Researchers eye reconfigurable undersea communications networks to link submarines, ships, and aircraft

June 24, 2019
TIMEly to develop a heterogeneous maritime communications architecture, to control rapidly reconfigurable military forces under, on, and over the ocean.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are working with industry to develop real-time command-and-control communications networks that function above, on, and under the ocean using the latest in undersea communications and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a broad agency announcement on Friday (HR001119S0067) for the Timely Information for Maritime Engagements (TIMEly) project.

TIMEly seeks to develop a heterogeneous maritime communications architecture, and the demonstrate a prototype during sample missions at sea. The project emphasizes undersea communications, as well as communications among manned and unmanned submarines, surface vessels, aircraft, and satellites.

The goal is to create rapidly reconfigurable military forces under, on, and over the ocean that are fast, unpredictable, flexible and adaptable -- more like the pieces in a mosaic piece of art, rather than a collection of rigidly designed pieces of a puzzle.

Related: Oceaneering eyes optical fiber-and-buoy emergency military communications backup

U.S. military officials are trying to create rapidly reconfigurable military forces that move quickly, adapt to changing circumstances, and continue to function efficiently even though some segments may disappear or be called away to higher-priority missions.

The TIMEly project takes this concept of "mosaic warfare" into consideration, but emphasizes underwater assets like manned submarines and UUVs to provide options on the fly for carrying out different missions.

TIMEly networks must be able to work together with established military networks to be effective, DARPA researchers say. The undersea domain imposes well-known limits on communications and on the ability to transfer the right information to warfighters.

The project will focus on network protocols, quality of service, and information exchange, with the understanding that the undersea environment limits the range, capacity, latency, and security, of network links.

Related: L-3 to install components of Navy Atlantic underwater warfare range

TIMEly envisions dynamically reconfigurable responsive architectures that will capitalize on advances in undersea communications, and autonomous ocean systems.

This four-year project has three phases: A 15-month first phase that focuses on design and component-level testing; a 15-month second phase that focuses on architecture builds and in-water demonstrations; and a 15-month third phase that focuses on a multi-domain operational demonstration with prototype hardware.

Proposers must submit a statement of work that covers all three phases, each independently priced. DARPA officials say they will spend as much as $45 million on the project, which will involve several contract awards.

Related: DARPA chooses small radio from ViaSat for optical fiber communications

DARPA will brief industry on the TIMEly program at the secret level from 8 to 5 p.m. on 16 July 2019 at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 N. Randolph St., in Arlington, Va. Register to attend these briefings no later than 5 July 2019 online at

Companies interested should send proposals by post or by courier no later than 29 Aug. 2019 at 675 North Randolph St., Arlington, Va. 22203-2114 (Attn.: HR001119S0067). Email questions or concerns by 26 July 2019 to [email protected].

More information is online at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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