HMS Prince of Wales becomes first surface ship to carry an atomic clock
Britain's supercarrier HMS Prince of Wales has become the first surface ship to be equipped with a state-of-the-art atomic clock as it departs for the Exercise Cold Response 2022 NATO joint exercises off the north coast of Norway.
With 35,000 troops from 28 countries on land, sea, or air, Exercise Cold Response 2022 is a prime example of how complex modern military missions can be. It's not only a matter of assembling armies, air wings, and warships, but also the long, complex logistical train that supports them and their increasingly intricate and sophisticated command and control systems.
One of the keys to keeping all of this collapsing into utter chaos is the use of precise time keeping. This doesn't mean having synchronized watches that are accurate to the second, but intricate digital systems that can keep in sync within nanoseconds or better, for the control of cyber systems and long-range military assets that must be able to reach their targets with a precision of within much less than a meter.
This accuracy is brought about through the use of time signals through GPS and similar systems, but GPS is far from invulnerable or universally reliable. Under certain conditions, GPS signals can fail and hostile or even mischievous actors can spoof or jam them.
For this reason, the Royal Navy is keen to find a way to place its own atomic clocks aboard ships as a backup. Unfortunately, modern atomic clocks that rely on quantum or optical principles are extremely bulky and delicate apparatuses that fill entire rooms.
Or at least they were.
A combined effort by the Navy, BP, and Teledyne e2v has produced a new type of atomic clock that is accurate enough for military applications, yet is only about the size of a laptop. The exact details of this new device haven't been released, but it could be similar to a system being developed by DARPA that uses light instead of microwaves for much greater accuracy.
To test the new clock, HMS Prince of Wales will use it during Exercise Cold Response, which is tasked with practicing the defense of Norway and NATO's northern flank. This will involve not only land and air units, but naval forces led by the Prince of Wales that includes a full carrier group.
If the technology proves successful in the Arctic, the next step will be to adapt it so it can be carried by other ships and in the kit of the Royal Marines Commando Force.
"Putting leading-edge quantum equipment into the front line is a game changer for the UK," said Lieutenant Colonel Scott Wallace RM.
Source: Royal Navy