NORCO, Calif. – The Navy’s submarine force has a patent-pending invention that revolutionizes its fiber optic systems maintenance procedures – and it’s coming to an Air Force near you.
The innovation emerged from the laboratories of Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division after its top officer announced its delivery to an undersea warfare laboratory on Aug. 8.
The new technology allows the Navy to ensure the proper calibration of its own fiber optic test instruments without need for third-party laboratories, and it shows promise for allowing the Air Force to do the same. The development reduces costs for Navy calibration programs while accelerating turnaround times, which enhances overall readiness for the sea service.
The warfare center’s commanding officer, Navy Capt. Eric Ver Hage, praised the suite of instruments as a measurement science milestone that the 21st century military will likely rely on for years to come.
“Our research and development team has been working hard to develop this fiber optic calibration standard,” Ver Hage said. “Seeing it delivered to the submarine fleet is an awesome example of what warfare centers do for Navy programs – to drive down costs while keeping our fighting forces at the forefront of technology.”
Ver Hage added that this patent-pending invention strengthens the Department of Defense’s intellectual property holdings, which provide long-term returns on investment for U.S. taxpayers.
The latest Patent Power Scorecard published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ranks the Navy’s patent portfolio first in the world among government agencies. This distinction is earned by the many individuals within the Navy’s science and engineering enterprise who are driven to supply innovative solutions to the Navy, Marine Corps – and potentially the Air Force.
Lance Doddridge is one such innovator. He’s the Navy physicist and electrical engineer who invented the fiber optic calibration system, which consists of two devices he designed himself – the Linearity Calibration Standard (LCS) 8513 and the Attenuation and Distance Fiber Optic Calibration Standard (ADFOCS).
Because fiber optic networks proliferate in advanced platforms, weapons and instruments, Doddridge understands the value of his invention to the warfighter.
“Fiber optics connect everything from weapons systems, control centers, and radar, to a ship’s last line of defense,” Doddridge said. “And every piece of test equipment, by [Department of Defense] mandate, has to be calibrated using standards that are traceable to a national standard.”
Correctly characterized standards offer complete assurance to the technicians who rely on the test equipment those standards calibrate. In turn, those test items help ensure military hardware functions properly, accurately and safely – hardware ranging from a ship’s propulsion plant to an F/A-18 Hornet’s laser target designators to night-vision goggles.
“Without the ability to perform these tests in-house, these sensitive [pieces of fiber optic test equipment] would have to be shipped to various preapproved and accredited vendors throughout the country, resulting in additional contracting expense and subjecting [the equipment] to delays and possible damage in shipping,” said Mark Medeiros, a calibration laboratory team lead at Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., which recently received the new standards.
Medeiros’ laboratory has been employing the technology to support the needs of the Navy’s submarine community. Medeiros says these new standards will vastly improve his lab’s ability to address the rising demand for fiber optic systems calibration.
“Having the ability to support these measurements in-house saves an enormous amount of money and time,” Medeiros said. “It enables us to provide quick, reliable, on-time service to meet deployment schedules and support internal programs.”
Modern military platforms operate more and more frequently with fiber optic systems, which provide quick, reliable data at volumes that far exceed the capabilities of older copper-wire networks, which can’t handle the throughput of today’s sophisticated military hardware.
Pending acquisition, the rapid, cost-saving calibration services that the Navy’s submarines currently enjoy may soon be in the Air Force’s hands, courtesy of NSWC Corona’s measurement science department and the Navy’s science and engineering enterprise.
Headquartered in Norco, Calif., NSWC Corona is the Navy and Marine Corps’ designated technical agent for measurement science and calibration. It leads the Navy in independent assessment, measurement, calibration standards and range systems engineering. The warfare center employs approximately 2,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel, and includes a detachment in Seal Beach, Calif.
The command has received patents in seven areas of innovation for its automated MetBench Calibration Management System (MCMS), which distributes and maintains calibration and test equipment data for Navy ships, seamlessly synchronizing all data for users all around the world. It won the Department of the Navy’s Chief Information Officer’s Information Management/Information Technology Excellence Award in 2011.