So, here's the story in a nutshell... Mil/Aero designers need bigger faster parts. The ever-increasing resolution of modern sensors requires more (and faster) faster data processing; also, more complex control issues require bigger and faster control circuits.
The problem is that "Bigger and Faster" has historically meant more power; more power means more heat; more heat means bigger cooling systems; and more power also means bigger, heavier power supplies.
Weight, space, and reliability are just as critical in Mil/Aero systems as ever. For example, consider the F-35 program, which incurred around 18 months of delay while weight savings were implemented. Admittedly, most of these savings came from modifying structural elements in the airframe, but the electronics systems weren't spared from being revamped.
And just to make things even more interesting, many electronic systems in Mil/Aero applications do not have forced air cooling in order to save weight and space, and to eliminate reliability risks (fans are notoriously prone to failure).
What is needed is complex, high performance digital logic with low power consumption, which leads us to the fact that the folks at Actel have just added new ProASIC3 and ProASIC3EL FPGAs to their military-qualified product offerings.
Verified to operate across the full military temperature range (–55°C to +125°C) and ranging in density from 600,000 to 3-million system gates, the new low-power devices are immune to neutron-induced configuration upsets ("firm errors"), saving board space and minimizing complexity in the system. With lower power, increased gate density, and improved performance, the folks at Actel say that these devices enable designers to eliminate the higher power consumption and failure risks often associated with SRAM-based FPGAs for a wide range of military, aerospace and avionics applications.
On a per-gate basis, competitive SRAM-based FPGAs are said to consume 60 percent higher dynamic power and 100 times more static power than ProASIC3L devices. The largest part in the new military-qualified offering, the 3-million gate A3PE3000L, consumes only 310 mW at 100 MHz and 2.75 mW in static mode, making it suitable for thermally-challenged and space-constrained applications. Integrated, secure in-system programming (ISP) support enables valuable field programming upgrades.
About military-qualified ProASIC3 and ProASIC3EL FPGAs
Ranging in density from 600,000 to 3-million system gates, Actel's low-power military-temperature ProASIC3 and ProASIC3EL FPGAs deliver 64-bit 66 MHz PCI performance. The industry's first FPGAs with on-chip user flash memory, the 1.2V to 1.5V military-qualified devices are immune to neutron-induced firm errors, which are receiving growing recognition in the aerospace community as a significant reliability threat at aviation altitudes.
The 'E' qualifier associated with ProASIC3EL devuces stands for "Enhanced I/Os", because devices have a large number of inputs and outputs and more Phase-Locked Loops (PLLs) than standard devuces.
These devices also feature Actel's unique Flash*Freeze technology, which preserves register and memory states in an ultra low-power mode and allows fast switching (within 1 µs) between active and static states. This is of particular interest for systems such as guidance and weapons systems which may need to be powered-up and then placed in a low-power mode while waiting to be deployed.
Packaging and availability
The A3P1000-PQ208M and A3P1000-FG144M are qualified and shipping now. The remaining devices are expected to be qualified by the end of the year. All devices will be offered in military-temperature plastic (MTP) packages. Standard and Dash-1 speed grades will be available for most devices.