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Radio Frequency Buoyant Cable Antenna Transfer Mechanism


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials, Ground Sea, Information Systems

OBJECTIVE: Develop a Buoyant Cable Antenna (BCA) handling/transfer mechanism that can provide sufficient pushing and pulling force to cabled antennas at depth while limiting wear and stress to the cable.

DESCRIPTION: The submarine fleet within the U.S. Navy has been successful in a wide range of missions. For many of these missions, success or failure depends on the submarine’s ability to be stealthy and remain undetected by opposing forces. While submerged, maintaining stealth when communicating can be done through the use of towed horizontal floating wire RF antennas. However, new antenna and situational awareness sensor designs are not compatible with current floating wire antenna submarine deployment mechanisms. Furthermore, current antenna designs rely on deployment mechanisms designed in the 1960s and 1970s. Technological advancements in material and manufacturing processes since the 1960s create an opportunity to design a newer innovative handler with increased capability. Newer mechanical developments and innovations, such as linear transaction drives, have been proven for use in similar applications on other nations’ submarines and may offer improvements over existing push/pull pulley systems.The goal of this SBIR topic is to produce a BCA transfer mechanism capable of deploying, towing, and retrieving a BCA at speed and depth with minimal wear on the BCA. Minimal wear is considered as 2000 feet of BCA is deployed and retrieved 40 or more times. The size and layout shall be suitable to enable replacement of the existing submarine system. The final product will be a BCA transfer mechanism that is able to provide sufficient pushing and pulling force while limiting cable stress and enabling the use of additional sensors. The effort shall demonstrate the following capabilities.• Demonstrate the BCA transfer mechanism’s capability of deploying, towing and retrieving a BCA with cable diameter between 0.85 to 0.95 inches. A sample cable can be provided by the Government upon contract award.• Demonstrate the transfer mechanism can deploy and retrieve a BCA at a speed of 0 to 20 feet per minute or faster. • Demonstrate the transfer mechanism can generate a threshold minimum pulling force of 2000 pound-force (lbf) on the cable. • Demonstrate the transfer mechanism can generate a threshold minimum pushing force of 150 lbf on the cable.• Demonstrate the mechanism does not bend the BCA at less than 8.3 inches of bending radius in order to limit mechanical stress and wear on BCA.• Demonstrate the handling system will fit within the space and arrangement constraints of the legacy system. Approximate available space for system are shown in Table One.Table One Transfer Mechanism: Height (in) 33; Width (in) 18; Depth (in) 14; Vol (cu. Ft.) 4.8; Weight (lbs) 400 Cable Stowage Reel: Height (in) 47; Width (in) 42; Depth (in) 38; Vol (cu. Ft.) 43.4; Weight (lbs) 950• Demonstrate the transfer mechanism’s housing can sustain internal water pressures up to 900 psi.• Demonstrate the transfer mechanism can be primarily driven using existing ships hydraulic system.

PHASE I: Conduct a feasibility study and develop concept designs for a BCA transfer mechanism. Identify BCA handling system design specifications that are critical for meeting functional requirements. Compare and contrast concept designs with the legacy transfer mechanism. Verify through modeling and simulation that the BCA transfer mechanism will enable the deployment, tow, and retirement of the antenna at a range of operating speeds and depth. Define the process for building the antenna transfer mechanism. Develop prototype plans for Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop or optimize the prototype antenna transfer mechanism identified in Phase I. The final antenna transfer mechanism should meet the functional requirements while staying within the bounds of external requirements such as ship spec requirements, size, etc. Conduct benchtop and land-based tests. Compare simulated results to benchtop and land-based results to demonstrate credibility of the model. Work performed during the Phase II will not be classified, but a DD254 will be required because the performer will need to be able to review classified technical drawings of the current Navy system.

PHASE III: Deliver final BCA transfer mechanism to a Navy facility in sufficient quantity for testing with buoyant cable antenna. Support Government laboratory testing and Environmental Qualification Testing.Commercial uses of this antenna transfer mechanism could include: (1) undersea communications cable deployment/ repair, and (2) undersea oil exploration and related equipment.

KEYWORDS: Antenna Deployment, VLF, VHF, Communications, Stealth, Buoyant Cable Antenna, BCA


1. Rivera, David and Bansal, R. “Towed Antennas for US Submarine Communications: A Historical Perspective.” IEEE, August 2004. 2. Rivera, David and Bansal, R. “Submarine Towed Communication Antennas: Past, Present, and Future.” IEEE, August 2002.

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