The U.S. Navy contracted with Ingalls Shipbuilding to build the world’s most sophisticated, advanced technological stealth destroyer.
“Stealth” is defined as very low radar cross section (RCS) and requires clean lines and linear angels, with no protruding objects. Traditional lights mounted on the ship’s superstructure compromise the stealth characteristic by increasing the vessel’s RCS.
The Navy indeed needed external lights—which are required to illuminate the top of the superstructure—but they needed them to be dual function while still meeting low RCS requirements. Their Radar Signature Analysis Team indicated a “cone” shape could work to provide required low RCS, but the major challenge was to incorporate light shaping optics into such a unit while keeping conical shape structure intact.
A longtime collaborator of RSL on shipbuilding projects, Ingalls approached our team to design a state-of-the-art embedded remote source lighting system for this critical destroyer build. We got to work, providing a proof-of-concept build using plexiglass cone enclosures with two reflector cones and two cables entering the unit from the base. Our final design leveraged this dual-reflector cone concept within the conical enclosure, and further reduced the RCS footprint with features like energy-dissipating metallic coating and specific dimensions to eliminate radar wave reflection.
We embedded the topside lights directly into the ship’s structure at required angles and positions as well as developed custom optics to fit those highly limited spaces. RSL lights provided the required emission shapes for each navigation and signaling function, as well as unique illumination patterns.
And don’t forget: the U.S. Navy required these light units to be interchangeable. So, we leveraged our light expertise to design illuminators for multiple function, using the same part for various applications and connectivity to the ship-wide control system.
When our prototype concept was presented to the DDG 1000 program manager in Washington, D.C., he actually hugged the unit and said, “I love it!”
That technology today:
The RSL remote source lighting technology remains on all DDG 1000 class of stealth destroyers and is the light that brings our naval aviators home safely.