Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Southwest Research Institute awarded $9.4 million Air Force contract

For immediate release

San Antonio – Mar. 1, 2016 – The U.S. Air Force has awarded a Southwest Research Institute-led team a $9.4 million contract to develop a component of a novel geolocation system that will detect and locate communications and other high-frequency (HF) signals with unprecedented accuracy. The program, funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), will integrate a high-fidelity ionospheric model with a geolocation system for the first time to achieve this level of precision.

Signals intelligence (SIGINT) applications monitor HF communications and other radio frequency emission, such as over-the-horizon RADAR, to identify strategically important signals of interest and then use direction finding and other techniques to map the source of the signal.

“Taking advantage of recent technology advances, we will improve geolocation accuracy by combining signal processing with ionospheric modeling,” said Jim Nixon, director of the SIGINT Solutions Department in SwRI’s Defense and Intelligence Solutions Division. “This new capability will advance the state-of-the-art in geolocation and may improve the effectiveness of national intelligence activities.”

“Ionospheric uncertainties are always the most significant source of error in HF geolocation,” said Brandon Nance, the SwRI manager leading the project. He explained that space weather in the ionosphere — including sunspots, the solar wind, and day/night cycles — can change how a signal is reflected back to Earth and affect accuracy. “By integrating a high-fidelity system that corrects for real-time ionospheric activity, we expect to improve geolocation accuracy significantly.”

Phase one of IARPA’s High Frequency Geolocation (HFGeo) program examined the technology improvements needed to achieve IARPA’s goals. SwRI will collaborate with Northwest Research Associates (NWRA), Lowell Digisonde International (LDI), and YarCom Inc. on phases two and three of HFGeo to develop and test this new technology. Both phases will be completed by January 2018.

For more information about SwRI’s SIGINT capabilities, please visit

For more information about IARPA’s HFGeo program, please visit

For more information, contact Deb Schmid, (210) 522-2254, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.