The Navy’s submarine force has a new, patent-pending tool allowing it to maintain its fiber optic systems like never before – a new capability powered by an invention from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, its top officer announced Aug. 8.
The innovation lets the Navy compare fiber optic power test meters throughout their entire range of output against a known standard, allowing the fleet to perform reliable and accurate measurements in-house, without outsourcing, reducing costs while increasing capability for the maritime service.
Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Ver Hage praised the delivery, lauding the new instrument as a measurement science milestone that the 21st century military will rely on for years to come.
“Our R&D 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 this is yet another achievement that strengthens the Navy’s intellectual property holdings that adds long-term value to the taxpayer.
The latest Patent Power Scorecard published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ranks the Navy’s patent portfolio best in the world amongst all other government agencies, a distinction fueled by people across the Navy’s Science and Engineering Enterprise.
And the patent-pending advancement comes as the modern fleet operates more and more frequently through fiber optics streaming at the speed of light.
All new Navy ships and submarines are outfitted with fiber optic backbones to handle their complex networks because older copper-wire networks can’t handle the throughput of today’s sophisticated military hardware.
Lance Doddridge, the NSWC Corona physicist and electrical engineer who invented the calibration system, called the Linearity Calibration Standard (LCS) 8513 – understands its value for the warfighter.
“Fiber optics connect everything from weapons systems, control centers, and radar, to a ship’s last line of defense,” Doddridge said. “Every piece of test equipment, by [Department of Defense] mandate, has to be calibrated using standards that are traceable to a national standard.”
Correctly calibrated equipment helps ensure military hardware functions properly, accurately and safely, ranging from a ship’s propulsion plant to an F/A-18 Hornet’s laser target designators to night vision goggles.
And accuracy is vital, especially for the submarine community.
In developing the new standard, NSWC Corona collaborated with its sister division, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., to determine its equipment needs. Until the new system arrived, the undersea warfare center had outsourced its fiber optic calibration responsibilities.
“Without the ability to perform these tests in-house, these sensitive items would have to be shipped to various pre-approved 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, NUWC Newport’s calibration laboratory team lead.
In addition to LCS8513, Doddridge has created another calibration standard, called ADFOCS – the Attenuation and Distance Fiber Optic Calibration Standard, which NUWC Newport now has to complement the linearity standard. He fabricated and assembled the instrument by hand, even using 3D printing to save costs and weight when possible.
It compares commercial, off-the-shelf fiber optic test equipment for accuracy against more accurate standards that are traceable to national standards – which flow from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to the Navy Gage and Standards Lab at NSWC Corona, the Navy and Marine Corps’ designated technical agent for measurement science and calibration.
Medeiros says these new standards will vastly improve NUWC Newport’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.”
Headquartered in Norco, Calif., NSWC Corona is part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Enterprise and leads the Navy in independent assessment, measurement and calibration standards and range systems engineering. As a Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) Command field activity, the command employs approximately 2,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel and includes a detachment in Seal Beach, Calif.
NSWC Corona has received patents in seven areas of innovation for its automated MetBench Calibration Management System, 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.