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DARPA issues contracts for WiSPER secure comms development

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded contracts to three companies to investigate and develop wideband secure and protected radio interface technologies for next-generation tactical radios.

The respective contracts, awarded in late March to CACI, Perspecta Labs, and Northrop Grumman, cover work under the agency’s Wideband Secure and Protected Emitter and Receiver (WiSPER) programme. CACI’s cost-plus-fixed fee award is valued at USD11.2 million, while Perspecta Labs received a USD19.2 million contract, and Northrop Grumman’s is worth USD18 million.

DARPA conceived of WiSPER to overcome some limitations associated with current secure tactical radios using spread spectrum techniques. The spread spectrum approach attempts to achieve security on a wireless channel by spreading transmitted content over time and operating frequency, thereby reducing transmitted power in order to potentially operate below the adversary’s receiver detection threshold.

However, DARPA contends that this approach has shortfalls. For example, existing spread spectrum techniques lack sufficient complexity to evade detection by modern signal intelligence (SIGINT) receivers or interception by compromised devices. Also, spread spectrum techniques may lead to loss of connectivity or data rate due to environmental impairments.

WiSPER is seeking to develop a fundamentally disruptive ultra-broadband wireless air interface transceiver technology to enable and sustain robust, secure, and protected high-bandwidth radio frequency communication links. In addition, said DARPA, the WiSPER wideband adaptive air interface should also mitigate impairment due to dynamic, contested environments to maintain a stable communication link.

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