Big boost for MIT Lincoln Labs in Pentagon budget

MIT Lincoln Laboratories

Lincoln Labs, a highly-regarded research facility on Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, is getting a $265 million makeover.

Founded in 1951 and still run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Labs grew out of the school’s  World War II development of radar technology. It remains one of the nation’s leading research centers for military technologies.

The money from the US Department of Defense will be used to rebuild and upgrade laboratories and other facilities at the Bedford site, which sits on land leased from the US Air Force. The first $40 million will be invested in design work.  Actual construction will begin in fiscal year 2019, at a cost of $225 million.  This money will be spent on a semiconductor laboratory for making components to be used for advanced imagers, electronic warfare systems, and advanced sensors such as laser radars.

“It’s been a long time in the works,” said US Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts’ Third District.  “It’s great to see that the Defense Department sees this as a priority.”

Tsongas said that the rest of the money must still be approved by Congress, but she added that the funding has attracted strong bipartisan support, giving it “as close to a green light as you can get.”

During the Cold War, Lincoln Labs developed SAGE, a massive computer system tasked with analyzing vast amounts of air defense radar data.  The biggest computer ever constructed, SAGE ran around the clock from 1963 to 1983, protecting the US from possible attack by nuclear-armed bombers from the Soviet Union.  Today, Lincoln Labs hosts hundreds of scientific research projects in a variety of military and civilian specialties, ranging from advanced radars to air traffic control systems.

Tsongas said that the local economy will benefit from the project, because many local technology companies provide products and services to the labs.

Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. E-mail him at h_bray@globe.com.
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