Submarine builder backs composites

France’s Naval Group which is to build Australia’s Attack class submarines has joined with the ARC Training Centre for Automated Manufacture of Advanced Composites (AMAC) and Airspeed Pty Ltd to explore the use of composites embedded with fibre optics.

The AMAC, at the University of NSW, conducted proof of concept tests over a five day period to determine how such composites could be used in marine radar masts.

Airspeed Pty Ltd, an Australian designer and manufacturer of composite materials for aerospace, maritime and energy-related projects, has already built composite structures for Australia’s Collins class submarines.

These include fairings which reduce the topside weight of the boats, helping to keep in check weight rises which can affect the stability of the Collins.

Airspeed has also proposed composite masts to BAE Systems which is to build Hunter class frigates in Adelaide. However these will not be incorporated in the initial ships.

The partners said: “The use of composites can decrease the weight of the mast, which in turn can reduce the vessel’s overall weight due to a lighter counterbalance being required.

“By applying fibre optics that allow for structural health monitoring (SHM), it is possible to save vital maintenance time and resources over the lifetime of any vessel to which it is applied.”

The tests demonstrated how the composite embedded with fibre optic sensors can be used to assess the performance under mechanical loads.

Naval Group Pacific CEO Romanet said: “Composites are a key capability for modern shipbuilding and it has been mutually beneficial to work with UNSW. We are already looking into furthering our cooperation and including industrial partners in our research.”

Picture: Naval Group

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