Northrop Grumman has developed a next-generation signals intelligence architecture

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman executives say the company is now offering a next-generation signals intelligence architecture that has won at least one contract.

Bill Thompson, director of Northrop’s signals intelligence operating unit, said the company wanted to update the legacy system it had been providing, the Airborne Signals Intelligence Platform.

“Several years ago, when the U.S. defense strategy changed focus from anti-terrorism to focus on peer, near-peer adversaries, we started hearing new requirements coming from our customer base and they were common requirements,” Thompson told C4ISRNET in an interview. “The needs we heard were first and foremost the need for speed to mission or speed to relevance.”

They developed a new architecture the company calls SAGE, which is comprised of transceivers and microservices that make up a holistic sensor. SAGE is a cloud-native, platform-agnostic open architecture.

With the new architecture, Northrop won an Air Force contract in June for the Global High-altitude Open-system Sensor Technology (GHOST) program. They were one of three companies (BAE Systems and L3Harris Technologies were the other two) chosen to compete in a 12-month prototyping design phase. After that period, the Air Force will choose one to move forward.

SAGE provides physically smaller systems, allowing for greater size, weight and power configuration aboard platforms.

“If you look at where our adversaries are around the world, they’re in different theaters and may require different software loads and mission techniques. Today, that’s a pretty big process to change those mission loads,” Thompson said.

The Air Force has also noted the importance of being able to plug in different systems using open architectures.

“We are designing it to be platform agnostic, or agile, so it is easily transferable from one airborne platform to another based on however much size, weight, and power, or SWAP, is available,” Jeremy Shock, Signals Intelligence Branch Chief, said of GHOST in a news release.

Thompson said SAGE can be configured on the fly — on the flight line or potentially during a mission.

The new transceivers developed also include significantly increased computing power, which allows the military to be able to collect a wider range and more advanced adversary signals, the company said.

Following the Air Force contract, Northrop said it hopes its architecture will win work with the Army. Thompson pointed to the Multidomain Sensing System, a series of high-altitude systems that will help the Army cover the vast distances over which it expects to operate in future conflicts.

“Northrop Grumman would really like to bring the same capability and expertise in support of the Army missions as well,” Thompson said.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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