New radio buoys let submarines communicate while submerged

Did you know that to communicate effectively, submarines have to rise up to periscope depth? The dangers are obvious, but moreover it's just surprising that in this day and age a better solution doesn't exist. Lockheed Martin reckons its got the answer with a new buoy.

Right now, if the United States wants to communicate with one of its nuclear subs out in the field, the submarine can only receive text messages while submerged, and can't respond back. It's not as simple as texting someone on your phone, either — the ELF (extremely low frequency) antennas used, of which there are only two in the U.S. and a few in the world, are twelve miles long.

Lockheed Martin wants to add buoys to subs that the vessels could raise up and use to enable two-way text communication, or even calling. The buoys are designed to be expendable, and there are two versions: one that would stay tethered to the sub via a miles-long cable, and another that the sub would launch, which would scuttle itself after a few days. How deep a sub will be able to communicate is classified information, but anything beats having to come up to just under the surface.

According to Lockheed Martin, this would be the first two-way communication system ever for subs at depth.

Click on the image below to see it larger.

Submarine-comm-buoy-02.jpg

Via PhysOrg

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