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The use of hybrid free-space optical (FSO)/radio-frequency (RF) links to provide robust, high-throughput communications, fixed infrastructure links, and their associated networks have been thoroughly investigated for both commercial and military applications. The extension of this paradigm to mobile, long-range networks has long been a desire by the military communications community for multigigabit mobile backbone networks. The FSO communications subsystem has historically been the primary limitation. The challenge has been addressing the compensation of propagation effects and dynamic range of the received optical signal. This paper will address the various technologies required to compensate for the effects referenced above. We will outline the effects FSO and RF links experience and how we overcome these degradations. Results from field experiments conducted, including those from the Air Force Research Laboratory Integrated RF/Optical Networked Tactical Targeting Networking Technologies (IRON-T2) program, will be presented.
Date of Publication: June 2009