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DARPA’S TUNA readying for sea demo

10th January 2017 - 12:01 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on 5 January that it has completed the first phase of its Tactical Undersea Network Architecture (TUNA) programme.

The first phase developed concepts and technologies to restore connectivity for US forces when traditional tactical networks are unavailable. The programme now enters the next phase, which calls for the demonstration of a prototype end-to-end system for evaluation.

The programme seeks to develop and demonstrate novel, optical-fibre-based technology options and designs to temporarily restore radio frequency (RF) tactical data networks in a contested environment via an undersea optical fibre backbone.

The concept involves deploying RF network node buoys—dropped from aircraft or ships - connected via thin underwater fibre-optic cables. These cables are being designed to last 30 days in the rough ocean environment in order to be capable of providing essential connectivity until primary methods of communications are restored.

Powering these buoy nodes in the open sea instigates a new challenge. During the first phase of the programme, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab developed a 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.

John Kamp, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, said: ‘Phase 1 of the programme included successful modelling, simulation, and at-sea tests of unique fibre-cable and buoy-component technologies needed to make such an undersea architecture work.’

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