Air Force seeks common VLF communications for nuclear forces

The Air Force is looking for the next generation of Very Low Frequency communications to maintain contact with its ICBMs and bombers.

In particular, the Air Force wants to address the problem that different strategic forces use different communications systems. For example, the Air Force has different "VLF/LF receiver variants for its bombers, wing command posts, strategic mobile command posts and the intercontinental ballistic missile systems," notes the Air Force solicitation.

So the Air Force is searching for receivers, antennas, and waveforms that will create a common communications system between Air Force B-52s E-4Bs, B-2s, future Long Range Strike Bombers, tankers, Wing Command Posts, ICBM Control Centers and Navy E-6Bs. The goal is a "survivable, endurable, and secure-only VLF/LF terminal that offers near-worldwide coverage for nuclear C2." Projected funding for the project is $4.4 million.

In particular, the Air Force is seeking white papers from industry and academia on whether there have been useful advancements in four aspects of VLF technology: VLF receivers, VLF antennas, VLF propagation and waveform modes, and modifying legacy software.

For VLF receivers, the new communications system should be interoperable with all legacy waveforms in addition to the new Unified MEECN [Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network]and Special Flexible VLF modes.

For VLF antennas, the Air Force is interested in anti-jam techniques, signal processing, error correction and detection, long-haul communications, and software and hardware that might replace "some portion of the multiple hardware antenna approach of legacy VLF systems." In addition, "VLF Cryptographic modernization occurred 2000-2010 and the responses to this area of interest shall address cryptography and its associated expansion capabilities to include new modes/functions," the Air Force said.

"Performance improvement objectives at this time include target range, time of receipt, interoperability, and cost reductions via platform commonality as well as other classified performance attributes," said the Air Force.

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