The ever-growing reliance on RF connectivity in recent years, actually recent decades, has spawned a forest of antennas on Navy ships for multiple communications, radar, and electronic warfare systems, all which transmit and receive at different frequencies. The number of antennas aboard aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, cruisers, and destroyers delivered in the 1990s has increased more than 100 percent over the number of antennas aboard ships delivered in the eighties.
Antenna growth, apart from the continuously increasing procurement and maintenance costs of individual “stovepipe” antenna types, has increased ships’ radar cross-sections. The need for new antennas also has required extensive modifications in ship design to manage the added weight, as well as complex restrictions on use to minimize dangerous electronics interference. The solution, in the emerging age of information warfare, won’t be in limiting the use of the RF spectrum. Ships will need more bandwidth, not less.
The Office of Naval Research (USA) is sponsoring a pioneering work to develop new multi-function radio-frequency concept (AMRF-C) antenna apertures that use software to modify common apertures for multiple RF systems. The AMRF-C approach, which eliminates the need for additional hardware, would enable ship designers to pare back dramatically the microwave “antenna farms” that have proliferated aboard ships now in service, while meeting future requirements, expanding the effectiveness of sensor, communications, and electronic warfare systems, and reducing RF cross section.