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Dominating the Electromagetic Spectrum

SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific researchers are developing new multiband antenna
By Patric Petrie, SSC Pacific lead writer - January-March 2015

“Future wars will not be won simply by effectively using the EM spectrum and cyberspace; they will be won within the EM-cyber domain. Achieving that change and commanding the EM-cyber environment require innovative operating concepts, new military systems, and most important, a fresh approach in thinking about modern warfare.”

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations

Organizational Revelance

The Navy’s continuing drive for information dominance and battlespace awareness superiority brings with it increased demands for the efficient and effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). The electromagnetic spectrum extends from below the low frequencies used for modern radio communication to gamma radiation at the short-wavelength (high-frequency) end, thereby covering wavelengths from thousands of kilometers down to a fraction of the size of an atom.

The Chief of Naval Operations believes mastering the EMS will be a key element to America’s future military success.

“The EM-cyber environment is now so fundamental to military operations and so critical to our national interests that we must start treating it as a warfighting domain on par with — or perhaps even more important than — land, sea, air, and space,” Adm. Greenert has stated.

Radio waves generally are used by antennas of appropriate size (according to the principle of resonance), with wavelengths ranging from hundreds of meters to about one millimeter. They are used for transmission of data, via modulation. Television, mobile phones, wireless networking, and amateur radio all use radio waves. The use of the radio spectrum is regulated by many governments through frequency allocation.

Radio waves can be made to carry information by varying a combination of the amplitude, frequency, and phase of the wave within a frequency band. When EM radiation impinges upon a conductor, it couples to the conductor, travels along it, and induces an electric current on the surface of that conductor by exciting the electrons of the conducting material. This effect (the skin effect) is used in antennas.

Researchers at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) are focused on creating innovative solutions for Navy platforms with limited topside real estate and an ever-increasing array of antennas, while driving performance compromises to ensure compatibility with other shipboard systems through flexibility, agility and efficiency.

These innovations could save the Navy millions of dollars annually through reduced maintenance costs, labor, and fuel savings, while supporting the mission of information dominance.

SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific Technology

To help meet the CNO’s vision of superiority within the EM-cyber domain, SSC Pacific scientists, with Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) project funding, designed the Multiband (HF/VHF/UHF) antenna to increase the efficient use of the EMS while reducing the number and weight of topside antennas aboard ships.

The multiband HF/VHF/UHF antenna prototype has a direct feed or current probe feed for long distance, ionosphere high frequency (HF), and current probe feeds for medium range (20 miles) line-of-sight, very high frequency/ultra high frequency (VHF/UHF) communications.

The project’s goal is to reduce five shipboard antennas into a single antenna by sharing a common radiating structure. Currently, installation/ design costs for a single shipboard antenna run approximately a $1 million. Replacing five antennas per ship with a single, collapsible, portable structure reduces interference and blind spots, allowing for enhanced control over the EMS.

This transformational Multiband HF/VHF/UHF antenna-sharing technology will open up additional topside space for future antennas by replacing existing antennas on the increasingly crowded topside of naval ships. Faster, near real-time communications with higher data rate capability will increase reliance on the EMS, requiring more antennas and more installation space to support the ship’s missions in winning the battles of today and tomorrow.

The prototype antenna has been successfully tested at sea under mild weather conditions. Successive Engineering Design Models (EDMs) will sustain rougher sea states. During non-permanent shipboard installation and pierside testing, with anticipated installation times of less than an hour, researchers are focused on maturing the multiband antenna-sharing technology from Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4 to TRL 8 by Fiscal Year 15.

Researchers intend to transition the multiband HF/VHF/UHF antenna from an SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific in-house science and technology project to a program of record.

Control the Spectrum, Control the Fight

Future wars will be highly contested in the EMS arena in which efficient antenna spectrum access on ships must provide warfighters with battlespace information dominance. The multiband HF/VHF/UHF antenna for Navy ships project supports battlespace EMS and information dominance.

The team achieved the NISE project goals during its first year. The multiband antenna sharing technology maturity level was improved from TRL 4 to 5. A prototype multiband antenna was designed, built and tested by the Navy and SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific scientists.

The HF/VHF/UHF multiband antenna was successfully tested at a distance of 31 miles over urban ground. Multiband antenna HF groundwave was successfully communicated on a small boat at-sea over water at a distance of 66 miles. Simultaneous transmit and receive on multiple frequencies is possible on a single 20-foot pole.

Discussing how the antenna can contribute to success of the Navy’s vision of harnessing faster, more efficient collection of data across the EMS, Capt. Jay Kadowaki, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) PMW 760 program manager for Ship Integration, sees the device as a “game changer” for platform development.

"The development and fielding of the multiband antenna will help PMW 760 focus on the immediate consolidation of multiple antennas for platforms currently in construction. This capability will also have lasting impacts on the planning of future platforms by reducing costs, topside weight and space, electromagnetic interference, and maintenance without sacrificing performance," Kadowaki said.

For more information about Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, please visit: http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Pacific/Pages/default.aspx.

TAGS: Cybersecurity, NEN, Spectrum, Telecommunications, Wireless, Workforce