Data Uplink Information Transfer Improvements

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-095
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N232-095 TITLE: Data Uplink Information Transfer Improvements

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a solution that enables large amounts of data to be transferred or uplinked from airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) sensors systems, including sonobuoy sensor systems, to airborne platform receivers.

DESCRIPTION: The Navy is transitioning to digital communication links for all of its ASW sonobuoy sensors to aircraft information transfer. Digital links present limitations over traditional analog communication links, but in the end offer advantages for future Navy operations such as enabling data encryption. The Navy is seeking to overcome these limitations and increase the amount of data transferred or uplinked from airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) sensors systems, including sonobuoy sensor systems, to aircraft receivers.

ASW is a U.S. Navy-unique mission which depends on the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) to achieve its military objectives. Increased spectrum allocation for commercial enterprises has congested the EMS. Currently, transition to digital communication links for data transfer from airborne ASW sensors, including sonobuoys, is limited by the combination of limited Radio Frequency (RF) bandwidth available to use, and the need to sample and analyze large acoustic bandwidths greater than 40 kHz for transfer over the data link. It is desired that both of these areas be investigated. The current maximum data rate to the aircraft is 320 Kbps in one channel located in the 136 MHz-170 MHz VHF band. If the Navy wanted to get multiple hydrophones and/or wide acoustic bandwidth data from the buoy, then this narrow pipe is a constraint. For example, 600 kHz is the bandwidth associated with a new sensor�s RF Channel, but it can be partitioned into other RF Channels. Now the principal receiver on the aircraft is the Software Defined Radio System (SDSR).

The U.S. Navy is currently transitioning to digital transmission of data on communications uplinks. The most common limitation of digital communications is the amount of RF Bandwidth available to be used to reliably transmit the data at higher and higher data rates. Due to regulatory agencies, the Navy must consider the limitations on the amount of spectrum currently approved for use by the Navy. Using multiple channels as one channel and/or modulation scheme are valid options for this SBIR topic.

The Navy is interested in studying bandwidth-efficient modulation schemes, intended to increase the amount of information that the Navy could transmit within its constraints. As a further area of study, the Navy would like to investigate how the baseband data could be compressed, transmitted, and reproduced, as close as possible, to the original data, lossless if possible. The compression of the data should allow wider baseband data to be modulated onto the Navy�s existing links, transmitted, and decoded with little or no loss of meaningful information contained in the original waveforms. A demonstration and comparison of the tradeoff between lossy vs. non-lossy compression techniques would assist in determining the best method. In addition, the maximum increase in system noise after decompression should be no more than 1 dB relative to the pre-compressed data. Also, the transmit power should not exceed an average of 10 Watts over the sonobuoy band.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) [formerly the Defense Security Service (DSS)]. The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform work on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DCSA and NAVAIR, and in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Determine a viable and robust method to increase the amount of data transferred or uplinked from U.S. Navy airborne ASW sensor systems to aircraft receivers. Identify technological and reliability challenges associated with the design approach, and propose viable risk mitigation strategies. Assess the capabilities of the proposed system for future expansion. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Design, fabricate, and deliver a system prototype, using a SSQ101 sonobuoy, which uses the Navy�s digital uplink, based on the results in Phase I. Test and fully characterize the system prototype. Work in Phase II may become classified. Please see note in the Description paragraph.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize the design and fabricate a system solution that is compatible with U.S. Navy sensor systems and aircraft platforms, and assist with integration of this solution for airborne ASW purposes.

Improved data communications have application across multiple technology areas, including telecommunications worldwide.


  1. O�Donohue, D. (2020, May 22). Joint publication 3-85: Joint electromagnetic spectrum operations.
  2. Urick, R. J. (1983). Principles of underwater sound (3rd ed.). Peninsula.
  3. Chadwell, R. M., III. (2020, August 26). Information paper: Joint electromagnetic spectrum operations (JEMSO). USSTRATCOM J81.
  4. Defense Science Board. (2015, July). Defense science board study on 21st century military operations in a complex electromagnetic environment. Department of Defense.
  5. Department of Defense. (2001, July 27). Network centric warfare: Department of Defense report to Congress.

KEYWORDS: Anti-Submarine Warfare; ASW; Data Communications; uplink; Radio Frequency; RF; sonobuoys; sensor systems


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

Direct Contact with Topic Authors: During the pre-release period (April 19, 2023 through May 16, 2023) proposing firms have an opportunity to directly contact the Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the specific BAA topic. Once DoD begins accepting proposals on May 17, 2023 no further direct contact between proposers and topic authors is allowed unless the Topic Author is responding to a question submitted during the Pre-release period.

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Topic Q & A

5/19/23  Q. A. The solicitation indicates uplink to aircraft with a software defined radio. Will solutions supporting direct to satellite uplinks (either low-earth orbit or geostationary orbit) also be considered desirable or acceptable ?
B. Are solutions including cryptographic security, authentication and encryption protocols preferred?
   A. A. The solution space does not cover satcom options. There would have to be a major redesign of current sonobuoys.
B. The request does not cover encryption protocols, The NAVY via PMA264 has developed its own encryption guide for sonobuoy comms.
5/18/23  Q. What is the peak to average power (crest factor) of the target waveform?
   A. The power output depends on the version of sonobuoy, We have 1W 2W and 5 W versions. The request stated 10W maximum as a stretch goal.
5/15/23  Q. Is there a specific hardware platform, sonobouy size (A,B,C etc.) or aircraft that the topic is targeting?
   A. The target is to incorporate into all PMA264 sonobuoys where theses techniques would enhance the mission capability. The sonobuoys work in conjunction with the P8-A aircraft.
5/15/23  Q. Is the topic focused on transmission of ASW sonobuoy sensor information to single or multiple airborne platforms?
   A. Initially the target transmission aircraft would be the P8-A aircraft, It can be expanded to other platforms later.
5/15/23  Q. The topic mentions two objectives (1) studying bandwidth-efficient modulation schemes and (2) investigate how the baseband data could be compressed. Does the proposed solution need to address both? Are proposals focused on a single objective applicable?
   A. The two methods mentioned would be used and are applicable for further research and implementation because they would allow the increase of data transmitted over a digital communication link.
4/30/23  Q. We would like to gather feedback on the relevancy of our solution to the Navy solicitation. We plan to propose the following: 1. high speed, high performance ( in terms of compression ratio ), low power consumption, and lossless data compression for generic data. The goal is to significantly reduce the total data size by 50-80% to reduce the bandwidth and storage pressure. 2. AI-based high-performance data lossless or lossy compressions tailored to various types of data generated from sensors, that have a potential further reduce the data size by 2x-4x compared to #1. 3. A datalink technology to ensure fast, secure and reliable data transmission.
Are those technologies relevant to the Navy's solicitation?
   A. 1. these are technologies ( data compression) that the NAVY needs to support the ASW mission . There are two broad types of data compression , Lossy and lossless implying that some of the data is degraded or not. The SBIR asks for the developer to compare and contrast the loss of integrity (lossy) versus no loss or full reproduction integrity (lossless) so that we can evaluate the tradeoffs.
2. Application of AI to data compression is interesting but is not specifically asked for in the SBIR language.
3. Reliability of the data link is a very important to the ASW mission. Most of our discussions around this topic have focused on the use of higher levels of modulation to get more data transmitted along with analyzing the tradeoffs to reception performance.

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