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Home : Media : News
NEWS | Dec. 15, 2023

NSWC Crane assists in creating technology to detect and identify U.S. Navy sailors in emergency situations

By Sarah K. Oh, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

As international rules-based order is challenged, our Navy and military prepares to face those evolving threats. The science and technology (S&T) experts across the Navy research and development (R&D) enterprise are prepared to equip our sailors for what they may encounter.  

If a disaster took place, sailors and warfighters need to be kept safe from harm.  

The electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) subject matter experts (SMEs) at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane)—part of this larger Navy R&D workforce—work to ensure those serving in uniform all over the world come home safely. One of the U.S. Navy’s missions focuses on the ability to rescue service members, called Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR).  

Dr. James Stewart, the Chief Scientist in Electromagnetic Warfare at NSWC Crane, co-patented an identification and messaging technology that has the potential to have a huge impact on the U.S. military in disaster situations.  

“It’s humbling to know that a technology I’ve helped to create, could have such a profound and immediate impact to the point that it’s literally saving lives,” says Dr. Stewart. “The impact of BARFITE could be immense. If every warfighter had a BARFITE-like device in search and rescue situations, their ability to be retrieved safely would increase exponentially.” 

A line drawing of Polygonal Asymmetrics ReflectorsBARFITE provides additional layer of security for sailors 

BAttlefield Reflector For Isolated Travelers Everywhere, or BARFITE, uses the patented EMS target designation technology called Polygonal Asymmetric Reflectors (PAR), to assist in rescuing downed aircrews from airplanes, sailors overboard at sea, and other military members in remote or hostile locations.  

“BARFITE is technology or a system that will allow for acute detection and identification of American or ally warfighters in the unlikely event of mass casualty, for instance, by assisting in combat search and rescue scenarios,” says Dr. Stewart. “BARFITE is a reactive device that leverages the electromagnetic spectrum, including radio frequencies (RF) as well as other signals for covert detection.” 

BARFITE uses covert technology to ensure only U.S. and ally teams can retrieve personnel in a disaster scenario—and not be detected by adversaries. In the current state, if a U.S. Navy ship sinks, a beacon device on the crew’s life vest activates. Its signal is accessible to anyone using RF signals, its distance is limited, and the signal stops after 24 hours.  

With BARFITE technology, the rescue window is extended beyond 24 hours, tracking is enabled over a larger range, and the signals are covert. BARFITE can be incorporated into parachutes, clothing, or life preserves.  

“This technology will hopefully provide the advantage to quickly find our sailors, while mitigating EMS fratricide within a contested and congested EMS environment,” says Dr. Stewart.  

Transitioning technology from the lab to warfighter 

What started as an idea in a lab, has transitioned to industry for commercial and military search and rescue efforts. The patent PAR from a lab at Crane, is slated to become the fielded CSAR device, BARFITE. 

Photo of PAR co-inventors, Dr. James Stewart and Gerry MillerDr. Stewart says the transition of the PAR technology is a testament to the collaborative effort between NSWC Crane and Airborne Outfitters. 

“I believe this is a great example of interweaving technological innovation and national defense. The narrative of PAR and its evolution into BARFITE exemplifies an unwavering commitment to empower our heroic warfighters with every possible opportunity for a safe return, of which they all truly deserve.” 

He adds that PAR technology is a revolution in covert target detection. 

“I truly believe PAR and its evolution to BARFITE serves as a confluence of both Crane and Airborne Outfitter’s unique and unparalleled strengths, namely scalability, Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (EMSO), Electromagnetic Warfare (EW), and DoD Deceptive Activities (DDA) techniques.” 

He explains PAR is vastly different than the current established solution. 

“What distinguishes PAR is its asymmetric reflector design, charted to provide signal manipulation and reflection efficiency. The unique geometry, combined with cutting-edge materials, is poised to ensure  undetectable signal transmission.” 

Airborne Outfitters licensed the intellectual property (IP) in 2020 and in 2022, entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NSWC Crane where they hope to investigate and characterize various types materials for antenna elements. Through the efforts of both the CRADA and a subsequent Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), Airborne Outfitters and Crane are doing their level best to ensure our men and women in harm’s way return home. They’re a team of materials engineers and retired military personnel with combined expertise in the Intelligence and Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape fields. 

“Building upon PAR's foundational principles, BARFITE introduces adaptive resonance, arming our military personnel with real-time decision-making capabilities. Through AO president, Jason Evatt’s, ingenuity, creativity, and leadership, AO is chartered to scale PAR into a device that can be woven into clothing, uniforms and other innocuous items.” 

BARFITE went directly to phase II in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. Dr. Stewart said the technology transition process has taken place rapidly. 

“In the event a disaster scenario unfolds involving a ship at sea, as best we can, we need to mitigate negative consequences. Given several forecasted near-term military engagements, we need move and act quickly to ensure capabilities are delivered rapidly—for various “timeline” critical technologies we can’t rely on traditional acquisition cycles or methodologies to deliver these capabilities.” 

He says this has one hundred percent been a team effort involving various members at NSWC Crane and AO. 

“I’m privileged to have had what appears to be an impactful technology flush through the full ideation to creation cycle…from paper drawing, to crude modeling, testing of a prototype, a licensed patent, a “Direct to Phase 2” SBIR, and potential JUONS, or Joint Operations Needs Statement. This is why we patent. A clear expedited path to put solutions into the hands of our warfighters. It’s why the T2 office exists. We couldn’t have gotten this far without our dedicated, committed T2 team. That being said, the picture-perfect partnership between NSWC Crane and Airborne Outfitters serves as the driving force behind this groundbreaking innovation. United through a CRADA, we have successfully bridged the chasm between ideation and tangible solutions, paving the way for practical deployment and scalability.” 

Fostering laboratory ideas leads to development 

Dr. Stewart holds several patents. As an inventor, he says it is important to explore the possibility of realizing your ideas.  

“By the way, you never know how your idea may be utilized or evolve. My initial thought for PAR for radars designation and targeting, but then I thought, ‘Why can’t the “target” be our own sailors?’.” 

He says the future of BARFITE is promising. 

“There’s, understandably, strong interest for BARFITE in the fleet,” says Dr. Stewart. “Our warfighters see BARFITE as more than just advanced tech; it's been called a guardian angel for our warriors. Ideally this will breathe new life into aging CSAR platforms, such as the Man Over Board Indicator (MOBI) system. Future iterations could include stronger RF transmissions, advanced active components and secure mesh networking capabilities.” 

About NSWC Crane | NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter. 

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at