Is apg-81 using GaN technology?

Cockpit, radar, helmet-mounted display, and other avionics
  • Author
  • Message
Offline

citanon

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 419
  • Joined: 01 Jul 2015, 21:42

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 18:53

So over at BF4C (I know, I know) I got into a little bit of a debate regarding what technology is in the agp-81 and did some actual research on this subject. The resulting paper trail seems to suggest that the Apg-81s are now using GaN modules. Here's what I found:

Qorvo is the component supplier for the main AESA array on the F35. In 2009, a Qorvo (then called TriQuint) press release stated that it completed delivery of GaAs modules to LRIP 1 and 2 F35s:

https://ir.qorvo.com/static-files/f3b85 ... 81990ac89b

However, then in 2010-2014, Qorvo completed the defense production act title III transition to GaN program and stood up full rate GaN production for defense aerospace applications:

https://www.qorvo.com/newsroom/news/leg ... ii-program

The press release notes:

TriQuint has shipped more than 119,000 0.25 um GaN power amplifier devices in support of ongoing radar production programs. During phased array field testing, approximately 15,000 devices have accumulated more than 3.67 million device hours, with no reported device failures. With industry leading reliability based on three-temperature accelerated life testing, TriQuint has seen mean time to failure of much greater than 107 hours and a superior T1 (the time at which 1 percent of failures occur) of more than 106 hours at 200 degrees Celsius, without pre-conditioning, a notable achievement in this field.

As part of the Title III contract, awarded in 2010, TriQuint progressed through three program phases to prove manufacturing readiness at its Richardson, Texas facility. The first phase assessed TriQuint's initial manufacturing readiness. In the second phase, TriQuint worked to refine and improve the production processes, with the goal of reaching the manufacturing readiness needed for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of GaN monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs). In the final phase, TriQuint applied the lessons learned throughout the program, showing that its manufacturing processes are ready to meet full performance, cost and capacity goals, with the capability in place to support full rate production. TriQuint's Texas facility is an accredited DoD Trusted Source for foundry; post-process; assembly and packaging; and RF test services.


As of Sept 2018, Qorvo has started offering GaN offering GaN X-band radar front end modules, and these are available for export. In fact, GaN modules seem to be the ONLY ones on offer.

https://www.qorvo.com/applications/defe ... t-products

http://www.microwavejournal.com/article ... sed-arrays

So, it appears that the main supplier of front end modules to the F35 is now only selling GaN based modules. That seems to me strong circumstantial evidence that the apg-81 arrays have transitioned en mass to GaN.
Offline

juretrn

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 394
  • Joined: 31 Jul 2016, 01:09
  • Location: Slovenia

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 19:10

That's all pretty circumstantial evidence...
I would say getting -81 to use GaN would require a major antenna redesign, has there been any funds allocated in the F-35 program for further radar development?
Russia stronk
Offline

citanon

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 419
  • Joined: 01 Jul 2015, 21:42

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 19:13

Oh, still not definitive, but, on pg 22 of this e-book by Qorvo:

https://www.qorvo.com/resources/d/gan-p ... -ebook-mwj

qorvo.jpg
Offline

citanon

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 419
  • Joined: 01 Jul 2015, 21:42

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 19:14

juretrn wrote:That's all pretty circumstantial evidence...
I would say getting -81 to use GaN would require a major antenna redesign, has there been any funds allocated in the F-35 program for further radar development?


Does it though? Or are the MMICs plug and play?
Offline

marsavian

Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1148
  • Joined: 02 Feb 2018, 21:55

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 19:25

I would suspect the F-35 office and LMT would have made a big PR song and dance about this if it was true as it would directly affect performance. The earliest we would see this would be at Block 4 and it would have to be scheduled for development and testing beforehand. Sounds like a potential Block 5 change to me along with a more powerful efficient engine.
Offline

citanon

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 419
  • Joined: 01 Jul 2015, 21:42

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 20:06

Actually the FEMs are low powered X-band units designed for export. For the military applications I bet you they are substituting in GaN chips where it makes sense on the newer T/R modules to get cost and thermal benefits. This could probably be done without altering the module's performance parameters. They will wait for the next gen to drive performance increases, where you might see a big hoopla.

There are simply too many defense oriented GaN foundries between Raytheon, NG, Qorvo, Wolfspeed and others and too many devices claimed to be in operation for the products not to be making it into the supply chain for existing systems.
Offline

bring_it_on

Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 929
  • Joined: 30 Apr 2014, 14:32

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 20:16

citanon wrote:Oh, still not definitive, but, on pg 22 of this e-book by Qorvo:

https://www.qorvo.com/resources/d/gan-p ... -ebook-mwj

qorvo.jpg


No, The AN/APG-81 does not use GaN T/R Modules. You are correct that Qorvo is a supplier on the program, but in the case of the radar, they are a manufacturing partner to Northrop Grumman for their T/R modules.

The image you posted is for a complete T/R module that Qorvo has launched targeting primarily the SWaP sensitive UAV (or similar), commercial and other military radar systems. Northrop Grumman has not yet announced any plans to switch to a Gallium nitride base for its fighter radar programs (F-22, F-16 and F-35) although the company has made that shift for other airborne programs (Vanguard for example).

Given their scale, any plan to do such a thing would require substantial investments in industrial capacity.

Recently, the US Navy has shown interested in looking into an airborne GaN antenna for S&T purposes. SAAB is supplying them with that.
Offline

citanon

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 419
  • Joined: 01 Jul 2015, 21:42

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 21:13

bring_it_on wrote:No, The AN/APG-81 does not use GaN T/R Modules. You are correct that Qorvo is a supplier on the program, but in the case of the radar, they are a manufacturing partner to Northrop Grumman for their T/R modules.

The image you posted is for a complete T/R module that Qorvo has launched targeting primarily the SWaP sensitive UAV (or similar), commercial and other military radar systems. Northrop Grumman has not yet announced any plans to switch to a Gallium nitride base for its fighter radar programs (F-22, F-16 and F-35) although the company has made that shift for other airborne programs (Vanguard for example).

Given their scale, any plan to do such a thing would require substantial investments in industrial capacity.

Recently, the US Navy has shown interested in looking into an airborne GaN antenna for S&T purposes. SAAB is supplying them with that.


I'm not so sure.

I'm aware that the particular Qorvo chip is for a low powered export application. However, the same pamphlet also points to substantial number of installed systems. Furthermore, the substantial industrial capacity investment has already been achieved via the defense production act title III program. The foundries capabilities were substantially improved in 2010-2014 and Qorvo reached MRL9, accounting for 22% of world wide market share in 2015.

Also, other articles in the journal note that GaN components have been inserted into several LM systems (although it's not clear which). In addition, if you look at the product catalogue, GaN has taken over most of the catalogue at Qorvo even for high powered amplifiers.

Taken all together, I would not be surprised if GaN components are being inserted into components including revamped T/R modules where there are tangible performance benefits with minimal impact on overall system design, especially since the supply base seems to be transitioning to GaN. I do agree the true performance benefits will probably not be realized without a major redesign of the system.
Offline

bring_it_on

Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 929
  • Joined: 30 Apr 2014, 14:32

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 21:34

I am not here to argue so this will be my last post here. As I had mentioned earlier, The APG-81 uses GaA components in its T/R modules. What Qorvo has on its own product line is immaterial as they are a manufacturing partner only. I am quite familiar with Title 3 (where Triquint worked on S-band) effort and Qorvo and Northrop's capability in this area. Besides the big integrators, Qorvo,and Cree supply GaN to US Military and FMS radar, communication, and EW/CIED programs. The F-35's APG-81 is not one of these programs.
Offline

citanon

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 419
  • Joined: 01 Jul 2015, 21:42

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 21:52

bring_it_on wrote:I am not here to argue so this will be my last post here. As I had mentioned earlier, The APG-81 uses GaA components in its T/R modules. What Qorvo has on its own product line is immaterial as they are a manufacturing partner only. I am quite familiar with Title 3 (where Triquint worked on S-band) effort and Qorvo and Northrop's capability in this area. Besides the big integrators, Qorvo,and Cree supply GaN to US Military and FMS radar, communication, and EW/CIED programs. The F-35's APG-81 is not one of these programs.


Hmm, I will take your word for it.
Offline

juretrn

Senior member

Senior member

  • Posts: 394
  • Joined: 31 Jul 2016, 01:09
  • Location: Slovenia

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 23:08

citanon wrote:
juretrn wrote:That's all pretty circumstantial evidence...
I would say getting -81 to use GaN would require a major antenna redesign, has there been any funds allocated in the F-35 program for further radar development?


Does it though? Or are the MMICs plug and play?

Even if the MMICs are plug-and-play, it's likely you would require a new power supply and cooling layout behind the antenna due to the likely fact you're making the array more powerful in the process.
Russia stronk
Offline

bring_it_on

Forum Veteran

Forum Veteran

  • Posts: 929
  • Joined: 30 Apr 2014, 14:32

Unread post20 Oct 2018, 23:22

Producing 10 radars a year vs 200+ radars a year is a totally different thing. Northrop/LM/JPOs intention to switch the -81 to GaN will require investment in industrial capacity at Northrop's supplier base. If and when they decide to do this, we will see that money flowing. My guess is that we will see GaN insertion into MADL, SATCOM and EW systems first. Possibly some of this would be included in block-4.

Return to F-35 Avionics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests