Optical RF Communications Adjunct Program flight test results provide validation of the theoretical models and hybrid optical radio frequency (RF) airborne system concepts developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Theoretical models of the free-space optical communications (FSOC), RF, and network components accurately predict the flight test results under a wide range of day and night operating conditions. The FSOC system, including the adaptive optics and optical modem, can operate under high turbulence conditions. The RF and network mechanisms of Layer 2 retransmission and failover provide increased reliability, reducing end-to-end packet error rates. Overall the test results show that stable, long-range FSOC is possible and practical for near-term operations.
The capacity to integrate RF and free space optical hybrid communications now feasible
given advances in adaptive optics and optical automated gain control. The ORCA program is
developing on operationally capable of highly reliable hybrid communications. This paper
provides an overview of the ORCA systems and discusses some of the key developments in
making the systems a reality.