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LightSpeed AN/PAQ-6 for EMCON

By Greg Hays

Navy activities associated with Underway Replenishment (UNREP), aircraft launch and recovery, fuel and ordnance handling, and small boat operations represent some of the most hazardous operations conducted at sea and are increasingly difficult during conflict. These activities are further complicated during Emissions Control (EMCON) operations when it requires turning off radars and reducing communications to prevent jamming and to better mask location and profile to emerging threats. For an UNREP under EMCON, bridge-to-bridge communications and distance measurement between ships is currently met by the outdated Phone and Distance Line (PDL) and sound powered phones due to this radio silence requirement. The bridge-to-bridge PDL involves a physical line strung between the ships and a team of sailors to handle it while the replenishment of fuel, material, and stores are exchanged. In order to eliminate the phone distance line, the Navy has initiated a phone distance line replacement (PDL-R) project that allows the Navy to securely communicate using infrared light, enabling simultaneous data, video and voice communications in environments where communication would be impossible or undesirable. This communication link is called LightSpeed™ and the system designator is AN/PAQ-6. The LightSpeed™ PDL-R system dramatically improves both communication and distance measurement by offering a reliable two-way voice, video and data link as well as accurate distance measurement. This project proposes to accelerate the transition of the LightSpeed™ technology into the fleet. LightSpeed™ utilizes free-space optics and digital protocols to create a high-bandwidth, undetectable, and anti-jam communication link. LightSpeed™ is a disruptive technology with respect to the current methods of shipboard communications; it improves safety and reliability, lowers manpower needs over the current methods, and is a technology enabler for numerous additional uses with minimal shipboard integration required.