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Navy Partnership Advances Technology Applications Shipboard

By Doug Denzine, MARMC Public Affairs Specialist | Oct. 15, 2020

NOB, Norfolk, VA —

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) – Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) in partnership with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) are collaborating to advance fiber optics research for application in Navy shipboard systems.

The Fiber Optic Sensing System (FOSS) is a technology that utilizes specialized commercially available optical fiber for sensing via laser interrogation and a data collection device to collect real-time information related to pressure, temperature, weight, deformation, and strain on complex systems and equipment. The FOSS technology was improved upon in recent years by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Armstrong Flight Research Center with their best practices being applied to MARMC’s modeling and testing efforts to further improve efficiency and cost effectiveness.  

The potential integration of FOSS technology directly into equipment on a ship, or even embedded into the ship itself, would allow for faster data collection at a higher resolution than traditional data collection methods.

 “We are taking a bottom up approach to this technology and seeing where it can best fit into initiatives that support our mission of sustainment, repair and maintenance at the RMC level,” said MARMC Engineering Technician Adrian Wos. He has been working on the project as part of a remote Naval Acquisition Development Program rotation with NSWC PHD. “The end goal will be to save the Navy time and money when it comes to preserving the ships in the fleet.”

“The great thing about this technology is how precise it can be for as small as it is,” said NSWC PHD Lt. Cmdr. Todd Coursey. “Traditional equipment that is used to perform the same measurements or to gather information regarding a system, such as a strain gauge or thermal couple, are much larger and cumbersome. They also require time to set up and need several people involved in the evolution in order to obtain proper readings.”

The Naval Research Lab (NRL), who has also been working with FOSS technology, has conducted some of the first field tests on Navy vessels to show some of the practical applications for the technology in the Navy.

“FOSS has been used on LCACs [Landing Craft Air Cushion] that have passed their end-of-service date to determine whether or not the hull can maintain reliability past the original 30-year life expectancy and if a second SLEP [Service Life Extension Program] is viable,” said Naval Research Lab (NRL) Research Scientist Dr. Meredith Hutchinson, who has been conducting the LCAC field tests and sharing those results with MARMC and NSWC PHD. “The FOSS outfitted on the cargo deck provided a unique solution that could handle the harsh environments and operations that LCACs undergo during routine operations where other sensors would not hold up or provide the sensor fidelity and density of measurements needed.”

This same basic concept could be applied to weapons systems and other components that encounter salt-water intrusion or exposure on board a ship, which can often lead to corrosion and degradation of a system, piece of gear or even part of a ship’s structure.

“The fiber optic cable and sensors themselves are corrosion and temperature resistant, so the applications are endless. Using FOSS in a fuel tank for example would allow a ship to get information about that particular tank without having to send someone in to perform an inspection, which would be safer and save a lot of time,” said Coursey.

 

Working with MARMC’s Innovation and Technology Lab, Wos is currently designing and manufacturing increasingly complex prototypes to test the limitations of FOSS cable. This will give the fiber optic strands the additional protection they need in harsh environments while still allowing them to give accurate readings. It also enables novel ways to evaluate and categorize new materials and processes. 

“This technology can provide the real-time data required for condition based maintenance across the entire fleet, which would directly improve on-time delivery for RMCs. This is critical for those ships that have operational commitments across the globe. These types of innovations are what we are capable of and it is a great experience to work with this team to advance the Navy’s capabilities,” said Wos.

“Ultimately, bringing the best subject matter experts from across the Navy together is what this is all about. And, this is just one example of the advancements we can use to make the Navy stronger and better prepared,” said Coursey.

MARMC provides surface ship maintenance, management and oversight of maintenance performed by the private sector and fleet technical assistance to ships in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and provides support to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. They are also responsible for the floating dry-dock Dynamic (AFDL 6).

NSWC PHD maintains technical expertise focused on test, evaluation and integrated logistics support for surface warfare combat and weapon’s systems. It also has a focus on Next Generation In-Service Engineering, which involves direct connectivity to the fleet on a global basis and the immediate availability of round-the-clock access to products, services and fleet support capabilities.