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CHIPS Articles: Warfare Center cooperative agreement protects and cloaks key capabilities from enemy intelligence gathering

Warfare Center cooperative agreement protects and cloaks key capabilities from enemy intelligence gathering
By J.W. Marcum, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division - April 16, 2020
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) has been collaborating with Transhield, Inc. since 2017 in the development of Radio Frequency protective covers for topside equipment through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to defend Navy equipment from electronic intelligence gathering.

The urgency to protect and cover surface combat systems stems from the use of Radio Frequency (RF) data collection techniques to collect technical information on systems aboard ships.

Research and development was conducted by NSWC PHD to determine whether RF shielding significantly negates this form of data collection, particularly on radar components of combat communications and ordinance delivery systems while still meeting the corrosion prevention requirements.

The CRADA has resulted in the successful development of an RF shielding material that “significantly shields assets from malicious entities,” according to NSWC PHD Additive Manufacturing Lead and Materials Subject Matter Expert, Armen Kvryan, who has a doctorate in materials science.

“Basically, this new cover will not allow an enemy to ‘ping’ us and find out what assets we have,” said Kvryan. “The material can be custom designed to fit any critical and vulnerable military asset…providing significant shielding across most radio frequencies.”

The new material resembles current advanced protective cover technology from Transhield and has the added benefit of RF shielding, along with environmental protection from corrosion and degradation.

“The new material incorporates that [corrosion protection] aspect, but the highlighting factor is the RF shielding,” Kvryan continued. “Basically, when the enemy tries to ping us and see what assets we have these covers do not allow them to do that. The current method of trying to block these signals is labor intensive. These covers offer a durable repeat-use solution for the warfighter to shield against RF energy on even the most sensitive of equipment.”

Materials are part of NSWC PHD’s In-Service Engineering Agent role and responsibilities for surface combat systems survivability, maintainability and affordability. NSWC PHD houses the Surface Warfare Combat Systems Materials Lab, which contains unique and highly specialized test equipment needed for internal and multiple Warfare Center collaborative research, development, testing and evaluation of materials. The laboratory-facility network can handle a variety of testing, development and validation needs, from simple research to complex product development and small-scale prototype manufacturing.

Transhield, Inc. has extensive expertise in the research and development of protective covers and retains a portfolio of advanced materials that protect assets from corrosion and provide long-term protection. Transhield has used this expertise in transitioning the results of the research and development for public use.

“Transhield has been an excellent ally and very easy to work with,” said Kvryan. “Specifically, Dr. David Sharman, Transhield Military and Technical Advisor, has worked closely with the materials team at NSWC Port Hueneme to give us insight into the manufacturing aspect of the newly developed material. We are currently taking steps to develop another CRADA to develop more technologies and capabilities to help the Navy and warfighter.”

NSWC PHD has continuously served a crucial role in data and information exchange agreements under major programs for DOD, and facilitating technology transfer to the warfighter through CRADAs.

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