Pentagon advances image-sensor tech with Raytheon deal

Raytheon has been contracted to construct low noise infrared sensor chip assemblies capable of everything from missile defense to unmanned vehicle control.

The Air Force’s pursuit of the next generation of turbocharged image sensors received a funding boost last week, as the Department of Defense awarded the Raytheon Company a $7.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to construct low-noise, infrared sensor chip assemblies  to be used in applications from missile defense to unmanned vehicle control.

The deal will advance and maintain the state-of-the-art, scientific knowledge, growth, processing, characterization capability associated with the Focused Opportunity Reaching Toward Reliable Electro-Optic Strategic Sensors (FORTRESS) program.

Next-generation sensors have received a great deal of attention from the Air Force this year. Earlier this summer, the service posted a pre-solicitation for relevant technology. Soon afterwards, they hosted an industry day at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to advance electro-optical sensor technologies for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, and situational awareness for manned and unmanned aircraft. 

These image-sensors can perform a variety of space-related functions, including weather data collection, space astronomy, Earth observation and missile surveillance. The Air Force wants to enhance their existing capabilities. According to the contract’s initial request for information (RFI), the sensor chips in question are infrared focal plane arrays (FPAs). Another key point in the RFI stipulated that these FPAs must be able to withstand significant laser radiation.

 Work will be performed in Goleta, California, and is expected to be complete by July 2019. The Air Force Research Laboratory, the epicenter of Air Force space technology development, obligated $3.1 million of fiscal 2016 research, development, test, and evaluation funds at the time of the award and is the contracting activity.