Release Date
November 29th, 2023
Open Date
January 3rd, 2024
Due Date(s)
February 21st, 2024
Close Date
February 21st, 2024
Topic No.


High-Speed Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) Optical Backplane for Avionics Applications


Department of DefenseN/A


Type: SBIRPhase: BOTHYear: 2024


The Department of Defense (DOD) is seeking proposals for the topic of "High-Speed Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) Optical Backplane for Avionics Applications" as part of their SBIR 24.1 BAA. The objective of this solicitation is to develop and package a high-speed (100-400 Gbps) optical backplane based on WDM for onboard avionics applications. The current avionics systems require increased bandwidths while reducing Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP). The proposed technology should provide high connectivity, throughput, reconfigurability, modularity, low-latency, large link budget, and compatibility with the avionic environment. The traditional use of copper traces for board-to-board communications is limiting, and an optical interconnect technology refresh is needed. The proposed WDM optical backplane should meet the SOSA™ roadmap expectations and operate in harsh avionic environments. The project will have a Phase I to develop a hardware engineering design, Phase II to optimize the design and build a prototype, and Phase III for transition and commercialization. The technology developed will have applications in military aircraft platforms, commercial data centers, and defense avionics industries, providing increased bandwidth and data input at higher speeds. The solicitation is closed, and more information can be found on the DOD SBIR website.


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems; Microelectronics; Sustainment


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop and package a high-speed (100–400 Gbps) optical backplane based on Wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) for onboard avionics applications.


DESCRIPTION: Current airborne military (mil-aero) core avionics, electro-optic, communications, and electronic warfare systems require ever-increasing bandwidths while simultaneously demanding reductions in Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP). The effectiveness of these systems hinges on (1) optical communication, computation, and networking components that realize high connectivity and throughput, (2) reconfigurability, (3) modularity (plug and play), (4) low-latency, (5) large link budget, and (6) compatibility with the harsh avionic environment. The traditional use of copper traces to support board-to-board communications in sensor and mission computing applications requires hundreds upon hundreds of electrical pins and a spider web of connecting copper traces. For example, the latest embedded system backplane standard, VITA 65 – OpenVPX, has connectors with 728 pins on a 6U size card and 280 pins on a 3U card, and still does not provide enough bandwidth for current or future generation systems. This situation complicates the integration of processing cards within mission computers, sensors, and imaging systems. The saturation of high-speed traces throughout the backplane can generate electrical impedance problems, creating bandwidth limitation problems [Ref 16].


In the commercial data center sector, the bandwidth capacity needs to increase along with reduced power consumption, which has increased the demand for efficient interconnects. These functions are not available with traditional interconnects, which are copper-based, thus further enhancing the utility, and in turn the need, for an optical interconnect technology refresh. Moreover, companies are innovating new solutions with multiple variants of 100 to 400 Gbps+ optical transceiver modules. Although these solutions are designed to enable network operators to address increasing bandwidth demand through simplified network architecture, these solutions are not directly compatible with the complexity of modern digital avionics networks [Ref 1]. Traditional optical implementations based on single-wavelength fiber optic transceivers operating at up to 28 Gbps per lane, 100 Gig Ethernet switches, along with the OpenVPX and Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA™) standards, is testing the boundaries of optical connectors and backplanes in avionics [Ref 2–5].


Future avionics signal transmission rates are expected to increase to 100 Gbps per lane and higher over 50 µ OM4/OM5 fiber. The use of high-speed digital fiber optics and wavelength division multiplexing in avionics backplanes can enable a significant increase in aggregate bandwidths beyond traditional electrical and optical networking implementation limitations. A 100 Gbps (scalable) and WDM-based optical backplane with OpenVPX capability and SOSA™ compatibility will be required for future data transmission and networking in avionics [Ref 6]. As such, a high-speed WDM optical backplane for onboard avionic networking that extends beyond the current state-of-the-art technologies is desired [Ref 7–14].


The proposed WDM optical backplane should minimally meet the SOSA™ roadmap expectations. The proposed high-speed WDM optical backplane must operate across a -40º-+95ºC temperature range and maintain performance upon exposure to typical naval air platform vibration, humidity, temperature, altitude, thermal shock, mechanical shock, and temperature cycling environments [Ref 15]. The proposed approach should incorporate a quick routing capability to overcome latency and connectivity limitations and enable future avionics network architectures.


PHASE I: Develop a WDM optical backplane hardware engineering design with OpenVPX capability and SOSA™ compatibility. Demonstrate the feasibility of the optical backplane design and packaging. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed in Phase II.


PHASE II: Optimize the backplane design for future avionics networking and sensors. Build and test the optical backplane in a simulated avionics environment that is compatible with OpenVPX and SOSA™. Deliver one optical backplane—including active and passive components—for future WDM avionics application.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support transition of the technology being developed to military aircraft platforms, commercial data center and defense avionics industries.

Commercial sector telecommunication systems, fiber-optic networks, and data centers will benefit from the development of the WDM-based optical backplane such as mitigating the bandwidth limitations. These applications will be able to drive more data input at a higher speed.



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KEYWORDS: OpenVPX; SOSA; Wavelength Division Multiplexing; optical backplane; multimode fiber optic; higher bandwidth