The initial development phase of the Tactical Undersea Network Architecture (TUNA) program has been completed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The program focuses on novel system architecture designs that integrate a military tactical data network into a rapidly deployable temporary undersea network.

TUNA will implement optical-fiber-based technology options and designs to temporarily restore radio frequency (RF) tactical data networks in a contested environment via an undersea optical fiber backbone. RF network node buoys—dropped from aircraft or ships, for example—would be connected via thin underwater fiber-optic cables.

Schematic of the TUNA program. Source: DARPASchematic of the TUNA program. Source: DARPAThe very-small-diameter fiber-optic cables under development are designed to last 30 days in the rough ocean environment, long enough to provide essential connectivity until primary methods of communications are restored (see video).

A Wave Energy Buoy that Self-deploys (WEBS) system was developed by the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab to supply power to floating buoy nodes. The wave energy generator is designed to fit into a cylinder that could be deployed from a ship or aircraft.

Now in its final phase, the program is advancing to design and implement an integrated end-to-end system, and to test and evaluate this system in laboratory and at-sea demonstrations. As a test case for the TUNA concept, teams are using Link 16, a common tactical data network used by U.S. and allied forces’ aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles.

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