News Feature | September 21, 2022

Bright Ideas — Defense Prime CEOs Sanctioned By China, DARPA To Give Small Biz 'Classified' Access

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By Abby Proch, former editor


Raytheon Technologies announced that it and L3Harris were selected for sensor development in phase two of the Army’s High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES), an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance program. The two will compete to provide the latest updates in a program that aims to “provide deep-sensing intelligence collection of indicators and warnings, electronic order of battle, and patterns of life for target development,” according to Dennis Teefy, project director for sensors-aerial intelligence at the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.

But later in the week, China sanctioned Raytheon Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes and Boeing Defense, Space & Security CEO Ted Colbert after the two defense contractor’s weapons were part of an approved arms deal with Taiwan. The Biden administration approved $665 million in Raytheon radar technologies for the Surveillance Radar Program (SRP), as well as $355 million worth of Harpoon Block II Missiles and related equipment from Boeing. The effects of the sanctions are as yet unclear, but the Associated Press reports that the actions are likely just symbolic. China had sanctioned the companies earlier in the year again due to an arm’s deal it believes “undermined China's security interests, seriously undermined China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” according to a Feb. 21 Reuters report.

Wrapping up prime contractor news, Lockheed Martin delivered a 300-kW laser for the Pentagon’s High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI) ahead of schedule. The laser will participate in a high energy laser demonstration later this year. Lockheed Martin joined the HELSI back in 2019 to help “strengthen the directed energy industrial base and improve the quality of laser beams.” High energy lasers have become a key modernization component for the Department of Defense (DoD). For their part, Boeing and General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems are also building a 300-kW laser for another program, and Raytheon has already supplied 50-kW lasers mounted to a Stryker vehicle.

Coherent has secured a Phase 1 contract with DARPA under the Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node (Space-BACN) program, an endeavor seeking to incorporate optical transceivers that “support multiple optical waveforms at total data rates of up to 100Gbps on a single wavelength, while simultaneously meeting stringent size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) constraints.” Right now, many of the optical inter-satellite links (OISLs) aren’t compatible and so LEO satellites aren’t able to openly communicate as hoped. Space-BACN intends to bridge the communications gap between privately held and government satellite constellations.

In another DARPA initiative, small companies without security clearance now have a seat at the table with DoD officials. Under traditional circumstances, companies must have a facilities security clearance and employee security clearances to conduct classified work. One hang-up for industry is that companies must have an existing contract to justify the clearance. And so, that leaves some companies on the outside looking in. Now, DARPA has introduced its Bringing Classified Innovation to Defense and Government Systems (BRIDGES) program wherein it plans to sponsor companies looking to become DoD partners. BRIDGES will provide the companies with a facility clearance, enable classified-level discussions, and give access to classified locations and networks to conduct classified work. BRIDGES is expected to last 30 months and will provide $50,000 to every 12 months to selected companies. More details on how to participate will be posted to in October.

New high-energy, low-dispersions (HELD) multi-layer dielectric pulse compression gratings from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will soon help the world’s most powerful laser system deliver as much as 10 petawatts of peak power. The HELD gratings are destined for the L4-ATON laser system at the ELI-Beamline facility in Czech Republic where the laser is said to “generate 1.5 kilojoules (kJ) of energy in 150-femtosecond (quadrillionths of a second) pulses.” The HELD gratings recently received a 2022 R&D 100 Award for their ability to develop three-and-a-half times more total energy than existing technologies.

A team of scientists at Zeiss are in the running for the 2022 German Future Prize (Deutscher Zukunftspreis) for their Lattice Lightsheet 7, a microscope that “enables three-dimensional, super-resolution imaging of living cells without causing photodamage,” according to a SPIE report. The novel microscope is based on an approach to super-resolution microscopy developed by 2014 Nobel laureate Ric Betzig. The Lattice Lightsheet 7 enables new opportunities for cancer research. And in one study, a group using the Zeiss microscope imaged the entire lifecycle of a malaria parasite entering a blood cell in three dimensions. The winner of the German Future Prize will be announced Oct. 26.

The SPIE Startup Challenge is now accepting applications. The 13th annual entrepreneurial pitch takes place at the 2023 Photonics West conference and exhibition in San Francisco, with winners announced at the challenge finals on Jan. 31. The Startup Challenge welcomes new businesses with an optics or photonics technology or application who are seeking increased exposure and funding. Judges for the competition include venture capitalists and business development experts. Some successful past winners of the award include Double Helix Optics, Cellino Biotech, and PhotoniCare. The application deadline is Oct. 20.