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Laser Based Fiber Optic Distributed Lighting Networks for Flexible and Reconfigurable Ships' Illumination 

By Giovanni Tomasi

Fiber optic Remote Source Lighting (RSL) systems have been in use on the LPD 17 class for navigation and signaling lights since 2004. All the navigation, signaling, and topside illumination lights on the DDG 1000 class are of the RSL configuration. These systems use high intensity discharge lamps or LEDs as light sources and transport the light to one or more luminaires via fiber optic cables comprised of bundles of optical fibers. These systems however are point to point without the ability to switch the light between multiple luminaires. Visible lasers are used extensively for high definition projection systems. The high volume demand is driving down costs and increasing performance. A ManTech funded by the Office of Naval Research and a Phase II SBIR by the Naval Facilities Command developed prototype laser fiber optic systems for illumination and signaling applications. Laser RSL systems use one single optical fiber to transport the light to the luminaires, significantly decreasing the cable cost. The single fiber allows the switching of the light generated by one illuminator between multiple luminaires using fiber optic switches similar to what is used in telecommunications and in high power laser systems for manufacturing. A shipboard laser RSL system can be configured as a full lighting network where several light sources can be connected to multiple luminaires, switched and rapidly reconfigured to maximize energy savings and provide redundancy by re-routing in case of battle damage. Other potential utilizations include non-lethal weapons in waterline security lights and general illumination by modulating the intensity and the flashing frequency, and as ship to ship communications from different luminaires in visible and infrared wavelengths. The paper will describe the work done with laser RSL systems, future developments, and the benefits of the technology in the design and operation of naval combatants.