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Low-cost Thermal Management Technology for Combat Systems Computers


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Information Systems

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PEO IWS 1.0, AEGIS Integrated Combat System.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a modular and scalable cooling technology for electronic computer cabinets and display consoles that do not require forced air or water-to-air cooling.

DESCRIPTION: Navy combat systems integration requires the use of electronics cabinets to support data transfer, processing, and communications across the system and to end users that interface with the system at a console. Common Processing Cabinets (Ref 1) have largely been replaced by Mission Critical Enclosures (MCE) (28" W x 42.42" D x 75" H and 2,000 lbs.) and when fully populated have a 5.0 kW heat load. Other customized processing cabinets can generate as much as 15.0 kW of heat and are physically larger than the MCEs. Electronic cabinets that do not require demineralized water are typically cooled internally with chilled water-to-air cooling systems or through forced air-cooling. These systems require space specific chilled water piping and ventilation air supply and return ducting in the overhead or under a false floor. Similar to electronics cabinets, Common Display System (CDS) consoles used by sailors have had water-cooled designs but have more recently converted to air-cooled designs with heat loads of 0.8 kW. Ship infrastructure for piping and ducting schemes to support thermal management are extensive and costly to change if any sort of reconfiguration of the space is required. Generally, these distributive systems have a great impact on the shipboard system-cooling infrastructure (Ref 2). Other conventional approaches such as using chilled water-cooled water-to-air cabinet cooling systems have concerns with condensation in the enclosures, which require constant draining to avoid spillage within the sensitive electronics.

A modular and scalable cooling system technology that will largely replace the legacy water-to-air cooling systems and forced air-cooling systems is needed so thermal loading can be handled at the source versus in a centralized location that requires complex, expensive, non-reconfigurable distribution systems. Reductions in piping and ducting distribution systems reduces acquisition cost and system weight. Modular cooling will also allow for additional sensors, tactical displays, and consoles to be incorporated into the AEGIS Integrated Combat System because advanced thermal management technology enables a smaller footprint for. An approach that is localized on or near the heat generation source without significant direct shipboard support systems is desired. This system must pass military standards for shock and vibration (Ref 3 and 4). The advanced cooling system should be self-contained and scalable for the anticipated heat loads. Utilization of shipboard support systems such as water should be minimized or eliminated. Scalability to accommodate larger, currently customized, processing cabinets greater than the 5 kW heat load associated with the MCEs is preferred. This would be an attractive enabler to a flexible infrastructure where larger, standardized mission processing packages may be needed for larger and more powerful shipboard radar systems. Legacy radar rooms currently generate as much as 25 kW of heat and the new radar system will be increasing the heat load to these radar rooms to approximately 100 kW or more. Since combat systems in general account for approximately 80% of the total space-cooling load, an advanced thermal management technology could potentially provide space that is more available for the MCEs. The computer room would not require extensive ventilation ducting. The shipboard HVAC systems and associated fan rooms near combat system spaces can be significantly downsized. The shipboard chilled water system could similarly be downsized and would be used for condenser water supply and HVAC cooling coils to accommodate the Hull, Mechanical, & Electrical (HM&E) services within the combat system spaces.

PHASE I: During Phase I, the company will develop a concept for a scalable thermal management system and show the feasibility of developing a system solution to migrate from conventional shipboard approaches such as conductive and/or convective cooling. A Phase I concept will be developed, to provide a component level architecture for the thermal management system, and required system interfaces defined. The feasibility will be shown through computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis of the proposed system(s) to provide thermal performance data. Preliminary impacts to ship space, weight, and power (SWaP) for the system shall also be assessed during Phase I and compared to current water-to-air cooling system and forced air-cooling systems. Conductive cooling is typically implemented with Grade C quality fresh water cooler with an area/heat transfer ratio of 0.12 ft2/kw or with Grade A quality fresh water with an area/heat transfer ratio of 0.3 ft2/kw. Alternatively, convective cooling is provided through the ship’s chilled water system with an area/heat transfer ratio of 1.5 ft2/kw. The Phase I Option, if awarded, should include the initial system layout and capabilities description to build a prototype in Phase II.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), a prototype modular and scalable cooling technology will be delivered that will handle thermal loadings ranging from 0.8 kW to 15 kW of heat load for MCE and CDS console applications. Phase II will include the detail design of the system to satisfy Navy requirements for thermal management and SWaP, including all performance and qualification requirements including but not limited to shock/vibration, electromagnetic interference, and bonding/grounding for system components conveyed during Technical Interchange Meetings (TIMs) following Phase I award. Land based testing will be performed at facilities qualified to validate system performance requirements in accordance with Navy standards and specifications and define system integration requirements. A Phase III qualification and transition plan will be provided at the end of Phase II.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: During Phase III, the company will support the Navy in qualifying the modular and scalable cooling technology that can handle 0.8 kW through 15 kW thermal loading on AEGIS Integrated Combat system MCE and CDS consoles by providing hardware and engineering support to government shipboard installation and certification activities. This modular and scalable cooling technology will be a great help in all applications of cooling systems. They would include refrigeration, building coolers, and automobiles.


    • Bahen, Dan. “The Common Processing System (CPS) and Advanced COTS Enclosure (ACE).” Global Technical Systems, 2012. June 2015.


    • McGillian, Joseph, Perotti, Thomas, McCunney, Edward, McGovern, Michael. “Shipboard Thermal Management Systems.” American Society of Naval Engineers, 2010. June 2015.




  • MIL-STD-167-1A, Department of Defense Test Method Standard for Mechanical Vibrations of Shipboard Equipment (Type I – Environmental and Type II – Internally Excited), 02 November 2005.

KEYWORDS: Shipboard system cooling; chilled water-to-air cooling systems; forced air-cooling; heat generation source; Mission Critical Enclosures; Common Display System consoles

  • TPOC-1: David Berlin
  • Phone: 202-330-9500
  • Email:
  • TPOC-2: David Gornish
  • Phone: 202-781-0928
  • Email:

Questions may also be submitted through DoD SBIR/STTR SITIS website.

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