A global race has ensued to exploit and operationalize quantum technologies for the use of military effects. Quantum information science (QIS), field comprises four domains: Quantum Communication, where individual or entangled photons are used to transmit data in a provably secure way; Quantum Simulation, where well-controlled quantum systems are used to reproduce the behavior of other, less accessible quantum systems; Quantum Computation, which employs quantum effects to dramatically speed up certain calculations, such as number factoring and possibly crack modern cryptographic systems, and Quantum Sensing & Metrology, where the high sensitivity of coherent quantum systems to external perturbations is exploited to enhance the performance of measurements of physical quantities.
Quantum technologies will lead to major advances in precision timing, sensors and computation, destined to have a major impact on the finance, defence, aerospace, energy, infrastructure and telecommunications sectors.
Quantum key distribution (QKD), establishes highly secure keys between distant parties by using single photons to transmit each bit of the key. QKD is suitable for use in any key distribution application that has high security requirements including financial transactions, electoral communications, law enforcement, government, and military applications. China launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite officially known as Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite. This could potentially facilitate super-fast, long-range communications, as well as lead to the creation of unbreakable quantum communication networks.
That technology could allow for applications like long duration inertial navigation and potentially serve as the successor to GPS. The U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board noted in a recent report that quantum clocks and quantum sensors would merit further investment, since enhanced timing precision could enhance Air Force missions and capabilities, including SIGINT, counter-DRFM, electronic warfare (EW), and also more robust communications.
The race to conquer the quantum domain is among the most fiercely competitive in today’s world of technology. The Chinese military and China’s defense industry have also taken a keen interest in quantum technology. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may hope to use advances in quantum radar and sensing to offset the U.S. military’s superiority in stealth technology, which could be vulnerable to this new type of detection. Chinese scientists recently tested quantum radar technology on board warships.The PLA Navy is looking to develop a quantum compass for its submarines that would enable them to navigate without the help of BeiDou (China’s counterpart to GPS), enabling independence from space systems that could be compromised in a conflict scenario. And quantum cryptography could give China an edge in securing military communications. China is developing a new type of spy satellite equipped with the new quantum sensor would be able to identify and track targets that are currently invisible from space, such as stealth bombers taking off at night, according to researchers.
Although practical applications of quantum physics are still over the horizon, the Army wants to make sure American warfighters aren’t behind if and when such technology is operationalized.
The U.S. Army’s Threat System Management Office (TSMO) desires a comprehensive evaluation of current adversarial, non-adversarial, and commercial capabilities utilizing quantum technologies as a strategic means of delivering or supporting operationalized effects (e.g. Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Anti-Access Area Denial, etc.) against U.S. Military and Coalition forces.
The first phase of the Quantum Technologies for Threat Military Applications prototype project was awarded Nov. 2018, using other transaction authority. EWA Warrior Services will receive just below $500,000 for global market research on current and future capabilities with a final report and recommendations for hardware and software prototypes.
The award addresses an August 2018 request for solutions, in which the Army sought a better understanding of the state of play in quantum technology and sought to identify and evaluate possible implementations of the convergence of quantum physics and electronic warfare. It also wanted to know how the nascent technology might affect communications, sensors, navigation, precision weapons, drones, radar systems and cybersecurity.
This Request for Solutions was issued to identify and evaluate the current state of quantum technology applications, identify and evaluate peer and near-peer quantum/Electronic Warfare (EW) convergence implementations to ensure the Government remains current with adversarial quantum-based threat systems. The Government desires a prototype for a threat-representative system utilizing quantum technologies that can be developed to support U.S. Army training exercises at the major Combat Training Centers (NTC, JRTC, & JMRC).
The second, optional, phase of the effort will include development of a prototype for a “threat-representative system utilizing quantum technologies” in an operational environment that can be developed to support Army training exercises at the major combat training centers
Quantum technologies remain at a “low Technology Readiness Level,” according to the assessment presented in contracting documents, but the Army is operating under the assumption that even medium TRL applications pose “potentially serious threats” to U.S. forces and coalition partners.
Request for Solutions: Quantum Technologies for Threat Military Applications
Several countries view quantum technologies as a key area for providing new and innovative capabilities to their forces. However, current state of the art technologies across all domains are assumed to be at a low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1 to 2 TRL 5.
This Request for Solutions is issued to identify and evaluate the current state of quantum technology applications, identify and evaluate peer and near-peer quantum/Electronic Warfare (EW) convergence implementations to ensure the Government remains current with adversarial quantum-based threat systems. The Government desires a prototype for a threat-representative system utilizing quantum technologies that can be developed to support U.S. Army training exercises at the major Combat Training Centers (NTC, JRTC, & JMRC).
The Government’s domains of interest regarding quantum and adversarial Electronic Warfare are: Radars, (Secure) Communications, Sensing, Navigation (inertial sensors – navigation without GPS), High Precision Weapons, Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), and Cyber (Testing & Training).
A comprehensive analyses is needed to show how current and future threat capabilities can be or have been enhanced or finally materialized through quantum physics and technologies. An initial research finding report and analyses will serve as a base effort. Upon acceptance of the findings and a conceptual description of a threat representative follow-on prototype development, an option will support a follow-on methodology development effort and a proof-of-concept aligned with up-to-date threats utilizing quantum physics/technologies.
This project is based on the militarization of innovative disruptive technologies for adversarial defense purposes. These technologies are assumed to have a low-to medium TRL but pose as potentially serious threats to Tri-Service Systems, U.S. Forces, and Coalition Partners.
Upon completion of the evaluation period, the lead Government Agency and the selected Vendor will assess the feasibility of initial prototypes in the most mature domain and begin system/sub-system development.
This effort will be accomplished in two phases. Phase I, as the base award, will consist of extensive global market research; with a final report expected to be classified at the Top Secret level. Phase I closeout will consist of a recommended functional area (domain) for Phase II hardware/software prototyping. Phase II, as an option, will consist of prototype development targeted at TRL 7. Transition partners and the determination of Phase II acceptance testing parameter and locations will be defined after Phase I.
The Vendor’s proposed solution should describe their approach to delivering a unique solution for this effort, with specific emphasis and focus shown in answering the following focus questions/areas:
- Describe the process for implementing intelligence data on Quantum Technologies for Threat Military Applications and the outlined Electronic Warfare functional areas into an analysis leading to a prototype build.
- Describe the ability of the proposed solution to integrate with fielded US Army Threat Battle Command Force systems from the Army Threat Simulator Program.
- Describe your ability to gain and maintain access to Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI). Further, describe you ability to perform work and develop products supporting TS/SCI requirements/systems within vendor facilities.