DARPA’s TRITON program plans to demonstrate duplex connectivity at submarine keel depths significantly greater than what has been demonstrated in the green, achieving area coverage and bit rates that satisfy existing Navy requirements. On Sept 24/10, QinetiQ North America Operations, LLC received a $31.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Phase 1 of the TRITON/ Tactical Relay Information Network program. Work will be performed in Waltham, MA (43%); Ypsilanti, MI (7%); Herndon, VA (30%); La Jolla, CA (1%); Anaheim, CA (18%); Redondo Beach, CA (1%); and Los Angeles, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete by November 2011.
QinetiQ will provide a field-ready, Technology Readiness Level 6 submarine laser communication system that operates in the blue spectrum, for eventual testing during an unspecified naval exercise in the southern California Anti-Submarine Warfare range in FY 2012. Phases 2 (exercise readiness test) and 3 (the naval exercise) are priced options, and could bring the contract to $39 million (HR0011-10-C-0126).
The reason these lasers need to operate in the blue spectrum is partly the same reason that a scuba diver’s blood looks green or grey at 100 feet, and shining an underwater light on fish can be a revelation at mid-day. Water filters out red colors quickly, and progressively removes other colors of the spectrum as distance increases. If you want depth distance, the blue spectrum is a good idea. Green is actually slightly better in shallower water, but either color has to contend with interference from the sun. TRITON’s intent is to help address this, and validate the significant improvement blue laser technology brings to submarine laser communications (SLC) at speed and depth. This effort will leverage a number of previously demonstrated technologies, including blue solid state laser and Cesium Atomic Line Filter technologies matching 455 and 459 nanometers, better solid state lasers overall, and forward error correction coding. See also FBO solicitation | DARPA pages.