DARPA seeks radical ocean surveillance technology

Fast subs, laser communications make up current research menu

US Navy attack sub
DARPA researchers this month will kick deep sea surveillance technology up a notch as it releases a call for a radical new security program that operates at extreme ocean depths. 

While exact details of what will be required of the technology are slim, DARPA says its Deep Sea Operations program will introduce surveillance that operates at extreme ocean depths to detect quiet submarines overhead. 

According to DARPA: "Air and space were once unused operational domains which today are central to our nation's security and economic vitality. The deep ocean offers an unused operational space to achieve significant gains in strategic capability." 

The program continues a variety of ongoing ocean-based DARPA technology projects. 

For example, the agency is building what's know as the Blue Laser for Submarine Laser Communications and Non-Acoustic Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) program is to develop an efficient, Blue Light (455nm), Solid-state Laser. According to DARPA the Blue Laser for Submarine Laser Communications will offer timely, large area submarine communications at speed and depth, which no other future or existing system, or combinations of systems, can do. 

This laser has the potential to improve the detection depth of an ASW LiDAR system by a significant factor, DARPA stated. LiDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that measures properties of scattered light to find range and/or other information of a distant target. 

In the same vein as that project, DARPA's Interrogative Anti-Submarine Warfare program seeks to develop technology that will let Navy ship personnel detect, identify and attack enemy ships much more quickly that today. 

The agency is also working with the US Navy to develop a carrier-based unmanned aircraft that offers sea-based surveillance, strike and suppression of enemy air defense missions.  What has emerged from this program is the Northrop-Grumman-built X-47b which is expected to enter flight trials this year. 

Of course DARPA would also need to include something a little more radical in any new arena.  Its Underwater Express Program looks to build a sub capable of transporting a small group of military personnel at speeds over about 115MPH. Specifically the ideas is to determine the feasibility for supercavitation technology to enable a new class of high-speed underwater craft for future missions. The program will investigate and resolve critical technological issues associated with the physics of supercavitation and will culminate in a credible demonstration at a significant scale to prove that a supercavitating underwater craft is controllable at speeds up to 100 knots, DARPA stated.

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