2 minute readHow to keep coms alive when your enemy is jamming you

TUNA concept | Image: DARPA

What do you do if you’re a navy and the communications between your ships and aircraft are being jammed by your enemy?

If you’re the the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) you think up a fishy way to get around it.

DARPA is working on something it calls TUNA – or Tactical Undersea Network Architecture.

The idea is to connect an optical fiber cable underwater – or the sea, between two communication hubs (DARPA calls them gateways) which float on the surface with buoys.

According to DARPA:

The concept involves deploying RF network node buoys—dropped from aircraft or ships, for example—that would be connected via thin underwater fiber-optic cables. The very-small-diameter fiber-optic cables being developed are designed to last 30 days in the rough ocean environment—long enough to provide essential connectivity until primary methods of communications are restored.

DARPA quoted John Kamp, program manager in its Strategic Technology Office as saying, “Phase 1 of the program included successful modeling, simulation, and at-sea tests of unique fiber-cable and buoy-component technologies needed to make such an undersea architecture work.Teams were able to design strong, hair-thin, buoyant fiber-optic cables able to withstand the pressure, saltwater, and currents of the ocean, as well as develop novel power generation concepts.”

Here’s how they plan to power it:

Supplying power to floating buoy nodes on the open sea presents a particular challenge. During the first phase of the program, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab (APL) developed a unique concept called the Wave Energy Buoy that Self-deploys (WEBS), which generates electricity from wave movement. The WEBS system is designed to fit into a cylinder that could be deployed from a ship or aircraft.

What next?

Having now entered its second and final phase, the program is advancing to design and implement an integrated end-to-end system, and to test and evaluate this system in laboratory and at-sea demonstrations. As a test case for the TUNA concept, teams are using Link 16—a common tactical data network used by U.S. and allied forces’ aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles.

So what do you think?