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CHIPS Articles: Innovation Event Improves Very Low Frequency Communications for Submarines

Innovation Event Improves Very Low Frequency Communications for Submarines
By Navy Undersea Communications and Integration Program Office Staff - July-September 2019
San Diego—The U.S. Navy’s Undersea Communications and Integration Program Office (PMW 770) recently completed the seminal test event for a new solid-state dynamic tuner that provides myriad benefits to the submarine force and to the greater Navy. This new solid-state dynamic tuner enables the Navy’s very low frequency (VLF) communication stations to operate with much greater energy efficiency, removes antenna bandwidth as a performance limitation for VLF stations, increases transmitter power efficiency and offers an estimated $65 million in cost savings over the lifecycle of the communications stations.

“Proving the concept of this new solid-state dynamic tuner is another step toward delivering more capability to the submarine force while finding ways to be more efficient,” said Capt. Michael Boone, program manager of PMW 770. “The Navy’s VLF communication stations enable strategic communication not feasible at higher frequencies, providing reliable communication to submarines while they are at depth.

“The performance improvements to those VLF communications stations offered by dynamic tuning have the potential to save the Navy millions of dollars in electricity costs over the expected 30-year life of the system if it is fielded to multiple stations,” Capt. Boone added. “It also offers operational improvements that will enhance our submariners’ ability to execute their mission safely.”

During the recent test event at the Naval Radio Transmit Facility on Oahu, Hawaii, the Navy operated the Dynamic Tuner at full-power antenna transmission continuously for 62 hours to accurately measure the VLF station energy efficiency improvement. The event demonstrated a full-scale, 1-megawatt (MW) dynamic tuning system capable of switching the full current and voltage necessary to tune the VLF antenna.

Dynamic tuning works by physically changing the antenna tuning network so that it is consistently tuned to the frequency being transmitted at that instant, allowing for peak efficiency. At full power, dynamic tuning demonstrated a nearly doubled improvement in transmitter efficiency over current operations and has the same operational capabilities using 20 percent less power than other tuners currently in use.

Project personnel from PMW 770 carried out the development and testing for the new tool through the Dynamic Tuner Rapid Innovation Fund Science and Technology contract. The Department of Defense’s Rapid Innovation Fund provides a collaborative vehicle between industry and government to transition new and innovative technologies that meet specific needs to existing Department of Defense systems. Rapid Innovation Fund contracts are limited to no more $3 million for a duration of approximately 24 months.

PMW 770 is part of the Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence C4I (PEO C4I). Both the PMW and PEO are focused on delivering required capabilities to warfighters while working to reduce costs and to ensure that technologies are integrated and interoperable. Finding innovative ways to contract that will result in faster delivery of systems is a part of that mission.

Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) provides integrated communication and information technology systems that enable information warfare and command and control of maritime forces. PEO C4I acquires, fields and supports C4I systems which extend across Navy, joint and coalition platforms. More information can be found at

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) (Blue) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., following a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO) where Rhode Island completed a test flight of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile. The base is homeport to five ballistic-missile submarines, capable of carrying up to 20 submarine-launched ballistic-missiles with multiple warheads. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Tomforde)
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