Award-winning technologies for 2021 from Mercury
September 23, 2021
Ralph Guevarez: Hello, and welcome to MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host Ralph Guevarez, and today's topic, The Military and Aerospace Electronics 2021 Innovators Award. These awards have put a spotlight on Mercury Systems and the trusted and secure solutions we are making profoundly more accessible to the aerospace and defense industry.
Receiving top honors this year, with a platinum award, is Mercury's breakthrough Rappid application-ready spectrum processing platform that is bringing a new standard of flexibility to missions with open hardware, open software, and now, open firmware applications. Rounding out the honors, Mercury also received two gold awards: one for the model 6350 8-Channel A/D & D/A Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC, which is a rugged small form factor enclosure. And the other for the RFS1080 Radio Frequency System-in-Package. The two silver awards were for the ARES3100 Advanced Radar Environment Simulator, and TAC-3290 Microwave Tuner.
My guests today are Mercury's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Bill Conley, and general manager, Mark Bruington, and Tom Smelker. Gentlemen, good day, and welcome to the show.
Bill Conley: Good morning Ralph. I really appreciate being able to join you again today.
Mark Bruington: Good morning Ralph. It's great to be here.
Tom Smelker: Ralph, it's always a pleasure to be on a podcast with you.
Ralph Guevarez: Thank you. Bill, let's start with you. First, congratulations on all these product excellence awards. I think it's great we earned such high praise for five of our products. So tell me, what is it about these products in particular that is worthy of the title "Military and Aerospace Electronics Innovators"?
Bill Conley: I think that's a great question Ralph. I'm happy to answer that question as well as to provide some insights, I think, around the themes that ultimately connect the award winners this year. In my opinion, these awards really showcase the innovation needed to address our national security challenges.
For all of the companies and all of the products that were recognized, I think you see a trend around meaningful, substantial innovations that provide the needed electronics to provide capability overmatch at the tactical operational and, ultimately, the strategic level. Holistically, when you look at the award winners, we also see a diverse number of technologies that really improve the speed of technology insertion that's available for the Department of Defense. Here at Mercury we describe this as the Speed of Mercury, and I think you'll see that trend show up today as we discuss the award winners in more detail.
Our goal at Mercury is to reduce the development timelines to a fraction of the amount of time it used to take. Similarly, we want to advance the most advanced microsystem products at a speed that is much faster than the old timelines for custom ASICs, application specific integrated circuits. Getting the electronics technology right is important, but doing it at the Speed of Mercury is really what has resulted in these awards and it's what our customers have come to expect from us, and having the external recognition from Military and Aerospace Electronics is, of course, a great honor, but also a testament to our team's ability to meet these pressing requirements.
Ralph Guevarez: Thank you, Bill. I appreciate the detailed answer. Let's take a closer look at our platinum award for Rappid. Mark, what is it about Rappid that caught the attention of these judges, who, as I understand, are some of the most esteemed senior professionals from the A&D community?
Mark Bruington: Yeah. Thank you, Ralph. Great question. In the realm of spectrum processing, specifically, our customers continue to ask for open standards to avoid costly and delayed development and deployment every time that adversary fields a new threat. To answer this critical need our Mercury team has created Rappid.
It's a framework that has the next-generation modular open subsystem development environment, consisting of hardware, firmware and software. The idea is to abstract the software from the hardware, regardless of who created the intellectual property in either domain, so that as software applications are developed to meet threats or give legacy systems increased capability, the underlying hardware does not need to change, but can still be optimized. Conversely, as commercial hardware advances are realized, software apps can still be backward compatible.
Think of your cellphone being upgraded independent of the applications that may be running on it or that you use every day. Rappid is moving us closer to this model, but the DoD has been asking for 24 hours Compile to Combat. While we're not there yet, Mercury is truly reducing the development and deployment timeline, plus the cost to do so, that today's custom EW solutions require. In short, Rappid is another example of how Mercury systems is making advanced technology profoundly more accessible to the people who matter, our men and women in uniform.
Ralph Guevarez: Thank you Mark. Can you tell us about some real world examples of how our customers may be using Rappid?
Mark Bruington: Sure Ralph. Let's say the threat radar has emerged and we have detected it. Typically, the military service involved would solicit a bid, work to downselect to a defense contractor to develop a highly specialized software solution running on very optimized but unique hardware, to achieve a desired effect against that threat. This takes time and is obviously very costly.
Now, let's say the same adversary produces a different mode of the same radar I just spoke about. That previously described system that we now can't see or worse, now we can't even counter and our forces become vulnerable. To go back through that development cycle is both costly and time consuming, and the military's left playing a game of catch up, never outpacing the threat. Rappid looks to reverse the cycle.
Now imagine you're running an open FPGA, part of the Rappid framework, on Mercury or other defense contractor hardware. Once the threat is now known, a software update can be created to counter that threat, and this new app can run in the Rappid ecosystem and be ported to the spectrum processing platform. Rappid will optimize this app to use existing hardware.
The key is development time is significantly reduced, as is cost. Moreover, fielded systems are kept relevant as hardware updates are made, and critical apps, I just discussed, are still backwards compatible with spectrum processing systems. This maintains the system's relevance and further reduces lifecycle costs. In short, developers maintain their IP, right? Time to develop and deploy is reduced. But most importantly, our military can keep pace with the ever-changing threat landscape.
Ralph Guevarez: Thank you, Mark. I appreciate your insights. Now let's go to Tom. Tom, what is Mercury doing in the system-in-packaging arena that makes this technology compelling enough to be award winners?
Tom Smelker: Absolutely Ralph, and thank you. So first I'll back up and say we're really in a transformative time and it's so exciting. We're at that data age where sensors are creating more and more data, and having to move that data to the processing subsystems, to where we actually create the information and act on it. And so we're marching toward that information age and RFS1080 is all part of that transformation to the digital age. It's making these sensors, creating that data, truly smart by bringing the processing to the sensor edge.
And so the RFS1080 is all about direct digital RF, all in a system-in-package, and being able to pull where the processing was in another subsystem, right to the sensor's edge. What does that do for systems? It lowers the latency, increases the performance, and it's based on Mercury's leading-edge 2.5D microelectronics capability that we built up in Phoenix.
So it creates the ability to integrate chips, advanced chiplets, memories, power, and other functions, all into one system-in-package. And the overall impact, the systems... As Mark was talking about electronic warfare, we looked at an electronic warfare system too. And what we found for the specific system for the customers; we lowered the size of the electronics by 83%, we reduced the power by 74%, lowered the weight by 64%, lowered the overall cost by 48%. All of those together are a big deal because that allows the system to bring more capability to the men and women of our armed services. So the RFS1080, like I said, really brings that direct to digital RF, for both radar and EW markets. But it's just the start.
We're looking forward to collaborating with customers to integrate the RFS1080, but other system-in-package as well, which truly does, as you said, make leading-edge microelectronics profoundly more accessible for secure processing, artificial intelligence, electro-optical capabilities, you name it, bringing the processor to the sensor and acting on it to create information.
Ralph, what's also really exciting about this and what I'm really proud of is we're all doing this all onshore, in our trusted Advanced Microelectronic Center in Phoenix. It's exciting times and we look forward to working with customers as we help them transform to the information age.
Ralph Guevarez: Thank you, Tom. Always a pleasure to have you back on the show. Is there anything else, gentlemen, we'd like to add? How about a preview of what's coming down the pipeline as we continue to deliver on our Purpose; Innovation That Matters, By and For People Who Matter? Bill?
Bill Conley: Yeah, Ralph, I'll happily go ahead and address that. The first thing I'd like to say is, really, it's a very exciting time to be here at Mercury. We're continuing to build upon our exceptional internal R&D investment, to bring that next generation advances into the marketplace to meet our national security needs. I, however, am particularly excited about how open standards, DevSecOps and Agile software development, throughout the industrial base, ultimately helps us transform into much more of an innovation base, to meet those national security challenges.
When the technical leaders throughout the supply chain are fully empowered, I think it's going to be awesome just how quickly, easily and affordably we can upgrade our modules and thus introduce advanced features, and even modes, at the system level. Ultimately, this leadership position will advance our products into the strategically most important missions of today.
Deterring nation states where we are competing, as well as supporting a global set of allied partners by bringing the best innovative electronic systems into their systems as well, is really critical for our national security objectives. Getting this right underpins a diverse set of multi-domain capabilities that are going to be really exciting to get to build over the next several years. I'm particularly excited about how our trusted, secure and safe microelectronics support these most challenging requirements.
Ralph Guevarez: Thank you, Bill. This is indeed an exciting time to be at Mercury. We are truly bringing some of the most advanced technologies to every corner of the globe. From chip scale to system scale, across land, sea, air, and space, there seems to be a lot of innovation happening at the speed of Mercury. Thank you all for joining me. It has been a pleasure having you here today, and congratulations on all the award-winning products that we have discussed. I wish you all the best of luck moving forward, and I look forward to having you back on the show again soon.
Bill Conley: Thanks Ralph. It's been great to be with you today.
Mark Bruington: Thanks Ralph, for the opportunity to speak about this exciting technology.
Tom Smelker: I'll second that, what Bill and Mark said. It's always a pleasure to be with you, and it's always a pleasure to be on a podcast with Bill and Mark.
Ralph Guevarez: This has been another addition of MercuryNOW, a podcast series brought to you by Mercury Systems. I am your host, Ralph Guevarez, signing off.