Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has been investing in quantum technology in the hopes that it will improve existing sensors on the battlefield and could lead to a solution for GPS-denied environments.
Because the technology is linked to better positioning, navigation and time-keeping, company leaders said they believe it could “revolutionize” this space. Alternative means of PNT have become a priority for militaries throughout the world as jammers become less expensive and more ubiquitous while the reliance on PNT information increases.
In particular, Rafael executives are encouraged that “extremely high-performance quantum accelerometers and gyroscopes can be designed to be the basis of the next generation inertial navigation systems,” a company official said. These sensors can exploit the quantum properties of atoms to measure acceleration and angular rates with unprecedented accuracy, which, in turn, allows for “dead-reckoning navigation for relatively long periods of time while essentially keeping GPS/GNSS accuracy.”
Rafael’s team working on quantum technology, which includes Alon Gabbay, head of miniature quantum sensors group of the Manor division and Nitzan Link, of the CTO Technology Center of the Manor Division of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and the head of the quantum research group of the Ordnance division, were among those who discussed the potential for the technology with Defense News.
Quantum technology is about sensors that “measure discrete energy levels and difference in change with magnetic or electric fields,” a Rafael official said. The struggle for engineers has been that while this technology has existed for decades, particularly in university labs, miniaturizing it and using it in defense systems is a challenge.
While Rafael is traditionally Israel’s research and development arm for new weapon systems, it is also the company behind the Trophy defense system, Litening targeting pod and Iron Dome air defense technologies. Rafael has also rolled out new digitized battlefield concepts and used optics to better match scenes and leverage artificial intelligence.
“Quantum technologies can give rise to ultra-sensitive gravitational and magnetic measurements, hence opening the possibility of using anomaly maps to aid inertial navigation,” a company official told Defense News. “Atomic clocks use quantum technologies to provide highly stable and accurate frequency standards; the resulting technology can be used for time-keeping opening new possibilities for using communications as an aid to an integrated navigation system.”
Seth Frantzman has been covering conflict in the Middle East since 2010 as a researcher, analyst and correspondent for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.