IARPA wants to zero in on high frequency radar, comms

Agency hires Leidos and STR to cut through ionospheric interference in order to pinpoint and identify HF emitters.

As other countries become more adept at the technological tools of warfare and information-gathering U.S. intelligence researchers are looking to counter that with the ability to more accurately identify some of those technologies—specifically high-frequency emitters of the type used in radar and weapons systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory recently awarded two contracts for the next phases of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s High Frequency Geolocation and Characterization program, known as HFGeo. The program is intended to significantly boost the ability to detect, characterize and geolocate high-frequency emissions.

AFRL, acting as the contracting authority, gave Leidos an $18.7 million contract and Systems & Technology Research (STR) a $7.2 million contract, both for phases 2 and 3 of the project.

IARPA notes that HF radars and communications systems are abundant around the world but that pinpointing them is difficult because of variations in the ionosphere and other factors, including the “noise” at high frequencies, ionospheric polarization rotation, multipath induced signal fading and the act that signals car arrive simultaneously from multiple angles.

However, recent advances in high-dynamic range receivers, antenna techniques and other factors, along with better measurement and modeling techniques, should be able to improve the ability to identify and locate the emitters, IARPA says.

HFGeo’s Phase 1 addressed technical innovations such as using new antennas concepts to resolve multiple angles of arrival and polarization states; enhancing signal-to-noise ratio and signal detection; and accurately determining the dynamic state of the ionosphere.

Phases 2 and 3 aims to put these concepts into practice. Phase 2, expected to take 18 months, covers systems integration of Phase 1’s innovations and a non-real time field test. The 15-month Phase 3 will cover real-time signal processing and testing against realistic targets in realistic environments, IARPA says.

Work on the project is expected to be finished in late August 2018.