Back in the 1990s, when the U.S. military still relied primarily on line-of-sight rather than satellites for command and control and other communications, the Office of Naval Research developed and tested a breakthrough approach—a self-organizing mesh network for Navy line-of-sight communications.
With this network, a ship, for example, can send radar data far beyond the horizon, using ships, planes, and Navy stations in a series of line-of-sight relays. Algorithms chart the most efficient path from one line-of-sight platform to the next. Data might travel half a dozen or more “hops” before reaching its ultimate destination.
As innovative as the research was, the mesh network was never put into operation. Satellite communications were quickly coming on their own in the Navy and the other services, and there was no longer a pressing demand for line-of-sight relays to go beyond the horizon.