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Australian Navy takes fiber optics "down under." (will build six new submarines) (Cable & Wiring)

The Australian government is replacing its submarine fleet with six new state-of-the-art vessels.

The price tag for this mammoth project is about $3 billion U.S. When completed in 1993, these vessels will likely be the largest conventionally powered submarines in the world, each the length of a football field and weighing 3,000 tons.

These submarines will be the first in the world to be fully-equipped with an integrated fiber-optic bus, interconnecting navigation, sonar, communications and combat systems.

Rockwell Systems Australia (RSA) was selected by the Royal Australian Navy to supply and integrate these systems into its submarines and is responsible for design, integration and testing.

A team of almost 30 Australian and international suppliers are contributing products and expertise to the project. Among them are AT&T (fiber optics), Thomson-Sintra AM (sonar), Librascope Corp. (fire control, display/controls consoles), Computer Sciences of Australia (tactical software) and Scientific Management Associates (logistic support).

The Expanded Service Shipboard Data Multiplex System (ES-SDMS) is central to the combat system of these technologically-advanced submarines. ES-SDMS uses light to manage data transfer for naval applications, making it virtually immune to active and passive failures.

Using many independent, redundant data channels to ensure survivability in combat, this modular system can accommodate up to 63 terminals with a possibility of 29 users per terminal.

The ability of the data bus to accommodate additional equipment from the post-development to the post-construction phase is essential to the overall project because it allows new, or improved technologies to be easily integrated into the system at any time.

This important capability has already been used in some processing and display areas. Considering that the overall combat system will integrate such normally independent functions as sonar, radar, navigation and weapons control, the ES-SDMS play a crucial role.

The ES-SDMS data bus configuration includes two separate and independent, serial, four-channel fiber-optic buses, each configured with a hub topology. Fiber-optic technology is used because of its low mass, high electro-magnetic

interference immunity, high bandwidth, and its ability to electronically isolate individual pieces of equipment.

Fiber optics, coupled with a hub topology, give ES-SDMS its competitive edge. It permits expansion with the same ease as a linear bus system, but retains the point-to-point simplicity for connections. The eight channels provide a throughput potential of 160 Mb/s of formatted information and 320 Mb/s of unformatted information.

Fiber optic technology is well suited to naval applications. It permits greater line transmission rates, reduces electromagnetic interference problems and reduces cable weight and space requirements. This gives designers much greater flexibility when designing sophisticated military systems.

Knowing that fiber optics was key, RSA mounted a worldwide search to locate suitable fiber-optic and cable manufacturers. The cable and connectors had to meet the stringent conditions that military installations demand.

In addition, the connectors, which also needed to meet these conditions, had to have very low loss characteristics because the modular nature of these systems requires many connections. The low power requirements needed to meet the ES-SDMS design severely limit the optical loss budget.

The fiber ultimately selected by RSA was made by AT&T. Its multimode fiber met all the ES-SDMS design requirements for environmental, mechanical and optical characteristics.

Once the fiber was selected, RSA mounted a search for a customized connector. AT&T was again selected, this time for an "enhanced" version of their ST Connector.

The first of the six submarines is due to be launched in mid-1993, making its first dive in early 1994, taking fiber-optic technology, not only geographically but also physically, "down under."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Clayton, John
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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