The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting innovative proposals in maritime communications with an emphasis on undersea and cross-domain (above sea to below sea and vice versa) communications. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to build an undersea network so that the military can have situational awareness or command and control capabilities across all domains. The objective of the Timely Information for Maritime Engagements (TIMEly) program is to develop concepts for a heterogeneous underwater network architecture to provide options for undersea operations on the fly.
It’s part of DARPA’s vision for “mosaic warfare” that connects individual warfighting platforms across all domains and turns cost-effective complexity into an advantage. STO’s updated strategy seeks a new asymmetric advantage—one that imposes complexity on adversaries by harnessing the power of dynamic, coordinated, and highly autonomous composable systems. Under the mosaic approach, DOD’s air, cyber, land, sea and space domains will focus on operating in a more integrated framework. “We’ve developed a technology-based vision that would enable highly complex, strategic moves by composing multiple contributing systems to enable what might be thought of as ‘mosaic warfare,’ in which individual components can respond to needs in real time to create desired outcomes,” said Tom Burns, director of STO. New communications, integration methods, and testing methods will be needed to fully realize the mosaic warfare concept.
The goal of TIMEly is to enable the vision of mosaic warfare facilitated by the contemporaneous composition of effects chains from available assets in any domain, but with an emphasis on the underwater domain in order to provide options for execution on the fly. In this view, novel cross-domain effect chains involving underwater forces and cross-domain situation awareness or command and control will need to be interoperable with other networks in the time and information scales for plausible mosaic-enabled missions.
The undersea domain imposes well-known limits on communication and therefore the capacity to transfer the right information necessary to its intended purpose. TIMEly will develop architectures that work within commonly understood limitations, with a focus on protocols, quality of service and information exchange. The physics of the environment and transport media will limit the range, capacity, latency, and security of the specific link-domain instantiations.
The networks required for TIMEly will need to support “integrated systems from distributed and dynamically reconfigured assets,” DARPA said in an industry day announcement. Since mosaic warfare will require the integrated use of assets across all domains, the information networks are necessary to enable highly capable integrated systems from distributed and dynamically reconfigured assets.
DARPA has previously experimented with undersea networks. Its Tactical Undersea Network Architecture program aimed to restore radio frequency-based networks via an undersea fiber-optic backbone. TUNA deployed network node buoys that were dropped from aircraft or ships and connected via temporary underwater fiber-optic cables designed to last 30 days in rough seas, providing connectivity until primary methods of communications were restored.