DARPA completes first phase of tactical undersea network architecture project

10 January 2017 (Last Updated January 10th, 2017 18:30)

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has completed the initial phase of tactical undersea network architecture (TUNA) programme, which aims to develop temporary, underwater, fibre-optic communications networks to ensure connectivity when tactical networks are unavailable.

DARPA completes first phase of tactical undersea network architecture project

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has completed the initial phase of tactical undersea network architecture (TUNA) programme, which aims to develop temporary, underwater, fibre-optic communications networks to ensure connectivity when tactical networks are unavailable.

The programme has now entered its next phase that focuses on the demonstration of a system prototype at sea.

TUNA aims at developing and demonstrating optical-fibre technology options and designs to allow temporary restoration of radio frequency (RF) tactical data networks in a contested environment through an undersea optical-fibre backbone.

“Teams were able to design strong, hair-thin, buoyant fibre-optic cables able to withstand the pressure, saltwater, and currents of the ocean."

The underwater small-diameter fibre-optic cables are developed to last 30 days in adverse ocean environments, which is long enough to offer necessary connectivity until primary communication methods are restored.

DARPA strategic technology office programme manager John Kamp said: “Phase one 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.

“Teams were able to design strong, hair-thin, buoyant fibre-optic cables able to withstand the pressure, saltwater, and currents of the ocean, as well as develop novel power generation concepts.”

During the initial phase of the programme, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab (APL) developed a new Wave Energy Buoy that Self-deploys (WEBS) concept to help produce electricity from wave movement.

The new WEBS system can fit into a cylinder and can be easily deployed from a ship or aircraft.


Image: TUNA architecture with an undersea fibre-optic backbone enabling a temporary communications network when traditional tactical data links are unavailable. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.