Novel communications technology passes data though steel hulls

Paul Boughton
A new communications technology developed by BAE Systems, which 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 offers the potential to enhance the protection offered to soldiers using armoured fighting vehicles.
The through-hull data link system eliminates the need to create hundreds of holes in a submarine hull to send and receive data from sensors and other external equipment. Furthermore, the system is said to be 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 - and there could be up to 300 penetrations in any single submarine.
Drilling the holes also necessitates additional strengthening of the hull to counteract the consequent structural weaknesses. Despite this strengthening, the penetrations are prone to stress fatigue associated with repeated submarine dives; tackling that fatigue substantially increases the through-life maintenance costs.
John Bagshaw, the technology executive from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre who has helped develop the system, states: "We have developed a number of technology demonstrators and are currently testing it in a submarine environment. We have demonstrated how signals from a video camera can pass through an armoured 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 new data transfer technology.
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