NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
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Quantum Technologies in Warship Design: A Review

Quantum Technologies in Warship Design: A Review

With the advent of newer stealth mechanics and advancements in the sphere of digital warfare, it is becoming increasingly vital for navies around the world to invest in newer technologies to maintain their fighting edge. New quantum technology breakthroughs appear to give major gains in capabilities for combat systems in fleets throughout the world. There are several opportunities for improving and augmenting present systems, ranging from communications systems to weapon targeting and navigation. Let us have a look at the various applications of quantum technologies in warship design.

Quantum radar and sensors enable the detection of stealth platforms above and below the sea, allowing for more effective defence systems. Quantum encryption may give new degrees of security for data and voice communications, giving command and control components from strategic hubs assurance that transmitted messages are safe. Naval platforms will be able to navigate with total certainty attributable to a mix of sensors and incredibly precise quantum clocks, eliminating the requirement for existing space-based global navigation satellite systems.

Quantum Encryption

Quantum Random Number Generation: Random number generators (RNGs) are critical in many applications, including secure communications and probabilistic simulations. We encrypt data using RNGs to obtain cryptographic keys to ensure secure communications. As a consequence, random numbers are essential, and generating them with absolute unpredictability is a serious obstacle.

 To generate random numbers, pseudo-random number generators (PRNGs) are extensively employed worldwide. Pseudorandom number generators, on the other hand, are software-based and fundamentally predictable due to their algorithmic design. These algorithms are meticulously designed to eliminate statistical irregularities. They cannot, however, ensure that they will be determined by an intelligent observer. If an observer understands the code, current state, and inputs, they can anticipate the output with high accuracy.

In practice, we achieve the requisite unpredictability by monitoring physical processes to eliminate the heavy algorithmic dependency. In other words, unpredictability is a natural resource that we must acquire from physical systems. This is where quantum mechanics comes into the equation. Quantum random number generators (QRNGs) generate randomness by analyzing completely non-deterministic quantum processes. QRNG is an RNG that derives its entropy only from quantum mechanics ideas. While QRNGs does not offer any additional protection against the threat posed by quantum computers to classical public-key encryption; nonetheless, they can generate random numbers at a very fast pace, and the constructions yield really unexpected numbers.

Quantum Key Distribution: Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a secure communication technology that uses quantum theory to construct a cryptographic protocol. It allows two parties to generate a shared random secret key that is only known to them and can then be used to encrypt and decode messages.

In contrast to traditional public-key cryptography, which relies on the computational difficulty of certain mathematical functions and cannot provide any mathematical proof as to the actual complexity of reversing the one-way functions used, the security of encryption that uses quantum key distribution is based on the foundations of quantum mechanics. Based on information theory and forward secrecy, QKD offers proven security. The capacity of the two communicating users to detect the quantum key is a crucial and unique aspect of quantum key distribution.

This results from a fundamental aspect of quantum mechanics: the process of measuring a quantum system, in general, measuring a disturbance in the system. A third party attempting to eavesdrop on the key must analyze this in some way, producing noticeable irregularities. A communication system that detects eavesdropping can be developed by employing quantum superpositions or quantum entanglement and transferring information in quantum states. If the amount of eavesdropping is below a specific threshold, a key that is guaranteed to be secure (i.e., the eavesdropper has no knowledge of it) can be generated; otherwise, no secure key is feasible and communication is terminated.

Quantum RADAR

The basic principles of quantum RADAR are straightforward: instead of employing traditional microwaves, it entangles two sets of photons known as the 'signal' and 'idler' photons. The signal photons are directed at the target, while the idler photons are monitored in relative isolation, devoid of interference and noise. True entanglement between the signal and idler photons is lost when the signal photons are reflected back, but a tiny degree of correlation persists, forming a signature or pattern that identifies the presence or absence of the target item, regardless of the noise in the surroundings.

While quantum entanglement is inherently unstable, quantum radar provides a few benefits over traditional classical radars. For example, traditional radar systems often have poor sensitivity at low power levels because they have difficulty separating the radiation reflected by the item from naturally occurring background radiation noise.

The similarities between the signal and idler photons created by quantum entanglement make it more effective to identify the signal photons (received from the item of interest) from the noise generated within the surroundings. The intrinsic advantage of quantum radar is that it will, in principle, be able to compromise stealth technology features to render them detectable, which was otherwise undetectable to conventional radar systems.

Quantum Inertial Navigation System

The consequences of our Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) malfunctioning vary from annoying to disastrous. It is easy to discount how reliant we have grown on navigation systems in our regular lifestyle, but we frequently do not realise how reliant our operations and public infrastructure are on GNSS, so much so that it has now been dubbed the "invisible utility."

What happens when our GNSS system goes down? We must take into account that all GNSS receivers are susceptible to both environmental and man-made interference. Jamming, spoofing, and even space weather can cause erroneous or lost signals, which can seriously impair a country's infrastructure given the extent of reliance on the navigation system among essential services.

The solution to this is a quantum inertial navigation system. This is a standalone navigation system which does not rely on satellite signals and is therefore not vulnerable to the same external risks posed by GNSS.

And how does it work? Classical microelectromechanical systems (MEMs) already provide highly accurate sensors for inertial navigation systems. However, MEMs devices are prone to drift, limiting how long they can offer precise position information. Quantum inertial sensors avoid drift by detecting the characteristics of supercooled atoms using lasers. At extremely low temperatures, atoms' 'quantum' nature takes over and they act like waves, which can be exploited to encode inertial information. By combining MEMs and quantum inertial sensors, we obtain the best of both worlds: drifts are reduced while measurement speed is maintained.

The platform will be able to do Simultaneous Location And Mapping (SLAM) as it moves around its operational zones, using an organic Quantum Gravimeter, and keep a continually updated evaluation of its real position. When both Quantum capabilities are used in conjunction, the navigation system becomes independent of GNSS and may run forever without access to external location signals.

Quantum Computing

The next generation of supercomputers will leverage quantum mechanics technology to overcome the constraints of classical computing. Quantum computing enables numerous simultaneous processes and overcomes the tunnel effect, which currently restricts nanometric level programming.

The qubit, rather than the traditional bit, serve as the fundamental data element in quantum computing. The key feature of this alternative system is that it allows for the coherent superposition of ones and zeros, the binary system's digits around which all computing revolves. Bits, on the other hand, only have one value - one or zero - at any given moment. Because of this characteristic of quantum technology, a qubit may be both zero and one at the same time, in varying quantities. Because of this plurality of states, a quantum computer with only 30 qubits can execute 10 billion floating-point operations per second, which is nearly 5.8 billion more than the most powerful PlayStation video game console available in the market.

Applications in Warship Technology

The principles of modern warfare are entirely distinct from those of World War Two. Modern warfare has evolved from being traditional to being network-centred. When everything else is equal, networked forces prevail over disconnected ones. By enabling the forces to penetrate an adversary's decision cycle, altering the laws of warfare, and setting the speed of military operations, network-centric warfare has a significant influence on the preparation for and conduct of war.

As a result of the emergence of such doctrines, cyberattacks have been steadily rising. Hacking into the network of the adversary can provide a massive edge on the battlefield, and each modern state should be prepared to be the target of a cyber warfare attack and stand ready to launch a counter-offensive if required. Along with the rise of stealth technology and anti-satellite weaponry, the doctrine of network-centric warfare, if implemented correctly, can bring any nation to its knees.

Here's where quantum technology comes into play. Every country will desire to have systems that are unhackable or have redundancy, and systems based on quantum technology will exactly offer such types of platforms. The implementation of the technology mentioned above will be crucial in modern warfare.

Since the Middle Ages, communications encryption has been of utmost significance. The relevance of data encryption was well demonstrated during World War 2 when the uncrackable Enigma code of Nazi Germany was a huge leverage for the Wermacht and a massive headache for the Allied Forces intelligence network. Alan Turing, though, managed to break that, which shifted the war's momentum. Traditional encryption techniques are also fallible and, as was already said, are vulnerable to being broken by someone with in-depth algorithmic understanding. Quantum encryption is well suited to the philosophy of network-centric defence capabilities since it can mask the significant shortcomings of traditional systems.

The emergence of stealth technology is also causing major problems for all nations. Stealth aircraft such as the F-35 Lightning, F-22 Raptor, F-117 Nighthawk, and B-2 Spirit, among others, are undetected by conventional radars and constitute a significant danger to all forces. Modern warships are also adopting stealthier designs, making them more difficult to detect and target with RADAR during combat. In principle, quantum RADARS will be able to compromise stealth technology qualities to render them undetectable to conventional RADARS, giving a potential solution to a major nuisance.


While quantum technologies do offer a significant advantage against any adversary on the battlefield, the main problem lies with the scalability of these technologies. All these systems do offer a promising solution, yet we have to consider the fact that they are still in their infancy stages, and might take quite some time to reach maturity and be a feasible option for navies across the world.

Any nation that invests into these systems now and focuses on integrating them into combat platforms will definitely have an unparalleled edge in case of war. Moreover, development of such platforms will also have a huge impact on commercial shipping, which might open up new avenues for the much-awaited Industry 4.0.