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NEW-HIP Program Advances Avionics Networks

NEW-HIP will develop prototype photonic transmitters and receivers for use in such a fiber-optic network, carrying both digital and analog signals, to support advanced electronic warfare, radar and communications systems, as well as to control mission stores, flight components and navigation.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 05, 2011
Modern military aircraft are burdened with miles of heavily shielded copper wire cables that connect a multitude of components. This cabling is heavy and subject to deterioration due to harsh environmental conditions encountered in normal flight operations. In addition, cables needed for carrying analog radio frequency signals are expensive, fragile and difficult to install and replace.

Some more modern aircraft employ multimode fiber cables, which can carry only a single digital signal. DARPA's Network Enabled by Wavelength division multiplexing Highly Integrated Photonics (NEW-HIP) program aims to replace current aircraft wiring with a single-mode fiber-optic network, where each fiber can carry multiple digital and analog signals.

NEW-HIP will develop prototype photonic transmitters and receivers for use in such a fiber-optic network, carrying both digital and analog signals, to support advanced electronic warfare, radar and communications systems, as well as to control mission stores, flight components and navigation.

This offers many advantages over current copper and multimode fiber cables, including greatly reduced weight, resistance to harsh environmental conditions and ability to interconnect dozens of components simultaneously. The most important advantage, however, is the ability to dynamically reconfigure the logical connections of the fiber optic network.

"Converting a fixed point-to-point cable infrastructure of tactical aircraft to a reconfigurable fiber-optic network that remains for the life of the air frame has the potential to save the Defense Department billions of dollars over the lifecycle of an aircraft fleet," said Adel Saleh, DARPA program manager.

Prototype digital integrated transmitters (shown) are designed to support tuning over 32 wavelength channels, each carrying 10 gigabit-per-second data rates.

The associated digital receiver (not shown) can support the selection of any combination of four simultaneous outputs from the 32 wavelength channels. This is not a feature available in commercial telecommunications products.

The packaged digital transmitter is designed to have a footprint of 1.5 x 2.7 x 0.8 centimeters. (The analog transmitter and the digital and analog receivers are similarly sized.) Size and power specifications were designed so that these components can be directly adapted to existing avionics systems, easing deployment of this technology on a wide scale.

NEW-HIP is a joint DARPA/NAVAIR venture. Initial prototypes of both digital and analog receivers and transmitters are scheduled for testing in 2011.

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