Superconductors to be Installed on Navy Vessels

By Connie Lee
LPD-30 rendering

Concept: Huntington Ingalls

Two of the Navy’s amphibious transport docks are scheduled to receive degaussing systems with superconductors.

A degaussing system is a device used to reduce a ship’s magnetic signature. The technology played a large role during World War II, when it was adopted to reduce the threat of German minefields.

Daniel McGahn, chairman, president and CEO of American Superconductor, said his company was awarded sole-source contracts to provide the systems for the Navy’s LPD-28 and LPD-30.

McGahn said the company’s ship protection system differs from traditional degaussers because it uses a superconductor rather than copper wires. This can reduce the total weight of the ship by 10 to 100 tons, depending on the watercraft, he said. With the Navy’s incumbent system, it is difficult to add capability without simultaneously adding weight, he noted.

“We’re increasing performance at similar cost, but we’re liberating an envelope of weight and volume to be used for other systems,” he said. “To a naval architect designing a new ship, those are degrees of freedom that aren’t present today.”

The company was able to save weight because a superconductor is about 10 to 20 times more energy dense than copper, he noted. The system is based upon a series of ceramic materials that resemble any “thin film, electronic display, integrated circuit,” he noted.

“It’s a multilayer deposition,” he said. “They’re like reels, like scotch tape. You basically have a big reel.”

Originally, the company thought a custom product would have to be designed for all future ships. However, further work led to the current design, which can be rapidly deployed throughout the Navy’s fleet, he noted.

“It’s like Legos,” he said. “You could put it together in the way that you need to mitigate the threat or the signature that you need for that ship.”

McGahn said the system could potentially be used for the Navy’s next-generation frigates. The service wants a fleet of 20 guided-missile frigates and plans to procure the first in fiscal year 2020, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.

Topics: Shipbuilding, Navy News, Maritime Security

Comments (2)

Re: Superconductors to be Installed on Navy Vessels

What a gigantic waste of money--building these ships that have no mission, that is. Please tell me who, when and why we will conduct a WWII style invasion of a country, island or territory in the foreseeable future. We should be building robust surface ships, attack submarines and most of all replacements for the aging Ohio class SSBNs--the most survivable and reliable of the triad of MAD. Or course, the Marines love these as they have been successful in convincing the powers that be a large amphib force is necessary. Promotes their force level desires.
A force of a dozen or so such ships might be advisable. But, our need for ships, submarines and aircraft far exceed the necessity for a sizable amphib force--the Marine weak justification considered.
Additionally, we have no sustainable MCM force. The LCS (little crappy ship) won't hack it. The surface MCM force is beyond its service life and the 53's are unreliable. We must rely on unreliable "allies" for MCM.
Big bucks for an amphib force with not mission is fiscal and planning folly. Just ask when the ARG has ever deployed for action. It just make wakes in the oceans and don't try to explain its importance as a deterrent. What has it ever deterred?
Build warships and submarines. We don't have the money to waste on ships with no mission.

Charles King at 1:27 PM
Re: Superconductors to be Installed on Navy Vessels

This sounds like a great development. Being able to do the job AND save weight gives the Navy options for other weapons, sensors or additional fuel storage that utility to the ships that replace the older, heavier degaussing systems. But it would be good to remember the Mk 14 torpedo in WWII. Sometimes newer systems bring flaws with them that need to be identified and remedied. I hope this system works as advertised because freeing up weight that can be used elsewhere is very useful.

ZivBnd at 8:30 AM
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