Consortium Sheds Light on How Materials Affect Combat Systems
(Source: US Navy; issued June 18, 2020)
USS Gerald R. Ford tests its dual-band radar during post-PDA sea trials on Oct. 26, 2019. Radar systems such as these can be compromised if the radomes are improperly coated, which destroys a structure’s transparency to radio waves. (US Navy photo)
PORT HUENEME, Calif. --- If you are a materials expert with a specialization in radar coatings, the Radar/Ordnance Materials Consortium (ROMC) is looking for you.

The ROMC is developing a radar classification of coatings for a new “anticorrosive coating” military specification. As this is the first coating specification that will address a combat and communication system’s radar needs, the ROMC is looking for members from Department of Defense (DOD), academia and commercial sectors to assist with this and other projects.

Tim Tenopir, a senior scientist and materials subject matter expert at NSWC PHD, worked with the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command to establish the ROMC two years ago because, he said, there is a growing awareness of how materials—such as coatings—can affect radar systems.

Combat, communication and ordnance topside systems on U.S. Navy ships routinely need maintenance and refurbishment using a variety of methods, including repainting and replacing weatherproofing systems. The wrong materials and application techniques intended for Hull, Mechanical and Electrical (HM&E) equipment can cause irreparable damage or degrade operational performance if improperly applied to these topside systems, particularly radar equipment.

“There was a growing realization within Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) headquarters and our technical warrant holders that combat, communications and ordnance systems have unique material requirements that are very different from HM&E systems,” Tenopir explained.

Tenopir’s expertise stems from more than 40 years of experience in materials, non-destructive testing, composites, corrosion, antenna repair, coatings and related engineering disciplines.

After establishing the ROMC, founders set several goals such as updating training programs related to materials and the technology they intersect with, as well as providing subject matter expert guidance to technical warrant holders and other DOD technical authority representatives to develop updated material policies for combat, communication and ordnance systems and equipment.

The ROMC last year made additional strides toward these goals beyond the new military classification for coatings that address a combat and communication system’s radar. The group modified the Naval Ships’ Technical Manual that references preservation of ships in service to require all combat and communication system radomes, antennas and other similar structures be painted with specific coatings and processes. A radome is an enclosure that protects radar equipment from the outside environment and is made from material transparent to radio waves, which is why it is critical that any paint or coating to the outside of the radome also does not block radio waves.

The new radar class within the NAVSEA specification will identify coatings intended to protect or add a specific appearance characteristic to Radio Frequency (RF) critical structures, defined as any structure through which RF energy must transmit through or be reflected from in a focused, directed manner, including combat and communication system radomes and antennas.

Members of ROMC include the Department of the Navy (DON), the Office of the Secretary of Defense, other military branches, academia and commercial enterprises.

The ROMC also aims to reduce program costs and risks and to leverage resources as an enterprise, in part by creating collaborative environments to share business opportunities and technical advancements.

The consortium has developed and published a three-year strategic business plan and formal organizational structure. The four major groups within the organization are identified as: Specs and Standards, Science and Technology, Training and Certification, and Implementation and Logistics.

These documents can be viewed on the ROMC Wiki page within the NSWC PHD Combat Systems Materials Center Wiki at https://wiki.navsea.navy.mil/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=35488895.

Also in the works are NAVSEA Coating Inspector courses and certification programs to address combat, communication and ordnance system requirements.

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