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NSWC Crane leverages OTA to ensure that the U.S. Government has access to secure state-of-the-art design, assembly, packaging and test for state-of-the-art microelectronics

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | Oct. 31, 2019

CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) leveraged its Other Transaction Authority (OTA) to enable access to state-of-the-art (SOTA) technology for next generation Department of Defense (DoD) weapon and cyber systems.

In less than 90 days, NSWC Crane awarded multiple contracts for ensuring access to secure advanced assembly, packaging and test of digital and RF microelectronics, which is a DoD priority and critical to the department’s microelectronics strategy. The project, SOTA Heterogeneous Integration Prototype (SHIP), will strengthen the United States’ microelectronics industrial base while allowing customization for DoD-unique applications.

“Microelectronics are fundamental to essentially every technology and capability in the Defense Department and more broadly in the commercial world,” said Dr. Lisa Porter, Deputy Under Secretary for Defense for Research and Engineering about the criticality of microelectronics.

 “While there are numerous examples that support this assertion, one emerging application worth highlighting is the next generation of cellular network technology, commonly referred to as 5G. Ultimately, 5G is all about ubiquitous connectivity, which means a transition to fully distributed computation, communications, and data curation and management. Highly-networked heterogeneous sensors, edge computing, machine learning algorithms implemented on all kinds of platforms, dynamic spectrum sharing, and so forth – all of these 5G elements will depend upon the ability of the microelectronics industry to continue to produce even higher bandwidths and better energy efficiencies, with smaller footprints, as well as increased flexibility and functionality. SHIP provides a means for DoD to more rapidly and securely adopt such microelectronic innovations that are primarily driven by the commercial sector.” 

Andreas Olofsson, DARPA PM for the Common Heterogeneous Integration and IP Reuse Strategies (CHIPS) program said, "The future of computing hardware is specialized, heterogeneous and parallel."

CHIPS is a precursor for SHIP, and with the below stated goals it is serving as a transition partner to SHIP:

  • Establish and demonstrate common interface standards
  • Enable the assembly of systems from modular IP blocks built with these established standards
  • Demonstrate reusability of the modular IP blocks via rapid design iteration

Brett Hamilton, Distinguished Scientist for Trusted Microelectronics at NSWC Crane, is the Principal Technical Lead for the SHIP project. Hamilton says the SHIP technology provides many benefits across the DoD.

“SHIP gives us the ability to leverage state-of-the-art commercial processing power needed for modern weapon systems such as autonomous systems where artificial intelligence and real-time sensor data processing is critical,” said Hamilton. “For these types of applications, SHIP significantly reduces size, weight, and power, while increasing performance.”

The ability to integrate commercial- and DoD-purposed chiplets represents a paradigm shift allowing customization as shown in Figure 1.

“SHIP will help close the gap between commercial advanced microelectronics technologies and those securely integrated into DoD systems, which is extremely important given SOTA advancements in the commercial sector,” said Hamilton.

By having a secure SHIP design, assemble and test facility, DoD will greatly lower supply chain risk while enabling the ability to  better protect the DoD’s intellectual property (IP). In such an environment, DoD can integrate more robust security mechanisms, critical in lowering cyber security risks. “We have extensive technical means to assure the integrity of the products produced by SHIP,” said Hamilton.

The OTA used for the SHIP project is NSWC Crane’s Strategic & Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S2MARTS). Brooke Pyne, the Director of S2MARTS, says S2MARTS enables rapid acquisition and the ability for the DoD to use non-traditional defense contractors.

“SHIP is a true game changer,” said Pyne. “Technology changes rapidly, and we can’t be hindered by obsolescence.  S2MARTS gets around boundaries and limitations that may extend the timeframe of implementing crucial technologies into DoD systems. Without S2MARTS, this process could have easily taken two years. Due to the flexibility of the OTA, it took less than 90 days.”

Pyne said the scale of this project cannot be overstated. Companies selected for SHIP phase 1 include Intel Federal, LLC and Xilinx Corporation for SHIP Digital and for SHIP RF, Keysight Technologies, Inc., GE Research, Qorvo Texas, LLC and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation Aerospace Systems.

“The magnitude of this project is huge,” said Pyne. “The OTA was effective, efficient, and flexible, while still protecting the integrity of the technology. This has been a partnership to make it happen. Brett really used the NSTXL platform and methodology to maximum benefit.”

Allen Tillerson, S2MARTS Program Manager at NSWC Crane, says Heterogeneous Integration Packaging as a technology isn’t new to industry, but it is to the DoD.

“Before SHIP, the DoD didn’t have a defined approach for secure access to the domestic industrial base expertise and facilities for assuring advanced packaged microelectronics integrity,” said Tillerson. “There is the increasing threat of counterfeit and cloned microelectronics sourced from outside the U.S., and SHIP establishes that domestic industrial base that is critical to the nation.”

”SHIP delivers capability at the speed of relevance,” said Tillerson. “You probably get a new phone every two years. That’s a tech refresh. SHIP is getting technology in the hands of warfighters as quickly as possible. Time is everything when technology is instrumental to systems used across the DoD.”

About S2MARTS

The Strategic & Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems, S2MARTS (pronounced, “smarts”) is a new OTA (Other Transaction Authority) from NSWC-Crane Division. S2MARTS is designed to refine strategies, management planning activities, and implement integrated, complementary solutions that enable broader DoD access to the commercial state-of-the-art electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) technologies, advanced microelectronics, radiation-hardening and strategic missions’ hardware. S2MARTS will issue Request for Solutions (RFSs) from across the DoD seeking new solutions to promote U.S. military dominance in EMS, trusted electronics and strategic mission hardware. S2MARTS utilizes an open-source platform, meaning that any interested party can view the RFS but only S2MARTS members can submit proposals. For more information on S2MARTS, including a list of current open opportunities, go to www.s2marts.org.

About NSTXL

The National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL) harvests innovative technology from the commercial and non-defense marketplace, ensuring the development of better, cheaper, and faster defense capabilities. NSTXL offers a unique and simplified approach to rapidly develop, demonstrate, and assess prototypes that address a range of operational and installation needs, from individual Warfighter technology up to large-scale installation projects. NSTXL delivers technology to the Warfighter by serving as a one-stop shop to match government requirements with innovative private-sector and academic solutions.

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.