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Secret sub tech hints at spooks' TEMPEST-busting bugs

'Other UK gov parties' wanted details suppressed

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Farnborough British boffins have devloped a cunning new method of transmitting high bandwidth data - plus power - through tough solid barriers such as submarine hulls or tank armour. The tech is being touted as a way of adding modifications to subs or armoured vehicles cheaply, but it seems that there are also other, highly secret, government applications.

BAE Systems' wireless through-hull comms demo at Farnborough 2010.

Through glass, submarine hulls... maybe through Faraday cages

The kit is being shown off here at the Farnborough airshow this week - Farnborough being a defence/weapons show as much as it is about aviation. The Reg got the chance to talk to Dr Lionel Kent, co-inventor of the new gear, about his brainchild. He had a demo rig set up, showing a video image being passed through a thick sheet of glass without wires.

"The glass is just to show we aren't cheating," said Kent's colleague Dr David Birkin. "No wires, you see - and it works just as well through a block of solid metal."

Not only does the kit pass data at reasonable-video bandwidth levels, the external end of the connection - the one which would be outside the sub's pressure hull or the tank's armour, or potentially inside a nuclear reactor core - is also powered wirelessly from the human-safe side.

"What's the point in avoiding the need to drill a hole for a data cable if you then have to drill one anyway for power?" asks Kent.

The ability to transmit power wirelessly has also been shown recently by researchers in the States, using magnetic fields oscillating at megahertz frequencies. We mentioned these to Dr Kent, but it seems that his kit is different.

"That approach is limited on bandwidth," he said. His and his colleagues' brainchild was developed at BAE Systems' Advanced Technology Centre beginning in 2006.

So how does it work, then?

"We can't tell you," says Kent. "Other parties have asked us not to make the details public."

Asked who these other parties might be, the two boffins refused to be drawn, though they did confirm that the request for secrecy came from within the UK government.

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