“Wolfspeed,” which is in part a tribute to research dating back to the N.C. State days of Durham-based Cree, is the name for the semiconductor and radio frequency business the company plans to spin off as a separate venture in coming months. One of Cree’s founders is part of the new group which will be led by Triangle veteran tech executive Frank Plastina.

And its tech will be used in the new Air Force F-35 fighter in a contract announced Tuesday, giving the new group a jump start worth more than $4 million.

Wolfspeed power modules will be integrated into the cutting-edge fighter, and Plastina noted” “It’s a very interesting piece of technology. To meet the Air Force requirements is indicative of the work we are doing and will do going forward.”

John Palmour will serve as chief technology officer of Wolfspeed, which will operate as a Cree company. Palmour, who has focused on semiconductors and RF technology, was among the original group of students at NCSU who formed the company in 1987.

“This is a business that has been 28 years in the making,” Plastina explained. The time has come to “start the ball rolling for our own identity.”

Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) plans to spin off Wolfspeed through a public offering of stock sometime before the end of its current fiscal year, which wraps up in June 2016, Plastina said in an interview Tuesday.

Its chips and RF tools are designed to deliver more power faster and to stay cooler, Plastina says.

So why Wolfspeed as a name?

“A wolf symbolizes strength and speed – two wors that deal with who we are as a business,” he says. “We also are paying tribute to the founders of Cree.”

The Power and RF Division already has a strong core business. it ended the fiscal 2015 year with nearly $124 million in revenue and operated with a gross margin of almost 55 percent, according to Cree’s SEC filings.

The spin-off will bring more attention to the chip and RF efforts while the remainder of Cree focuses on its LED lighting business, according to Plastina. Cree’s LED sales make up by far the bulk of its revenues.

“Today, Wolfspeed is providing our customers and our team with a first look at our new company’s name, brand identity and purpose in advance of our IPO, which we plan to execute during fiscal year 2016,” Plastina declared.

“We’re building something new on the firm foundation that is Cree, and we want to share our vision, plans and enthusiasm with all of our stakeholders as we move seamlessly through the transition.”

Plastina is a member of Cree’s board, which selected him in May to lead the spinoff when the split of Cree into two companies was decided. Plastina is a former CEO of Tekelec, which is now owned by Oracle, and also was a senior executive at Nortel long before the company went bankrupt.

In recent years other that his Cree board duties, Plastina has been an active angel investor in Triangle startups and also served as a mentor.

A good start

The formal naming of the new group comes a day after Cree landed a $4.1 million contract with the U.S. Air Force for use of its so-called “wide-gap” semiconductors in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the newest jet in the U.S. arsenal. Cree recently acquired a company in Fayetteville, Ark., that had led development of the chips and it will be part of Wolfspeed.

Here’s how Aviation Today describes the chips:

“The high power densities and high voltages required to operate mechanical flight systems using electric motors are driving a transition to high-density silicon carbide power electronic systems that can operate at higher efficiencies, higher voltages, higher power densities, and higher temperatures in comparison with conventional silicon electronics. The new contract will fund rigorous qualification testing of the developed power modules to broaden integration platforms and commercial viability of the product.”

The business description

Here’s Cree’s description of the chip/RF business:

“The company’s Power and RF Products segment provides SiC-based power products, such as Schottky diodes, SiC metal semiconductor field-effect transistors, and SiC power modules that are used in power supplies in computer servers, solar inverters, uninterruptible and industrial power supplies, and other applications; and RF devices, including a range of GaN high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) and monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) for military, telecom, and other commercial applications, as well as provides foundry services for GaN HEMTs and MMICs that allow customers to design their own custom RF circuits.”