New Fiber-Optic Cables Offer Upgrade for Warplanes

Military aircraft are typically burdened with miles of heavily shielded copper wire cables that connect many types of components. The cabling is often heavy, yet fragile, subject to deterioration, as well as expensive.

More modern aircraft employ multimode digital fiber-optic cables. A network program created by DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – aims to replace current aircraft wiring with a single-mode fiber-optic network, where each fiber can carry multiple digital and analog signals. The program will develop prototype photonic transmitters and receivers – and will support advanced electronic warfare, radar and communications systems.

Such systems have the potential to save the Defense Department billions of dollars over the lifecycle of an aircraft fleet.

Prototype digital transmitters are designed to support tuning over 32 wavelength channels, each carrying 10 gigabit-per-second data rates.