A revolutionary technology developed by BAE Systems that allows data to pass wirelessly through several inches of solid steel could save millions of pounds in the way submarines are designed, built and maintained. It also promises to enhance protection offered to soldiers using armored fighting vehicles.
The through-hull data link system removes in one swoop the need to create hundreds of holes in a submarine hull to send and receive data from sensors and other external equipment.
The system is safer and more cost efficient. The current method of using holes fitted with specials ‘penetrators’ that have to be welded to the hull is expensive. There could be up to 300 penetrations in any single submarine and inserting each one represents a significant build cost.
Drilling the holes also necessitates additional strengthening of the hull to counteract the consequent structural weaknesses. The penetrations are prone to stress fatigue associated with repeated submarine dives. Tackling that fatigue substantially increases the through-life maintenance costs.
“We’ve developed a number of technology demonstrators and are currently testing it in a submarine environment,” says John Bagshaw, the technology executive from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre who has helped develop the system.
“We have demonstrated how signals from a video camera can pass through an armored vehicle’s hull. This could offer significant advantages in increasing the crew’s situational awareness without reducing their protection.”
In due course, the oil, civil nuclear and gas industries could also benefit from this technology.