The domain of Infrared (IR) detectors encompasses a variety of technologies that detect in different spectral bands for a variety of applications (land, air, naval, space, missile guidance, drones…). IR detectors are key drivers to increase DRI ranges and thus improve the global efficiency of the system (situation awareness and targeting).
Europe has a strong position in advanced military IR components & systems. Yet the risks are high that the Union becomes severely dependant on suppliers established in third country for this critical defence technology in the medium/long term. This not only limits the strategic autonomy of the Member States but also generates security of supply risks.
It is key for Europe sovereignty to have a full “EU autonomous” supply chain of IR detectors. To achieve advanced performance of future IR systems in relevant platforms improved IR detectors with reduction of size, weight, power and cost is mandatory. The performance of the IR detector modules is driven not only by the IR detector itself but also by Silicon readout integrated circuits (ROIC) technology and components for cooling, if required.
Access to 12’’ silicon foundries is a key factor for recurrent cost optimization and because small nodes and 3D architectures will feature advanced ROIC, which are seen as key enablers not only for high-end IR detectors (all bands) but also for advanced thermal modules in the 2025-2030 timeframe. Moreover, this topic will require heavy budget allocation, which can be barely achieved at individual EU state level. Therefore the cost of access to advanced CMOS node (65 nm and below) has to be shared at between the main EU players.
The proposals should mainly lead to the availability of an advanced EU ROIC supply chain compatible with various infrared detector technologies. It means:
High resolution ROIC and compatible with 3D architecture to further enable advanced functions such as edge computing at sensor level,
An EU open silicon foundry and affordable price (thanks to collective specifications and orders).
To compete at the highest level of worldwide performance, the cooperation between the main EU infrared detectors suppliers is strictly required.
Complementarity should be ensured with past and current work funded through national programmes, the European defence agency framework, and other R&D programmes.
The proposals must address the development of the next generation of ROICs for Infrared detectors, including the EU supply chain. That next generation of ROIC will be based on an advanced Silicon technology (compatible with a 3D architecture) that can be used in various future cooled & uncooled IR detector architectures.
The proposals must cover the following activities as referred in article 10.3 of the EDF Regulation:
Activities aiming to create, underpin and improve knowledge, products and technologies, including disruptive technologies, which can achieve significant effects in the area of defence.
Studies, such as feasibility studies to explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services and solutions
These activities should be articulated as follows, without exceeding TRL4:
(1) From system requirements to ROIC technology specifications(“Improve knowledge”): The targeted activities must in particular include, for both 2D and 3D ROICs, the collection and analysis of IR system integrators requirements; their translation into 2D and 3D building blocks, the prioritisation of these building blocks such as (and not exclusively) their coverage of future EU defence applications, an inventory of the Silicon nodes and IPs available in a selected EU foundry, and choice of the best one(s) to interface with different detector technologies (both cooled and uncooled) and be compatible with both 2D and 3D architectures.
(2) Identification and qualification of an advanced silicon node (“Improve knowledge”) : Furthermore for conventional 2D advanced ROICs they must include activities aiming at identifying and acquiring (a) new advanced silicon node(s) for future infrared detectors’ read out circuits, such as interface definition and integration constraints with sensing blocks and packaging, both for cooled and uncooled detectors; definition of performance indicators to evaluate technical solutions versus the system integrators’ requirements; test chip design(s) for fabrication and test of 2D advanced functional blocks; characterisation, modelling and reliability activities on test chip specific patterns.
(3) ROICs design, fabrication and functional test (“Improve knowledge” and “Studies”) This will prepare for necessary activities aiming at the electronic design, fabrication and functional test (first characterisations, excluding electro-optics) of (a) first high definition, large format, ultra-small pitch (≤7,5μm) 2D Read Out Circuit(s) with smart functions on this new CMOS platform(s); as well as preparatory studies to enable future ROIC functional routine tests at industrial level. When relevant some tests by system providers should be performed on the communication protocols based on the raw read out circuits.
(4) Preparatory work of 3D technology acquisition (“Improve knowledge”) on the selected node for 3D ROICs with increased functionalities at detector and pixel level will also be covered: exploration of 3D ROIC architectures allowing implementation of add-on functionality in a second layer, such as higher scene dynamics/reduced pixel pitches, in-situ image compression for large arrays/high frame rates, combination functions of passive/active imaging, event-based computing, in situ machine learning.
The implementation of this topic is expected to target TRL 4 for 2D advanced Read Out Circuits and to minimum TRL2 (TRL3 maximum) for 3D advanced Read Out Circuits.
Nowadays, wide range of sensors, which are based on radar technologies, are applied during military operations. Radars are commonly used for supporting multi-domain operations: incl. air and air defence missions, as well as ground/maritime operations. Those technologies are crucial for space/airborne based, as well as ground/maritime based surveillance systems. Radar technologies are also used in various sub-systems of other purpose (e.g. engagement or logistics) military equipment.
Recent advances in digital signal processing and computing, radiofrequency (RF) and microelectronic technology have paved the way for the proliferation of active and passive radar technologies in a number of military applications. Management of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum has also become more important year after year, and the usage of communications and internet of things (IoT) applications – which require more and more EM spectrum – generate increasing challenges during military operations. In addition, we must pay high attention to the strong technology push for the development of modular, smaller and state-of-the-art sensor applications, which are able to provide more functionality for the user in one device, are significantly less energy intensive, and can meet more operational needs.
Modern surveillance sensors have to comply with an unprecedented wide spread of operational requirements. A list follows hereby, which is not exhaustive:
Provide steady and reliable surveillance (detection, tracking, classification, identification) everywhere, at every time, at various environmental conditions – for every domain, with guaranteed low level of false alarm probability;
Addressing various types of standing installations and moving platforms (ground based, shipborne, airborne, space borne), both manned and unmanned;
Covering broad spectrum of applications:
Civilian, e.g. ATC and weather forecast and monitoring, humanitarian (e.g. immigration, crisis management, like disasters, natural and caused by mankind), platforms’ autonomy, space situational awareness, etc.;
Military information superiority assurance: airspace, maritime and land traffic control; radio navigation; localization of our blue/red forces and resources; autonomous platforms; precision guided weapons; electronic warfare (EW).
Proposals should address the development of new concepts, technological blocks, sub- systems and/or systems in in order to realize a new class of sensors with remarkable sustainable characteristics in all domains (sea, land and air). They should include active and passive radars or radar sub-systems, as well as new system architectures of hardware building blocks and software modules designed to enable build up mission specific complex radar sensors and multi-functional radar solutions – eligibly in compliance with European Defence Agency’s CapTech Radiofrequency Sensors Technologies’ Overarching Strategic Research Agenda and its results (including TBB in-depth analysis and their roadmaps), as well as previous EU funded activities.
These aimed achievements should be applicable in different kinds of active or passive radar systems (unification between different kinds of platforms desirable) and need to be able to support future military operations and to cope with new generation of unpredictable and unimaginable threats. For this reason, these activities should match with the following main abilities:
The ability to provide integrated and modular system approach for military specific solutions;
The ability to increase integration of more functions into one system;
The ability to increase the proliferation of radar-based sensor applications for wide scale of military operations;
The ability to enable versatile deployment for the large spectrum of military operations;
The ability to enable high operational availability (e.g. by fault tolerance techniques and relative technologies adoption);
The ability to apply radar either as a main element or sub-system of one complex equipment regardless of the operational context;
The ability to use a radar as a node in a more complex network;
The ability to primarily enable efficient software (HW desired as well) upgrades during life cycle;
The ability to provide new system test & evaluation (T&E) methods based on rf and/or digital scenario emulators/simulators.
The proposals must cover the following activities as referred in article 10.3 of the EDF Regulation, not excluding downstream activities eligible for research actions if deemed useful to reach the objectives:
Activities aiming to create, underpin and improve knowledge, products and technologies, including disruptive technologies, which can achieve significant effects in the area of defence;
Activities aiming to increase interoperability and resilience, including secured production and exchange of data, to master critical defence technologies, to strengthen the security of supply or to enable the effective exploitation of results for defence products and technologies;
Studies, such as feasibility studies to explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services and solutions;
The design of a defence product, tangible or intangible component or technology as well as the definition of the technical specifications on which such design has been developed which may include partial tests for risk reduction in an industrial or representative environment.
In particular, the proposals must address the following activities:
(1) Activities aiming to create, underpin and improve knowledge and technologies, including disruptive technologies, which can achieve significant effects in the area of defence:
Definition and analysis of technology trends and implementation opportunities (desired final parameters and functionalities in particular) of state-of-the-art and future technologies such as: e.g. RFSOC (SIP), compressive sensing for imaging or/and MTI, MIMO mode, polarimetry, machine learning for supporting radar signal processing, recognition and classification;
Deep analysis of theoretical basis for a scope of the proposed project.
(2) Activities aiming to increase interoperability and resilience, including secured production and exchange of data, to master critical defence technologies, to strengthen the security of supply or to enable the effective exploitation of results for defence products and technologies:
Operational requirements and military usage scenarios, identification of operational benefits and sizing requirements of technological breakthroughs;
Definition of security, cyber and interoperability needs for future challenges;
Basis for common standards definition.
(3) Preliminary/feasibility activities and studies to explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services and solutions:
Definition and analysis of behaviour and detectability of targets;
Definition of EW functionalities and technology in radar and communication band;
Definition of cognitive radar, digital radar and waveforms for increased deployment versatility;
Analysis regarding the use of software defined radar in order to improve the flexibility of future solutions;
Definition of CONOPS (concept of operations).
(4) Design of a tangible or intangible defence component/sub-system, system or technology as well as the definition of the technical specifications on which such design has been developed which may include partial tests for risk reduction in representative environment:
Top level sensors specifications and high level design (including adaptive digital beam forming, transmitted power, bandwidth, spectral purity, power consumption, production cost…);
Definition of the functional and physical architectures of the transceiver building block (interfaces, partitioning, type of semiconductor process, packaging…);
Definition and development of waveforms/data exchange (standardization);
Development of operational capabilities based on distributed, multi-static configuration (incl. active/passive (both collaborative and non-cooperative illuminators)/mixed mode), or new application methods;
Development of integrated solutions for time synchronization and multi sensor data fusion (e.g. Concerning time synchronization and platforms geo-localization, especially in GNSS denied zone), data storage and system resource management;
Development of integrated solutions for microwave high-power generation, for robust and highly digitised receivers, for radar signal generation and its distribution, for adaptive distributed beamforming, for multi-functional array transmitters; a new paradigm by the development of the so-called “chiplet” approach – an integrated circuit block that is specifically designed to work with other similar chiplets to form larger chips that are more complex. This approach can also be used for SOC (i.e. with integration on the same semiconductor substrate) or SIP (i.e. with heterogeneous integration);
Reduction of PCBs by using hybrid packaging techniques for different semiconductor technologies integration;
Definition and development of security, cyber and interoperability needs for future challenges;
Test case as a basis for demonstration, simulation and prototyping;
Integrated and aligned operation demonstration;
(cognitive and/or machine learning based) sensor data fusion and complex object/target classification;
Presentation of results and execution of a demonstration through one or more test
In addition, proposals could cover both HW and SW solutions, of various integration scale (materials, components, sub-systems and systems) in the representative areas as follows:
Detection, tracking and recognition/identification (including SAR/ISAR/3D ISAR – passive and active imaging techniques) of new and challenging targets, such as made according to stealth philosophy, of low radar cross section, small (drones), fast moving and manoeuvrable (e.g. hypersonic missiles, UAVs);
Contribution to kill assessment functionality;
Intelligent radar decoys;
Intelligent and cognitive resource management;
Multi-platform, multi-static and multi-functional RF systems for air defence and battlefield (in all domains: air and space, land and maritime) surveillance;
Specific radar applications, such as e.g. navigational equipment (for airspace management, as well as various platforms situational awareness), missile/artillery munitions radar homing, battlefield radars, ground and vegetation penetrating radars, through-the-wall radars, dual polarization weather radar etc., supported by disruptive technologies for increased system capabilities;
Electronic warfare capabilities (both defensive and offensive, e.g. low probability of intercept, effective jamming suppression, jamming of netted sensors etc.);
System maintenance concept and high operational availability (e.g. by health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) and self-healing techniques);
Design that enables continuous upgrades during the life of the system (e.g. using new software defined radar (SDR) technology);
Development of system T&E methods.
A preliminary plan (roadmap) for the potential utilization by subsequent development phases should also be presented, with a special focus on the capability needs of Member States, as well as expected improvements in comparison with existing solutions.