In an unusual move, the 2015 Aviation Week Laureate for Innovation goes to two companies for essentially the same achievement, but one they reached via different routes. Raytheon and Saab are recognized for bringing gallium nitride (GaN) power electronics to military radar and electronic-warfare systems.

GaN-based transmit/receive modules are more power-efficient than the gallium arsenide devices in today’s active, electronically scanned arrays (AESA) because they can be run at higher voltages without overheating. The result—more power and less noise, for increased range and sensitivity, in radars and jammers that can be more affordable and reliable.

For Raytheon, having its own foundry to produce GaN devices has been key in several program wins. These include contracts to develop the Air and Missile Defense Radar for the U.S. Navy’s Aegis destroyers and the Next-Gen Jammer pod for its Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft. Raytheon was also selected to develop the U.S. Air Force’s GaN-based Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar, in a competition now being revisited after a protest.

By tapping into the fast-moving commercial electronics market, where GaN devices are entering production for mobile communications, Saab expects to begin delivering Giraffe air-defense radars with the new technology as soon as 2016. GaN AESAs will be used in the electronic-warfare system of the new JAS39E Gripen fighter under development at Saab. And the technology is likely to be featured in future upgrades of its EriEye airborne warning and control system. The Swedish company does not have a GaN foundry, but instead has the commercial industry produce its integrated-circuit designs.

The other strong contenders for the Innovation Laureate were South Africa’s Paramount Group, for developing the first fully indigenous African-designed and -built military aircraft—the twin-boom, pusher-propeller Ahrlac, or Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft, which began test flights in 2014.

Rockwell Collins was tapped for expanding its Pro Line Fusion avionics system, developed for business and commercial aircraft, into military platforms and unmanned aerial systems.

Textron’s innovation in business secured it a finalist slot thanks to its bold private-venture development of the Scorpion military light-attack/recon aircraft, as well as acquisitions that led to formation of Textron Aviation and TRU Simulation & Training.