Tactical Communications

DARPA renews efforts to deal with a crowded, contested spectrum

The military’s increasing use of the electromagnetic spectrum has driven demand for technologies to manage capabilities in congested and contested spectral environments. The Defense Department in February issued its Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy, calling for more efficient use of the spectrum while freeing up bandwidth for commercial use.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on tis balancing act with two programs — Advanced RF Mapping (RadioMap) and Shared Spectrum Access for Radar and Communications (SSPARC) — that seek to fine-tune spectrum use and develop ways of sharing bandwidth.


In an amendment to an existing Broad Agency Announcement from DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office (STO), the office said it is seeking proposals for systems analysis and an understanding of fundamental tradeoffs for the two programs.

STO’s focus areas include system and technology development related to positioning, navigation and timing (PNT); electronic warfare; command and control; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and battle management.

The RadioMap program seeks to provide a map detailing spectrum use in complex environments, with the goal of reducing spectrum congestion and interference problems. This capability would preferably piggy-back on modern radios when they are not actively being used – the tactical radios would, in a non-harmful way, remotely map spectrum usage.

For the current solicitation, DARPA is seeking proposals that investigate additional applications of WALDO, the software being developed under the RadioMap program. The middleware enables applications to request remote radios to carry out transmission, reception and signal processing functions without compromising the main purpose of the device.

The solicitation is also seeking proposals for the SSPARC program, which is designed to improve spectrum sharing capabilities between military radars and military communications, and between military radars and commercial communications systems. The program seeks to create cooperative spectrum sharing in which information is shared between two systems in real time.

DARPA wants proposals that investigate the possibility of systems concepts in which radar and communications functions are co-designed or integrated into a single system. The proposals should address challenges such as adversaries seeking to exploit sharing mechanisms, malfunctioning communications devices, and the presence of non-cooperative emitters such as jammers.

“The opportunity to codesign the radar and communications system is expected to enable new synergies in which the radar and communications systems assist each other’s missions,” according to the announcement. “Examples include using communications devices as multistatic radar receivers, using communications transmissions as radar illumination, and using radar receivers to assist in communications network rendezvous with disadvantaged communications nodes.”

Interested parties will have to submit a full proposal on or before 4 p.m. Eastern time on June 6.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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