Thursday, April 25, 2024

US Navy selects Mercury for photonics chiplet advancements

Mercury Systems, a leading technology company specializing in delivering mission-critical processing power to the edge, has made a groundbreaking agreement with the U.S. Navy.

According to the company, this partnership aims to develop manufacturing capabilities to leverage commercial photonics chiplets for enhancing edge processing in defense applications.

The collaboration is part of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) Trusted and Assured Microelectronics (T&AM) Program’s Project KANAGAWA. This initiative seeks to advance the domestic supply chain and manufacturing processes for multi-chip packages, which integrate co-packaged optics with electronic integrated circuits. This integration enables long-range, high-bandwidth data transfer using optical fibers, offering a substantial increase in data bandwidth while consuming significantly less power compared to conventional copper connections.

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Although the potential of photonics technology for defense systems has been recognized for years, previous demonstrations relied on costly and custom approaches that weren’t conducive to high-volume production.

Under a $3.9 million, 17-month Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, Mercury Systems will gain access to photonics devices originally developed by Intel and Ayar Labs for commercial applications. These chiplet devices employ optical technology to transfer data at speeds exceeding a terabyte per second, typically seen in data centers. Mercury’s goal is to create miniaturized and ruggedized packages using photonics chiplets designed for defense applications. This advancement will allow edge sensor data to be processed much more swiftly, facilitating quicker decision-making in next-generation radar and electronic warfare systems.

Tom Smelker, General Manager of Microsystems at Mercury Systems, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, “We are excited to partner with the Navy to bring this game-changing commercial technology to the defense community. As we continue to drive innovation in defense microelectronics at the edge and move from board-scale to chip-scale, photonics chiplets will play a key role in advanced packaging and benefit a wide range of systems and platforms.”

Joshua Hawke, USD(R&E) RF/OE Execution Lead, emphasized the significance of breaking the data transfer bottleneck, explaining, “This partnership with Mercury will proliferate co-packaged optics within the Defense Industrial Base and accelerate adoption of innovative technology by the warfighter.” This collaboration represents a critical step forward in advancing the capabilities of defense technology.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Colton Jones
Colton Jones
Colton Jones is the deputy editor of Defence Blog. He is a US-based journalist, writer and publisher who specializes in the defense industry in North America and Europe. He has written about emerging technology in military magazines and elsewhere. He is a former Air Force airmen and served at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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