army After Next. Electronics research provides the seminal knowledge to explore entirely new systems and the resulting enhanced warfighting capabilities and to create the fundamental technologies and critical components for the development of systems for the digitized battlefield. Army electronics research focuses on the generation of technology that will enable systems to function within the constraints imposed by the need for operation on small platforms such as the soldier, truck, armored vehicle, and helicopter used in highly mobile land warfare. This research provides the flow of ideas, concepts, and technology to the Army's developers to ensure the full integration of state-of-the-art electronics capabilities into advanced new systems in a timely and affordable manner. To achieve this goal and to maintain technological superiority, emphasis is placed on the investigation of a spectrum of near-term to far-term technologies. The research is reviewed, shared, transitioned, and transferred through the Reliance Electronics Scientific Planning Group (SPG) process, the Technology Area Plans, the Technology Area Review and Assessment (TARA), and the Electronics Coordinating Group (ECOG) activities.

b. Major Research Areas

An Electronics Research Strategy Planning Workshop was held with representatives from the RDECs, ARL, ARO, TRADOC, academia, and industry who identified and prioritized Army electronics research thrusts to satisfy projected requirements in the following areas:

(1) Solid-state devices and components with emphasis on ultrafast (terahertz switching speeds), ultradense electronics, and optoelectronic components

(2) Mobile wireless, tactical communications systems and networks to provide lightweight and reliable multimedia communications on the move

(3) Electromagnetics and microwave/millimeter-wave circuit integration for communications and radar systems that operate at the microwave through the terahertz spectral regions

(4) Image analysis for automatic target recognition (ATR) and information fusion focusing on the fundamental science of image analysis and sensor and data fusion

(5) Minimum energy, low power electronics and signal processing with focus on radio frequency devices and components to enable minimum detectable radiated energy and longer operational lifetime.

Solid-State Devices and Components— Research in this area can be categorized into near, mid, and longer term domains. Near-term research, which is pushing the current state of the art, concentrates on:

(1) Advanced semiconductor devices supporting Force XXI applications
(2) Quasi-optical techniques for advanced millimeter and submillimeter wave systems (3) Components controlling very fast, high power electrical pulses
(4) Low-power electronics to conserve energy
(5) Advanced infrared sensor concepts
(6) Blue/green lasers
(7) Related materials issues

Mid-term research focuses on:

(1) High performance optoelectronic and optical processing components and architectures
(2) Microminiature sensors and actuators
(3) Research underlying a variety of field-controlled devices and structures that include the integration of micro-electro- mechanical (MEM) structures with microelectronic, optoelectronic, electromagnetic, and acousto-electronic technologies
(4) Room temperature thermal imaging components
(5) Wide band-gap semiconductor technology
(6) Novel optoelectronic, microwave, and millimeter wave devices

To satisfy longer term needs, electronics research must provide for novel, robust, reliable multifunctional ultrafast/ultradense electronics and optoelectronic components and architectures. Conventional device structures cannot be scaled below certain size limitations. However, the opportunity exists for designing devices based upon new physical principles of operation leading to expanded functionality, to greater packing density, to higher speed, and to devices capable of operation at terahertz speeds.

Mobile, Wireless Tactical Communications Systems and Networks— Research in this area is driven by the need to communicate increasing quantities of information in near real time to commanders and soldiers on the digitized battle field. Force XXI and Army After Next operational concepts call for a highly mobile force whose success is dependent on reliable voice, data, and video communications on the move information with minimum latency and varying quality of service requirements to ensure quick decisions and synchronous operations. Future battlefield communications systems will have to support a wide variety of data formats and traffic, modulations and coding, and net work standards and protocols. There also will be varying requirements on signal bandwidth, data throughput, security, and delay that existing battlefield networks do not provide.

Electromagnetics and Microwave/Millimeter-Wave Circuit Integration— Research in this area focuses primarily on the issues in circuit integration, antennas, and propagation that will enable Army exploitation of the terahertz, millimeter wave, and high frequency microwave portion of the spectrum for communications, radar, and seeker systems for the digitized battlefield. Power combining techniques such as quasi-optics are critical in enabling moderate or high power millimeter wave systems with the advantages of solid-state electronics. Optical control of microwave and millimeter circuits provides the opportunity for low weight, low cost control of antenna arrays. Novel concepts for high efficiency, low loss antennas and antenna arrays are of importance, including active antennas.

Image Analysis and Information Fusion—A significant source of information on the digital battlefield is images generated by sensors that may be infrared, visible, or radar. The development of algorithms to enhance quality and extract information from images has been largely heuristic. There is insufficient fundamental understanding or unifying theory of image science with which to derive metrics of performance and to design image analysis algorithms. This research addresses these issues by pursuing research in the modeling of the interaction of targets and background clutter to enable their separation and to identify their causal relationship in the development of a basic theory of algorithms for object recognition. Methods are sought to validate the accuracy of simulated data and models so that they may be used with confidence to investigate and design image analysis for ATR.

Minimum Energy, Low Power Electronics, and Signal Processing— Research in this area addresses the need for low prime power consumption electronic and optical systems required for the 21st century land warrior in the digital battlefield of Force XXI. Current technologies for these systems require levels of power which result in low battery lifetime and high battery payloads to accomplish missions ultimately limiting the scope of missions. All weather vision requires opto-electronic imaging, nonlinear optics, high frequency monolithic microwave integrated circuits (monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MIMICs), submillimeter wave systems, photonics, and uncooled detectors.

The 21st century land warrior communications system will provide continuous communication on the move between commanders and soldiers on the battlefield. The systems will require ultra-high speed capability for handling complex voice, data, and video multimedia signal formats.

Since portable and lightweight prime power sources for the near future will be limited in capability, it is necessary to develop a new generation of design rules for electronics that operate with minimum energy requirements and dissipate very low dc power. This research will address highly efficient and low dc power consumption digital and radio frequency (RF) circuits and solid-state devices.

c. Other Research Areas

Solid-State Devices and Components— High resolution, high sensitivity, multicolor infrared imaging arrays are required for target acquisition, recognition, and identification. Research thrusts include advanced materials, novel device structures, and appropriate system architectures. Ultrafast signal processing computing will require advances in light emitters, such as microstructure laser diodes, operating at infrared and visible wavelengths. New system architectures are needed for increased data storage and efficient optical processing of images and video.

Mobile, Wireless Tactical Communications Systems and Networks— Research is conducted in network management, network protocols and architectures, message routing including flow and congestion control, forwarding algorithms, advanced switching technology, and the interfacing and integration of heterogeneous network types existing throughout the world. Methods for the design of large, distributed, mobile spread-spectrum packet radio network architectures, protocols, routing, and control are investigated. The use of adaptive array antennas in networks to provide spatial reuse of limited spectrum, to increase network throughput capability, to increase interference and jamming resistance, and to lower transmit power requirements is investigated.

Electromagnetics and Microwave/Millimeter Circuit Integration— Antennas for a wide range of frequencies with special properties such as wide bandwidth, multiband operation, and conformance to weapons platform physical profiles impact the operational capabilities of Army electronics systems, especially mobile and airborne systems. The complex interaction of multiple propagation paths due to diffraction, reflection, shadowing, and wave guiding have frequency- and position-dependent effects on ground-based and satellite systems.

Minimum Energy, Low Power Electronics, and Signal Processing— This research will develop a new generation of high-efficiency, low loss RF components such as amplifiers, mixers, and detectors. Solid-state devices will be developed to operate at low voltages, low currents, and high resistance to minimize device dissipation. Concepts will also be investigated to find modulation, coding, architectures, and algorithms that will minimize power consumption from the system-level point of view.

Electromagnetics and millimeter-wave integrated circuits research focuses on advanced antenna technology including conformal antennas and ultra-wide bandwidth antennas. Conformal antennas have Army applications ranging from antennas for the soldier through low profile vehicle antennas. Wide-bandwidth antennas are a key element for the successful introduction of the next generation of Army communications systems employing spread spectrum signals and instantaneous multiband operation.

d. Benefits of Research

Solid-State Devices and Components— As shown in Figure V12, a key element in solid -state and optical electronics research is atomic level feature control to provide devices that will meet the Army's future technology needs in device integration and information capacity. Focused Army research in solid-state devices and components will result in significantly enhanced performance and functionality of electronic circuits, including:

(1) Faster, more portable, and more reliable systems for target identification
(2) Intelligent systems for better command and control of fire support missions
(3) Miniaturized computers and displays with improved processing capability
(4) Data fusion of multi-domain, compact, smart sensor suites
(5) Enhanced timing and location systems for autonomous weapons
(6) Optimized man-machine interface
(7) Ultrafast information processing in extremely small, massively parallel processors
(8) High data rate photonic communications
(9) Ultra-small integrated multi-functional sensors for the soldier.

Figure V-12. Electronics Research Research on novel electronic devices grown with atomic-level feature control is essential to achieving the level of device integration and information capacity required for the Army missions of the twenty-first century. Supermatrix devices such as the one depicted on the inset may have nanoscale features as small as a billionth of a meter. Mesoscopic devices operate on the basis of electron wave interference and as such portend fundamentally new types of electronic devices with greatly expanded functionality.

Mobile, Wireless Tactical Communications Systems and Networks— Real-time signal processing is critical to communications, adaptive array antennas, and signal intercept as well as image analysis, target acquisition, and information fusion. Figure V-13 illustrates that as the complexity of the processing task increases, for example, from speech recognition to data fusion, the required signal and information processing throughput increases and the technology required to achieve that throughput also needs to advance. Signal and information processing are used in the implementation of image, radar, speech, antenna, and communication processing systems for applications in target detection, identification, and tracking; guidance and control; fire control; and communication. Research in fast, high-resolution null-and beam-steering and compact adaptive antennas to provide low-signature communications and improved signal intercept capability also is performed. Signal density on the modern battlefield is high and communication channels are nonlinear and dispersive, making the signal intercept problem especially difficult. This research includes advanced techniques for antenna array processing for accurate determination of the direction of arrival of signals and processing of signal parameters to develop new methods of detection and interception.

Figure V-13. Signal Processing Need. Speech recognition, electronic intelligence (ELINT), automatic target recognition (ATR), and data fusion demand increasing throughput. Nanoscale electronics, parallel and distributed processing, and optical processing research hold the promise for the future.