The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Aether Spy next-generation multifunction radar by Northrop Grumman [NOC] is to move into the design phase after the radar completed a system requirements review (SRR), the company said on Oct. 13.

“Aether Spy advances multifunction wideband digital Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology based on the advanced microelectronics created on the DARPA Arrays on Commercial Timescales (ACT) program,” per Northrop Grumman. “It will develop the next generation of integrated circuits that include additional processing and key design features that enable the Department of Defense trusted microelectronics strategy. The advanced devices will be fabricated and integrated into an advanced digital AESA to demonstrate a multifunction system capable of simultaneously performing multiple sensing, communication and electronic warfare functions.”

Northrop Grumman said that its multifunction software will become foundational building blocks for the next generation of multifunction radio frequency (RF) systems (Northrop Grumman Photo)

William Phillips, Northrop Grumman’s director of multifunction systems, said in a company statement that “the advanced integrated circuits, digital AESA architecture and multifunction software developed on Aether Spy will become foundational building blocks for the next generation of multifunction radio frequency (RF) systems supporting the future mission needs of the DoD.”

In the Northrop Grumman statement, Thomas Dalrymple, the technical adviser for sensor subsystems in AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, said that Aether Spy aligns with the U.S. Air Force’s digital engineering efforts and that the radar “will enable significant improvements in surveillance and battle management missions in the future battlespace.”

“The multifunction aspects are enabled by both software and hardware reprogrammability that will ensure this sensor will have operational impact for years to come,” he said.

The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Space Command recently held the second test “on ramp” of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Aug. 31-Sept. 3, and Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said after the test that some of the capabilities tested, such as cloud computing, are ready for the field.

The test featured 70 industry teams, 65 government teams from all six military services, 35 military platforms, 30 geographic locations and four national test ranges, as the Air Force moves to conduct war “at internet speeds” in Roper’s words, through features, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) (Defense Daily, Aug. 25).

“Our military is finally entering the digital age!” Roper said via Twitter on Sept. 4. “For the 1st time, we created cloud-enabled, AI-generated, LTE-transmitted effects in seconds–not hours–during a massive military demo.”

Roper has said that one day AI-enabled drones may be the first wave employed by the military to gain situational awareness and avoid casualties and that the Air Force will need “software-defined systems, cloud, containerized software” to move data from the cloud to the edge.

During the recent on-ramp, “operators used ABMS to detect and defeat efforts to disrupt U.S. operations in space in addition to countering attacks against the U.S. homeland, including shooting down a cruise missile ‘surrogate’ with a hypervelocity weapon,” the Air Force said.