Title: AN/PAQ-6 – Optical Voice & Data for UNREP & Secure Communications
Author(s): Greg Hays, GPH Consulting
Problem Statement: When the Navy is under emissions control (EMCON), bridge-to-bridge communications and distance measurement is currently met by the outdated Phone and Distance Line (PDL) and sound powered phones due to radio silence. The Navy’s traditional use of radio frequency (RF) spectrum for military communications provides an opportunity for the detection finding of military platforms by opposing forces and interference with the replenishment of weapons, fuel, etc. A communication system needs to be deployed to support operational activities on the deck of individual ships and between ships. Activities supported could include but are not restricted to the following: underway replenishment (UNREP), aircraft launch and recovery, fuel and ordinance handling, launch/recovery and small boat operations.
Solution: GPH consulting received a Navy Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) award in September 2015 to accelerate the transition of the AN/PAQ-6 with LightSpeed technology into the fleet utilizing free-space optics and digital protocols to create a high bandwidth, undetectable, and anti-jam communication link; it improves safety and reliability, lowers manpower needs over the current methods, and is an enabler for additional uses with minimal shipboard integration.
Technology Background: What started out as an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Tech Solutions requirement in 2003 led to a Navy OPLOG project to replace the Phone Distance Line (PDL(R)). This LightSpeed technology comes in many shapes and sizes. Over the last decade, solutions have been developed for Navy Special Warfare, Air Force Research Lab, Naval Aviation, and other special customers. The applications include body worn solutions, underwater communications, vehicles communications, and aircraft landing aids. In all cases, the technology, regardless of the light frequency, carries the LightSpeed waveform allowing for 2-40Mbs bandwidth for analog and digital voice/video, USB, Ethernet, and serial connections. Additionally, LightSpeed uses LED (light emitting diodes) as the light source so it offers very low power, light weight, and low cost solutions. There are no eye safety issues and obviously no radio frequency constraints. Future applications in unmanned, space, and additional underwater scenarios are being pursued. LightSpeed is increasing commercial applications as well for vehicle links. A feature of the LightSpeed link is a very precise positional data between the nodes thus allowing for relative distance measurements for applications such as auto landing, launch and recovery.
Status: The current Navy RIF effort is being ran out of both NAVSEA 05 and MSC. The plan includes ship at-sea tests to start mid-2016 aboard a variety of MSC vessels. Following that will be Navy combatant at-sea tests and the project is scheduled to end in September 2017 at which time a transition plan will introduce initial units for early fielding.