Superconductors to be Installed on Navy Vessels
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.