DARPA seeks RF data backbone that would give fiber-optic capacity

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to develop a fiber-optic-equivalent communications backbone on a radio frequency carrier that can be deployed worldwide to give U.S. military forces high-speed network connections anywhere they are deployed around the globe, the agency said Dec. 14.

DARPA’s 100-gigabits per second RF Backbone program, known as 100G, will require a data link capable of achieving a range greater than 200 kilometers between airborne assets and a range greater than 100 kilometers between an airborne asset (at 60,000 feet) and the ground, the agency said.

The 100G goal envisioned would meet the weight and power metrics of the Common Data Link (CDL) deployed by U.S. forces today for high-capacity data streaming from platforms, DARPA said.

Cloud cover poses a major challenge to providing 100 gigabits/sec from an airborne platform, which makes it impractical to try to furnish it via free-space optical links, DARPA said. For that reason, RF remains the only viable option. Technical advances in modulation of millimeter-wave frequencies have made it possible to achieve the 100G program goals.

The agency believes telecommunications system providers and the defense communications tech base can work together to achieve the 100G goals.
DARPA plans to host a Proposers’ Day on Jan. 9, 2013, in Arlington, Va.


About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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