Entrepreneurs Launch US Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Radar

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S-F-D Laboratories Inc., a Bell Labs microwave power tube spin-off named for its three founders, was established many years ago by Jerome Drexler, Joseph Feinstein, and Joseph A. Saloom and 22 Bell Labs’ associates. The founding of S-F-D Laboratories represented the first group spin-off from Bell Labs since 1928 when a group left for Hollywood to add sound tracks to motion picture films.

S-F-D’s technology success story now can be told. During its seven years of independence, before being acquired by Varian Associates of Palo Alto, California, S-F-D developed the now-famous S-F-D crossed-field amplifier (CFA) for high-power microwaves. An array of these devices now powers the US Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System radar, America’s and Japan’s principal missile defense system.

Large numbers of CFA’s in a phased-array configuration represents the direction-controlled microwave power source for the Aegis radar system. This advanced radar system simultaneously tracks dozens of missiles and aircraft targets, via electronic direction control of the beamed microwave power, without any movement of the antenna. Internet sources claim the Aegis system uses the SFD-268 CFA.

S-F-D Laboratories has been immortalized by the significant use of its CFA’s, by the widely-used Aegis ballistic missile defense radar system defending the US and its allies, and by an eight page chapter in a photograph-filled 2008 book authored by Norman H. Ponds entitled, “The Tube Guys,” about the microwave tube industry (1929-2007).

The following excerpts from two foreign newspapers, covering threats from Iran and from North Korea, illustrate the significant roles played by the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System in the strategic defense of the US and its allies.

According to the Jerusalem Post of July 10, 2008, “With the possibility of an Iranian missile onslaught on Israel looming, the US Navy recently held an unprecedented exercise testing the communications network supporting its Aegis missile defense system across the Middle East. … U.S Defense officials have said that in the event of a conflict with Teheran it was possible that the US would deploy an Aegis system off Israel’s coast to provide another layer of defense against Iranian ballistic missiles.”

The Jerusalem Post continued, “By 2009, the US Navy will have 18 cruisers and destroyers with operational Aegis systems that are capable of tracking ballistic missile and intercepting them with ship-launched SM-3 missiles.” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said, “I believe that the proliferation of ballistic missiles is something that will continue to occur [and] I believe that ballistic missiles in the future will become weapons of intimidation and blackmail. … According to the Navy Times, the [missile-defense-test] exercise involved the USN Benfold destroyer in the Persian Gulf and the USN Russell destroyer in the Mediterranean.”

According to the UK news source, Telegraph.co.uk, on March 26, 2009, “US deploys warships as North Korea prepares to launch missile. … The US has deployed two [Aegis] warships with anti-missile capabilities in the waters off Japan as tensions mount over North Korea’s plans to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile capable of striking Alaska. … Japan has threatened to shoot down the missile [with an Aegis system] if it crosses over Japanese territory, a move which Pyongyang has already said it would consider an ‘act of war.'”

In addition to his career at Bell Labs and at S-F-D Labs, Drexler was founder and former Chairman and chief scientist of LaserCard Corp.(Nasdaq: LCRD) and a research professor in physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has been awarded 76 U.S. patents, honorary Doctor of Science degrees from NJIT and Upsala College, a degree of Honorary Fellow of the Technion, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship at Stanford University, a three-year Bell Labs graduate-study fellowship, the 1990 “Inventor of the Year Award” for Silicon Valley and recognition as the original inventor in 1978 of the now widely used digital optical disk “Laser Optical Storage System” and the

LaserCard(R) nanotech data memory He is a member of the Board of Overseers of New Jersey Institute of Technology and an Honorary Life Member of the Technion

Board of Governors.