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Submarines: Corrosion Protection or Enemy Detection?

David Schaefer
University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany

Germany's Technical Center for Ships and Naval Weapons, Bundeswehr, Germany

Submarines create underwater electric potential (UEP) signatures when using corrosion protection systems. These signatures are detectable by enemy vessels, an undesirable effect of the corrosion protection. Germany’s Technical Center for Ships and Naval Weapons (WTD 71) has worked with the Laboratory for General and Theoretical Electrical Engineering (ATE) at the University of Duisburg-Essen to research these UEP signatures in order to reduce them.

Using COMSOL, the team simulated the electric potential distribution on the hull of a submarine, indicating whether or not the material is protected from corrosion. The higher the electric potential, the more the hull is protected. After this, they modeled the signature left by the different electric potentials. The general notion was that a higher amount of corrosion leads to a more detectable signal, which is mostly true. Furthermore, the results showed that the signature is actually the least detectable between zero corrosion protection and the standard operating conditions for full corrosion protection.

Signature planes of the electric field for different currents impressed by the ICCP system. A signature is evident when ICCP is switched off (top left), which can be optimized at 3.5 A (top middle). Overprotection, on the other hand, leads to a large UEP signature (IICCP=16A, bottom right).