BAE Systems Joins DARPA’s Sensor Modernization Initiative

BAE Systems has secured a contract to support DARPA’s ongoing radio frequency (RF) sensor modernization program.

The Technologies for Heat Removal in Electronics at the Device Scale (THREADS) program seeks to surpass the temperature limits of transistors in sensing and radar capabilities used for electronic warfare applications.

Under the $12-million deal, the company will provide its expertise in producing advanced circuits at its Microelectronics Center in Nashua, New Hampshire.

The hub is accredited by the Pentagon as a “Trusted Supplier” of tactical solutions for critical programs. Among the facility’s specializations are Gallium nitride and Gallium arsenide semiconductors commonly used for military-grade circuits.

Work for the contract will be performed by BAE’s FAST Labs research and development subsidiary.

“Excessive heat in electronics has been a long-standing challenge in the aerospace and defense industry,” FAST Labs Device Materials and Manufacturing Research Director Caprice Gray explained.

“With material and process enhancements, we are on the verge of overcoming this challenge and doing so will unleash the hidden potential in mission critical electronic warfare and other RF-based systems.”


Introduced in 2022, the THREADS program aims to upgrade current RF systems that run below their maximum heating capacity due to restrictions brought by transistors.

Traditional transistors, being the most vital part of a circuit for its conducting process, typically burn when used in exhausting operations.

“Wide bandgap transistors, such as Gallium Nitride (GaN), were developed specifically to improve output density in power amplifiers – and GaN does provide a greater than 5x improvement compared to previous-generation transistor technology,” DARPA THREADS Manager Thomas Kazior stated during the effort’s launch.

“If we can relax the heat problem, we can crank up the amplifier and increase the range of radar. If the program is successful, we’re looking at increasing the range of radar by a factor of 2x to 3x.”

Contract With Raytheon

DARPA awarded a $15-million contract to industry partner Raytheon for the same purpose in 2023.

This agreement ordered the company to produce and demonstrate “high-power density” transistors to enable 16 times more output than common Gallium Nitride semiconductors in operating temperatures.

Work for the contract is being coordinated with various US-based academic organizations and the US Naval Research Laboratory.

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