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Ruggedized High Speed Optical Fiber Network Connector for Next Generation Submarine Electronic Warfare (EW) Systems


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Sensors, Electronics, Battlespace 

OBJECTIVE: Develop a ruggedized connector for use with commercially available high-speed switches and network interface cards that is low cost, maintains high data rates, operates in harsh environments, and has high mean time between failures to be utilized by Next Generation Architecture (NGA). 

DESCRIPTION: The focus of this topic is to increase the durability of Fiber Optic (FO) high-speed network connectors Quad Small Form –factor Pluggable (QSFP+) in harsh military environments (submarine environmental qualification test). The connector should have cost and support data rates comparable to COTS products but survive in harsh environments, and have higher mean time between failures than COTS. As a part of the Submarine Electronic Warfare (EW) Next Generation Architecture (NGA) multi-layered system approach, a high-speed optical network is required. Currently, the architecture utilizes commercially available Ethernet (10 GbE, 40 GbE, and 100 GbE) and 56 Gbps Infiniband interfaces. All current high-speed optical network connection methods suffer from an identical vulnerability point: they all utilize a very fragile conversion and transport mechanism in the form of FO cables and fragile interface connectors (Quad Small Form – factor Pluggable – QSFP+) that may not survive the rigors of installation and operation aboard undersea platforms. The Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable (QSFP+) connector is a compact, hot-swapped transceiver used for telecommunication applications. It interfaces with a network device motherboard; such as a switch or router, to a fiber optic or copper networking cable This type of connector is prevalent in the high-speed backbone of the Electronic Warfare Next Generation Architecture (EW NGA) systems. The commercial QSFP+ connector has certain failures, which have to be mitigated. The Electrical Interface and Pin-Out (edge of the transmitter) is exposed, and during normal handling, the connection with a 38-pin edge is being damaged causing the transceiver to fail. As previously mentioned, the transceivers are fragile components and when dropped, the Electrical Interface and Pin-Out can easily be damaged causing the interface to malfunction. More failures are anticipated when the QSFP+ connector is being operated under shocks, vibration and electromagnetic interference (EMI) environment Reference 1. The Phase II and Phase III efforts will likely require secure access, and NAVSEA will process the DD254 to support the contractor for personnel and facility certification for secure access. The Phase I effort will not require access to classified information. If required, data of the dame level of complexity as secured data will be provided to support Phase I work. Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract. 

PHASE I: Develop an innovative concept to prevent connector failure in the high-speed backbone of future submarines EW systems operating conditions due to harsh environment, such as, shock, vibration, and EMI. Develop a concept for advanced networking interface that meets the requirements as stated in the topic description. Demonstrate the feasibility of the concept through modeling analysis and testing and will establish that the concept can be developed into a useful product for the Navy. The Phase I Option, if awarded, must include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype in Phase II. Develop a Phase II plan. 

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), develop and deliver a prototype rugged connection interface for evaluation to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals and the Navy requirements for a Next Generation Architecture EW Networking Layer for submarine. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and modeling or analytical methods over the required range of parameters including numerous deployment cycles. Using evaluation results, refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet Navy requirements. Prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use. It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details). 

PHASE III: If successfully demonstrated in Phase II, support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. Develop a Next Generation EW Rugged Interface Connection for submarines for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. Support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use. Commercial use of this technology includes telecommunications applications in electronic devices, particularly transferring high data through-puts for a dense environment. These systems use the data to be transported across a network fabric for further processing. 


1: Department of Defense Test Method Standard "Mechanical Vibrations of Shipboard Equipment." MIL-STD-167-1A.

2:  "Cisco 40-Gigabit QSFP+ Transceiver Modules Installation Note." Cisco Systems, 03 Oct. 2012.

3:  Xiang, Haifei, Song, Jian, Iiu, Fengman, Gao, Wei, Li, B. and Wan, Lixi. "Failure analysis and test for high speed packaging, HDMI packaging and QSFP packaging." 2010 11th International Conference on Electronic Packaging Technology & High Density Packaging, Xi'an, China, 2010, pp. 1158-1161.

4:  Ammendola, R. et al. "High speed data transfer with FPGAs and QSFP+modules." IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium & Medical Imaging Conference, Knoxville, TN, 2010, pp. 1323-1325.

KEYWORDS: Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable; QSFP+ Connector; High Speed Network Interface; Digitized Spectrum; Infiniband Interfaces; High Speed Network Transceiver 


Helder Avelino 

(401) 832-6280 

Chris Shaw 

(401) 832-3063 

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