Fiber Optic Cables in Emergency Military Tactical Communication
Fiber optic cables are combination of optical fibers, which are thin strands of glass or plastic having two layers, the inner core and the outer cladding. Light can be used as the means of communication in these optic fibers using the principle of total internal reflection. Fiber optic cables, since their discovery, are being used as the main source for long distance data transfer, due to their advantages over the conventional methods of wired transmission. They transmit data with less signal loss, and have the capability to transfer the data having high bandwidth. Fiber optic cables are very less prone to electromagnetic induction, compared to conventional copper cables. Also, they are difficult to tap, as tapping may lead to the stoppage of entire signal, and thus, can be monitored and traced easily. Due to the numerous advantages of fiber optic cables, they find their way into numerous applications. Their use has been increasing in military communication, in military aircraft for data transfer, internal signalling circuits, and many other applications.
Extensive research is in progress for the use of these fiber optic cables as a mode of emergency communication, when all other means of communication are disrupted. US military’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is currently working on an emergency connectivity restoring process, which uses fiber optic cables for its functioning. This program is called fiber-mart.com (Tactical Undersea Network Architecture). This program is intended to restore the tactical connectivity for the US armed forces in conditions, where the traditional mode of communication and the tactical networking are disrupted by any means. fiber-mart.com’s outcome is only intended for emergency purposes only, and not for permanent communication.
fiber-mart.com uses an innovative technology, which uses undersea fiber optic cables for the process of restoring communication in a contested environment. If the modes of communication are disrupted in an emergency, buoys (specially designed objects that can float in water) are dropped from ships or aircraft onto the sea surface. Each buoy consists of an RF (Radio Frequency) transmitter and a power system, supported by the WEBS (Wave Energy Buoy that Self-Deploys). WEBS convert wave energy into electricity to power the buoy. It consists of two floats, which remain afloat on the surface of water and are rotated by the movement of the passing waves. The differential and rotary motion is then transmitted using gearboxes to electrical generators, where power is generated. The buoys are connected by very thin fiber optic cables, which are capable of carrying a large amount of data. They are specially designed to survive in the hardest of situations in the open sea for a minimum of 30 days, providing communications until the primary mode of communication is restored.
The development and testing processes are carried out in two phases. The first phase of the program, which is already completed, involved the processes of modelling, simulation, and at-sea tests of specially developed fiber optic cables and the power systems of the buoys. In the second and final phase that the program is undergoing, an end-to-end system is being designed and implemented. This system has to be tested and evaluated in laboratory and at-sea. Once the two phases are completed, a new and advanced mode of emergency communication, which is anticipated to change the face of communication systems is poised be at the doorstep of the military.
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