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NSSA's Towed Array Cables Supply Chain Strengthened

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120918-12

By Douglas Denzine, Norfolk Ship Support Activity Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Norfolk Ship Support Activity's (NSSA) Submarine Towed Array Branch identified a shortage of critical outboard cables used for submarine towed arrays and found an alternative source for the cables and will have cables ready as early as Sept. 30.

After researching alternatives, the Towed Array team, headed by Lead Engineer Ed Guidos, recommended and implemented use of a Norfolk cable mold facility, operated by L3 Unidyne, as an alternate source to fabricate the cables.

"The problem arose after a sole-source, cable mold facility closed temporarily, and the replacement facility start-up was delayed. NSSA's Towed Array personnel recognized the significantly negative impact this prolonged shutdown would have on Fleet capabilities and sought alternative options," said John Kropcho, a general engineer with NSSA.

These cables, according to Kropcho, have to be durable enough to operate while in seawater at all times and be able to operate at changing depths so they are always seeing changing pressure. Making these cables is not as simple as making cables that are always going to be inside of the submarine.

"You can't just go to any manufacturer and have the cables made, because it is a pretty unique capability set," said Kropcho.

"NSSA was able to introduce this stop-gap solution to make sure that the Fleet continued to have the ability to use this critical sensor until the new permanent production facility comes online," said Kropcho.

"A towed array is a group of acoustic sensors to detect sound in water. It's a specialized sonar sensor, which is streamed far behind the towing ship or submarine," said Kropcho. "There is noise associated with a submarine or ship. Therefore, if you have a sensor in the ocean by itself, there would be no background noise other than the natural ocean. This quiet environment gives you optimal ability to hear."

Outboard cables power the array, and also send the array's signals back to the ship. The array does not work unless the cables are available to serve as a conduit to transmit and receive information.

This near-term solution will ensure the submarine service continues to employ the best sensors in the world.

"We are making cables and sending them directly to both Submarine Forces, Atlantic and Pacific," said Ron Phelps, Submarine Towed Array branch manager, "they will be distributed to the entire Fleet."

"We are actually fabricating the cables," said Phelps. "The cable facility's production line was shut down about six months ago, and it's going to be somewhere between a year and 18 months before it is going to be reestablished. We are filling the gap until the facility can get back up and start supplying these cables again."

NSSA is working closely with Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet; Program Executive Officer Submarines (PMS 4011), Naval Supply Weapons System Support; and Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, to identify and prioritize replacement cables to maximize Submarine Force readiness.


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