BAE Systems Receives AFRL Contract to Support GaN-Based Semiconductor Technology

BAE Systems has partnered with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to help transition GaN semiconductor technology developed by the U.S. Air Force to its Advanced Microwave Products (AMP) Center. As part of the effort, BAE Systems will transfer and further enhance the technology, and scale it to 6-inch wafers to slash per-chip costs and improve the accessibility of this defense-critical technology.

GaN technology provides broad frequency bandwidth, high efficiency, and high transmit power in a small footprint, making it ideal for next-generation radar, electronic warfare, and communications systems. Under the agreement, BAE will work with AFRL to establish a 140-nanometer GaN monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) process that will be qualified for production by 2020, with products available to Department of Defense (DoD) suppliers through an open foundry service.

According to Scott Sweetland, Advanced Microwave Products director at BAE Systems, mm-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-inch manufacturing capability to advance the state of the art in GaN MMIC performance, reliability, and affordability while providing broader access to this critical technology.

The work on this project will primarily take place in BAE’s 70,000-square-foot Microelectronics Center (MEC) in Nashua, New Hampshire, where they research, develop, and produce compound semiconductor materials, devices, circuits, and modules for a wide range of microwave and millimeter-wave applications. The MEC has been an accredited DoD Category 1A Trusted Supplier since 2008, and fabricates integrated circuits in production quantities for critical DoD programs. As part of the project, the AMP Center team will work closely with the company’s FAST Labs research organization and MMIC design experts from ENGIN-IC.