Military planners say they are making headway on a means to quickly restore tactical data links, should they become disrupted.
Through the Tactical Undersea Network Architectures (TUNA) program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeks to develop a rapidly deployable undersea network. The agency says a first phase drew promising ideas from a range of heavy-hitting vendors, and it expects to wrap up solicitations in January in anticipation of further developments and practical demonstrations.
Phase I brought together a veritable who’s who of military contractors, with participation from Raytheon BBN Technologies, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation Information Sector, LGS Innovations, Harris Corporation, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, among others.
LGS Innovations fell into this group of vendors, looking specifically at ways to make a cable that would be neutrally buoyant — that is, a cable that would float in the water at any given depth.
The company ultimately came up with a fiber slightly larger in diameter than a human hair. Effectively, it’s a glass tube doctored with rare-earth minerals that are amenable to conducting light without distortion, then encased in nylon and Teflon and Kevlar to strengthen it, to keep it from stretching or bending or getting severed. “But the real engineering is in placing the right amount of air bubbles in all of that mixture, so that you get something that floats,” said LGS’s CEO Kevin Kelly.