The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced its Robust Optical Clock Network (ROCkN) program to build an ultra-precise atomic clock compact enough to fit inside a military aircraft.
This is key, as military operations require nanosecond precision for ships to be able to fire weapons at high speeds and at extreme distances.
In this scenario, a small mistake could cause the missile to miss its target. By the same token, atomic clocks can offer a solution by allowing field units to tell time with a high level of accuracy.
While optical atomic clocks are typically large, complex machines, the DARPA project aims to make them smaller and lighter so they can be carried on military vehicles and even satellites.
“The goal is for optical atomic clocks to go from elaborate laboratory setups to small, robust versions that can function outside the laboratory,” explained Tatjana Curcic, program manager in DARPA’s Office of Defense Sciences.
“If successful, these optical clocks would provide a 100-fold increase in accuracy, or decrease in timing error, over existing microwave atomic clocks, and demonstrate an improvement in nanosecond timing accuracy from a few hours to one month”.
According to the researchers, this technology could also be useful in the field of space exploration.