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Twisted Composites Rudders

11 August 2005

Structural Composites of Melbourne, Florida was recently awarded a $904,000 contract from the Office of Naval Research to build and test Composite Twisted Rudders for DDG-51 Class Destroyers.

The demonstration technology will test improved survivability and resistance to environmental degradation. Prototype steel twisted rudders have already shown to improve appendage survivability when tested on the USS Bulkeley. When fully-optioned, the contract value will be $3.5M to provide a shipset of rudders for a 2-year at-sea evaluation period. A hybrid steel/composite design that was developed by Structural Composites and GD Bath Iron Works will be built by Structural Composites, with technical assistance from the Navy’s NAVSEA 05M3 and NSWC Carderock personnel.

Structural Composites’ Director of Naval Projects Eric Greene believes that the composite rudders may offer a much more survivable solution for surface combatant appendages. “The design is being optimized and tested for underwater blast resistance. Also, the non-corrosive structure will not deteriorate when subject to the aggressive environment downstream of the propellers.”

Structural Composites’ president Scott Lewit notes “Shaped Rudder technology represents a major opportunity to improve performance, fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance expenditures for both naval combatants and commercial ships. Shaped rudders are difficult and expensive to build out of steel. The composite rudders are produced from molds that allow us to produce a rudder for about half the steel rudder cost.”

Structural Composites’ Director of Naval Projects Eric Greene believes that the composite rudders may offer a much more survivable solution for surface combatant appendages. “The design is being optimized and tested for underwater blast resistance. Also, the non-corrosive structure will not deteriorate when subject to the aggressive environment downstream of the propellers.”

This work is being conducted for the U.S. Navy under the direction of Dr. Ignacio Perez of the Office of Naval Research. The project is being funded through a congressional initiative endorsed by Florida Senator Nelson and Congressmen Weldon and Young and the innovative Department of Defense Challenge Program that funds projects initiated by manufacturers other than platform integrators.

Structural Composites is building upon their experience building composite rudders for the MCM class ships in 1996. Those rudders are still in service today.

Structural Composites believes that an allcomposite rudder will be viable for the DD(X) class future surface combatant. By integrating a carbon fiber rudder post into the structure, a much lighter and stronger rudder/shaft assembly can be produced.