EMBEDDED COMPUTING: Navy looks to VersaLogic to provide PC/104 embedded computer for lightweight torpedo prototype

U.S. Navy underwater weapons experts needed a PC/104-based stackable embedded computer for a prototype torpedo designed by experts at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, R.I. They found their solution at VersaLogic Corp. in Eugene, Ore.

NUWC torpedo designers awarded a sole-source, firm-fixed-price contract to VersaLogic for a PC/104 stack computer to provide guidance, weapons and power control, and data collection for a NUWC prototype torpedo.

Although the specific torpedo prototype has not been mentioned, NUWC designed the NUWC Light prototype lightweight torpedo to investigate different design factors in future lightweight torpedoes, such as the Navy's current Mk 54 lightweight torpedo.

The amount of the contract for the PC/104 stackable computer has yet to be negotiated. VersaLogic is the only company that can provide this kind of military embedded systems support because most of the components in this particular PC/104 stack computer are proprietary to VersaLogic, Navy officials say.

This kind of stackable PC/104 embedded computer already is in use for prototype torpedoes. Navy officials say it is imperative that engineers use the exact systems to maintain continuity in torpedo testing.

The Navy's transition in recent years from an emphasis on open-ocean warfare against a perceived threat from the then-Soviet Union, to shallow-water littoral operations in coastal waters and harbors has ramped-up research on the most appropriate torpedoes for shallow-water operations.

The Mk 54, built by the Seapower Capability Systems segment of Raytheon Co. Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, R.I., was co-developed by Raytheon and the Navy in the 1990s to compensate for weaknesses perceived in the Mk 50 and Mk 46 lightweight torpedoes.

The Mk 50 was considered to be too expensive to use against submarines other than the top-of-the-line Soviet fast attack submarines of the day, while the Mk 46 did not perform as well in shallow-water littoral areas as it did in the open ocean, for which it was designed.

Experts agreed the newer Mk 54 lightweight torpedo should combine the Mk 50 homing capability and warhead with the Mk 46 propulsion system. Lightweight torpedoes typically are launched from surface ships and aircraft, while their heavyweight cousins, like the Mk 48 torpedo, are launched from submarines.

PC/104 embedded computers stack one on top of the other, rather than plug into conventional backplanes, and so are suitable for use in the tubular shape of a prototype torpedo system.

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