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Quantum information science (QIS), which includes quantum computing, has recently captured the interest of many in Washington for its theoretical potential to deliver more powerful and reliable technological applications. While quantum computing gets much of the attention because of its latent ability to increase computing power and possibly crack modern cryptographic systems, quantum information science includes other applications — providing more secure communications, precision navigation and timekeeping, for instance.

The U.S. military will soon partner with key allies to research how quantum information science could improve its navigation and location systems, a senior Air Force official said.

Michael Hayduk, chief of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Computing and Communications Division, said that the service’s strategy to embrace quantum information science includes an upcoming joint exercise between Air Force, Army, Navy and key allies, like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

“We are working on what we call a challenge problem in terms of how we can develop a quantum [positioning, navigation and timing, or PNT, system] and show real capabilities in the 2022 timeframe,” he said.


According to fedscoop.com, Hayduk said the Air Force sees the most rapid advancement around timing and sensing, with the possibility of establishing experimental technology within the next decade. That technology could allow for applications like long duration inertial navigation and potentially serve as the successor to GPS, which the Department of Defense has recently been looking to move from as its primary mode of PNT.

Hayduk said utilizing QIS to develop more accurate atomic clocks could also allow for better synchronization across platforms like planes or satellites.

Hayduk said recent legislation like the National Quantum Initiative Act is welcomed for its efforts to coordinate quantum research in both the public and private sectors, especially as countries like the UK, Canada, Australia and China have invested heavily in the technology.

“If we want to ultimately lead in QIS and develop these applications for the US, we need a coordinated effort.”