High-Speed Weapon Radomes

Period of Performance: 05/10/2012 - 02/10/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

First RF Corp.
5340 Airport Blvd. Array
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: In high-speed weapon applications, typical forward-looking RF antenna sensors must reside near the nose. Unfortunately, this is the location that experiences the greatest amount of atmospheric ram pressure and thus thermal loading. As more and more advanced hypersonic weapons are developed, the amount of atmospheric ram and thus thermal loading only stands to increase. Expected temperatures are up to 1250°K (977°C). This usually requires the antenna sensors to reside under a protective radome, as it provides an ablative heat shield. FIRST RF proposes a significantly different approach to the challenge of High-Speed Weapon Radomes by relocating the antenna sensors to alternate lower temperature regions of the weapons. The antenna element design then makes use of unique forward-looking, endfire antennas that may be constructed from conformal, more common high-temperature dielectric materials. Essentially, the radome becomes the antenna. The overall antenna design is implemented with low-cost manufacturing techniques that minimize scrap and unit failure because it allows the individual components to be manufactured and tested separately, before integration. The part count is low and the construction method is very simple and robust. This approach significantly lowers the overall cost, thermal, mechanical and performance risk of both IR and RF sensor systems. BENEFIT: Thermal management is the greatest challenge to this particular application. FIRST RF believes that we offer the most practical, lowest risk approach to solving the antenna design. It leverages proven radiator technology and minimizes thermal impact on the antenna. It also allows for use of more common, lower-temp, less-exotic construction materials, allowing for a quicker path-to-field. The specific benefits are: 1) Thermal impact on the antennas is lessened, while improving, or maintaining, overall platform capability and performance. 2) The antenna design is such that the radiation pattern is optimized and efficiency is maximized, while ensuring environmental operation.