Tag Archives: Future Tech

Naval Applications for LiFi: The Transmitting Tool

Naval Applications of Tech 

Written by Terence Bennett, Naval Applications of Tech discusses how emerging and disruptive technologies can be used to make the U.S. Navy more effective. It examines potential and evolving developments in the tech industry, communication platforms, computer software and hardware, mechanical systems, power generation, and other areas.

“The most damaging phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way!’” Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper in an interview in Information Week, March 9, 1987, p. 52

By Terence Bennett

The famous phase, ‘One if by land, and Two if by sea’ recalls Paul Revere’s ride to warn of the impending British approach, but it is also an example of an early light communication system. From lighting large signal fires during the time of Homers’ Iliad to lighting smaller fires on Greek picket vessels to warn of a Persian attack, light communication has been used in military application for centuries. Additionally, the use of signal lamps – whale oil, then kerosene, and ultimately electric lamps – has been a staple of modern maritime communication. The Aldis Lamp, invented in the early 1900s, which uses Venetian blinds to easily cover and uncover a light bulb, is the most recent iteration of this technology. Its pairing with Morse code allowed for a sophisticated form of visual communication that has yet to be replaced. This technology was critical during the Battle of the Atlantic, when radio silence and highly coordinated tight formations were imperative for the safe transit of Allied convoys.1 Although ship to ship communication has shifted almost entirely to radio communication, Aldis lamps are still ubiquitous on the bridge wings of U.S. Navy ships due to their simplicity and effectiveness. Light communication has again shown the potential to assist ships in secure and reliability communication. Light Fidelity communication is a new technology with widespread application in both ship-to-ship and internal ship communication.

External Communication

In today’s increasingly complex world of Anti-Access Area Denial (A2/AD) systems and cyber attacks, there is a returning place for this ancient form of at-sea communication. A new form of light communication system called LiFi, or Light Fidelity, uses generic Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to transmit high-speed data through the visual light spectrum, and could be used for ship-to-ship communication.

Researcher Harald Hass has developed a way to modulate the intensity of a LED bulb like a radio wave, and receive its signal through a photodiode to decode it. The technology was first demonstrated at a TED talk given by Haas in 2011. LiFi works by modulating the normally steady stream of light from an LED bulb at over a million cycles per second (or 1MHz). A photodiode receiving unit can detect these modulations in the form of undetectable flashes and decode them into a signal. Once a photodiode receives the signal, it is decoded like any other signal and the computer determines what to do with the data. The network works on the same principles as WiFi, but at much greater speeds (up to 224 GB/sec). In its commercial application, LiFi will challenge WiFi’s dominance of the networkable wireless field.2 Most advances in the technology have been to develop LiFi use for a standard room-sized area as a replacement for WiFi, but some research has proven LiFi’s ability to transmit at distance. A project in the Czech Republic, called the Reasonable Optical Near Joint Access (RONJO) project, has created an open source light communication system that transmits a 10 Megabit per second link, comparable to a high-speed Internet connection, over a one-mile distance. The project design was released under a General Public Use Free license and the parts only cost about $100. Some amateur users have been running the system for more than ten years and report high reliability communication during day or night, and even in light rain, fog or snow.3

German physicist Harald Haas with LiFi device. (Harald Haas/University of Edinburgh)
German physicist Harald Haas with LiFi device. (Harald Haas/University of Edinburgh)

With additional research and customization, the range of this technology could be extended to the twelve nautical mile horizon and still be extremely secure, requiring an adversary vessel to either get between the two vessels communicating or into a position behind one of them to intercept half of the transmission. Mr. Haas’ early version of LiFi reached broadcast levels of 10 MB/sec, similar to the RONJO project. Mr. Haas’ later research uses diode lasers with different light frequencies that are interpreted as different channels, thus allowing for data transfer rates up to 224 GB/sec.4

This technology is especially exciting for its use in special applications. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is currently working with the firms Exelis and Nova-Sol to develop the Tactical Line-of-Sight Optical Network (TALON) for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication. The TALON is still in a testing phase, but is estimated to be deployable within the next five years.5 It works in the invisible spectrum, requires proprietary technology, and although ‘low cost’ by Navy standards, it certainly costs orders of magnitude more than the $100 off-the-shelf RONJO design. Although the TALON system will fill important gaps in our communication architecture, specifically the transfer of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) data, it will be expensive and ultimately designed for a niche purpose as with all proprietary systems.

The TALON optical antenna Phase 2 design. (CHIPS Magazine)
The TALON optical antenna Phase 2 design. (CHIPS Magazine)

Because of these limitations, a simpler Sailor-built LiFi system modeled after the RONJO design has a place in the Navy today. In a future battlespace of radar spoofing and communication jamming, the Navy needs secondary and tertiary technologies to support these mission critical functions. Ship-to-ship LiFi could provide a cheap, secure, and, reliable technology for ships in formation. Commanders can build this redundant capability using a ship’s 2M shop (onboard Electronics Technicians), who can build and repair these systems with off-the-shelf components and software. Unlike many Navy systems that require contract support, the RONJO LiFi system would make ships wholly independent of technical support from the shore.

Through experimentation the Navy can take immediate advantage of the advances in LiFi discussed above. By looking at LiFi as a high-tech upgrade of the ALDIS lamp, the Navy can provide a necessary, dependable, and affordable capability to the Fleet. LiFi also has applications for the Navy outside of ship-to-ship communication in internal communication systems.

Internal Communication

In April of last year, the Navy started experimenting with issuing Sailors tablets at Basic Training. The long term goal of this eSailor program is to integrate many daily functions through these wireless devices while also giving Sailors a tool to connect with family and friends. By doing this, the Navy will build a scalable and flexible platform for implementing training, maintenance requirements, and general daily functions. The long-term viability of this program relies upon the Navy developing a system to securely and efficiently connect devices to internal Navy networks and the Internet. Traditional technologies have proven difficult to implement and hardwire connections like Ethernet defeat the purpose of going wireless. The most common WiFi frequency, 2.4Ghz, has become mainstream because of its ability to penetrate wood, sheet rock, and even small amounts of concrete and metal. The nature of ship construction though, ¼ inch steel bulkheads in particular, obstructs the propagation of these frequencies.

The Navy needs an internal wireless broadcast network for use with personal tablet devices. The adoption and implementation of the eSailor tablet program rests on the ability for tablets to be used on ships for everyday functions. Sailors will need to connect to central maintenance servers onboard the ship and other internal Navy networks. The security of these internal servers is very important, which has led the Navy to move slowly toward connecting internal servers to anything besides traditional Ethernet connections.

The Navy has many options for securing a traditional wireless network on land, but ships provide many more challenges. One option is to place the router in a low space, like a basement, to shape the signal only upwards and not outwards. Another method would be to set up multiple routers at low broadcast power levels to ensure the signal did not leave the intended area. These methods would be difficult and expensive to set up on a steel ship because of the high degradation of the 2.4 GHz frequency through steel. Instead, LiFi broadcast technology could provide a highly secure method to transmit data inside ships while not adding to a ship’s electronic signature or making the network vulnerable to attack from outside the ship. Due to the recent nature of advances in LiFi technology, commercial products are limited, but many companies are demonstrating exciting potential for the technology. Ultimately, competition in the network industry will make LiFi a long-term affordable solution.6

The Navy’s recent demonstrations with 4G LTE aboard the USS Kearsarge and USS San Antonio proved this highly adaptive traditional cell phone technology works for broadcasting high speed signals in a local area. The system brought voice, text, and video communications to the crew of these amphibious ships. But it also demonstrated the very real difficulty of closed steel doors cutting off radio signals.7 The commercial availability and easy integration of 4G makes it a great candidate for fleet-wide and ship-to-ship communication. Furthermore, it could allow Sailors to make phone calls home without using a ship’s limited secure bandwidth. There is a downside to an over reliance on 4G technology though, its open broadcast architecture. As with other radio frequency emissions, it can be collected passively, giving away a ship’s position and reducing Operational Security (OPSEC). At times, operational commanders will want to turn off these broadcasts to allow a ship to hide.  

The Navy has a real requirement to find an internal wireless broadcast medium that is affordable, reliably secure, and can be used when standard radio systems are secured for operational reasons. WiFi fails all three needs because it will be inherently difficult and expensive to set up on a ship – both due to ships’ steel construction and its expense and largely dectable radio footprint. Despite recent successes with 4G at sea, it fails the same tests as WiFi because of its inability to broadcast within a ship and be used during periods of radio silence. 

Assuming every lamp on a ship was installed with LiFi bulbs, multiple LiFi enabled tablets would be able to connect to a local ship’s network the same way they would connect to a WiFi network. An obvious requirement for LiFi is having the lights on, which is not a problem on ships, but researchers have even proven that LiFi can work from a barely-detectable dimmed lightbulb as well.

As for security, transmitting LiFi could prove problematic if an adversary was close enough to see it and be able to decode it, but design requirements for U.S. Navy ships provide a natural barrier against accidental LiFi emission. Positive-pressure ventilation systems and the preexisting shipboard requirement to control externally emitted light at sea make ships a great platform for LiFi. Starting with the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the Navy has implemented positive-pressure air filtration systems called the Collective Protection System (CPS) aboard ships. This design concept means that modern warships have significantly fewer windows and openings. This fact, combined with the importance to all ships of controlling their light emission at sea for purposes of Rules of the Road, means that the only light emitting from a ship is intentional.

141113-O-ZZ999-001 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 13, 2014) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter conducts its first carrier-based night flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The aircraft launched at 6:01 p.m. (PST) and conducted a series of planned touch-and-go landings before making an arrested landing at 6:40 pm. Nimitz is hosting the F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 during the initial sea trials of the F-35C.(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 13, 2014) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter conducts its first carrier-based night flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe/Released)

A major hurdle that technologists have yet to fully overcome is the unbalanced nature of LiFi transmission. The technology is ideal for providing download capability from an overhead lamp, but the upload side of transmission back to a router is more difficult. The use of traditional WiFi frequencies have been proposed for home use since downloading is the typical bottleneck in internet traffic. Docking stations or limited upload-only Wifi stations could be used around a ship to alleviate this problem.

There will be many engineering challenges to the ultimate adoption of LiFi, but the technology industry is making large investments in LiFi and these advances will make later adoption more affordable. PureLiFi and light bulb manufacturer Lucibel have already created the first industrial scale LiFi system and outfitted a recent conference venue with the bulbs as a demonstration. Velmenni, an Indian startup company, developed a smartphone adapter case with a LiFi adapter.8, 9 Recently, Apple patented multiple LiFi-enabled features including the ability to capture data though the photodiode in the iPhone camera. Apple also appears to be developing a LiFi enabled lighting fixture.10 

With the Navy already planning to install LED bulbs throughout ships, LiFi is an elegant solution for a sticky problem. In April of last year, the Secretary of the Navy released a memo directing all new construction ships to be outfitted with LED lamps instead of florescent lamps. The press release states that 170 ships already have LEDs installed on them.11 With a little foresight, the Navy could install the required modulation hardware with the new LED lamps to allow for later implementation of an approved LiFi system.


Together, the RONJO solution to Ship-to-Ship communication and PureLiFi solution to WiFi limitations provide a lucrative opportunity for the Navy. In the case of RONJO, the Navy need only leverage a Ship’s onboard manpower to build and maintain a LiFi system to RONJO specifications. With minor adjusting, this system would work today in calm seas. With some additional re-engineering the potential is far more versatile. In the case of networkable LiFi like PureLiFi, the Navy need only look ahead in shipbuilding. The Navy would need to fund the addition of a modulation capability during scheduled installation of LED overhead lamps in new and existing Navy ships. This technology is being worked on by some of the biggest names in Tech. The Navy just needs a small amount of investment now to benefit greatly from it in the future.

Terence Bennett is a Navy Lieutenant who enjoys researching and learning about new technology. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of the Department of Defense, or any other U.S. Government agency.


1. Haas, Harald, “Wireless Data from Every Light Bulb,” Youtube, August 2, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaoSp4NpkGg.

2. Andrew Williams, The Battle of the Atlantic: The Allies’ Submarine Fight against Hitler’s Gray Wolves of the Sea, New York: Basic Books, 2004.

3. “Home.” Home, http://ronja.twibright.com/.

4. Nicole Arce, “Oxford Researchers Achieve 224 Gbps Connection Using Light: LiFi Will Let You Download 1.5GB Movie In A Blink,” Tech Times, February 18, 2015, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/33295/20150218/oxford-researchers-achieve-224-gbps-connection-using-light-lifi-will-let-you-download-1-5gb-movie-in-a-blink.htm.

5. Charles Casey, “Free Space Optical Communication in the Military Environment,” Dissertation, August 2014, http://hdl.handle.net/10945/43886.

6. Allison Williams, “LEDs Could Replace Your Wi-Fi.” Popular Science, July 14, 2016,  http://www.popsci.com/say-hi-to-lo-fi.

7. Spencer Ackerman, “Navy’s First 4G Network Will Head Out to Sea in March,” Wired.com, https://www.wired.com/2013/02/navy-wwan-deploys/.

8. Nikola Serafimovsk, “PureLiFi and Lucibel Introduce First Fully Industrialized LiFi Luminaire – PureLiFi™,” PureLiFi, November 25, 2015, http://purelifi.com/purelifi-and-lucibel-introduce-first-fully-industrialized-lifi-luminaire/.

9. Ibid.

10. Ray Molony, “Why Is Apple Starting to Patent Light Fittings?” Lux Magazine and Lux Review, January 12, 2016, http://luxreview.com/article/2016/01/why-is-apple-starting-to-patent-light-fittings-.

11. Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs, “SECNAV Directs Navy to Expand Use of LEDs, Navy.mil, April 13, 2015, http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=86532. 

Featured Image: U.S. Navy file photo. (MC2 Ryan J. Batchelder)

Innovation at the Naval Postgraduate School: JIFX 15-2


The U.S. Navy looks set to lead a bit of joint maritime innovation experimentation in February. According to the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)’s Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) Program website, the latest interagency field experimentation , set to run 9-13 February, will have a maritime setting and focus.  NPS will host  “JIFX 15-2” at the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration Facility in Alameda, CA, in a port facility and aboard a military cargo ship.  Per the primary request for information from NPS, people wanting to conduct experiments on “any and all technologies relevant to the maritime domain” were encouraged to apply. While the initial deadline for such applicants has past, those looking to attend as an observant can still do so here until 04 February.

One of the many specific areas of interest for this JIFX includes (e) Deployable Infrastructure, Power & Water:

  1. Deployed Infrastructure Building and Maintenance. Support building partnerships and stability operations through building infrastructure capabilities. Ability to reduce time and money spent increasing safety and operational capacity. Areas of interest include solutions that can assist in dust abatement, forward operating base maintenance with roads, runways, tarmacs construction & repair, expeditionary shelter support and efforts addressing fortification and ballistics. Using non-specialized equipment needed for most applications, rapidly deployable and customizable to the region of operations as needed.
  1. Deployable Lighting Technologies. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are preferred. Potential solutions would be blackout capable and would be easily camouflaged for stealth day/night operations and would need to be ruggedized for all weather use and minimize energy requirements.
  1. Energy efficiencies. Solutions sought will explore renewable energy sources for mobile and austere environments; reductions in fossil fuel consumption; fused sources including diesel, wind, solar, etc.; energy saving technologies for shelter, transportation, and portable IT systems (to include DC systems, chill water cooling, ambient cooling, cloud computing); alternative shelters and HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning) systems that address a reduction in energy needs, deployable field feeding systems that take into account weight, size, and avoid fuel-fired cooking appliances; deployable self-sustaining waste-to-energy  systems capable of handling approximately 1 ton per day, fit into a 1/3 of a 20ft ISO container, and with no hazardous emissions.
  1. Water Generation and Purification Systems. Solutions other than commercially procured bottled water and current Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPUs) are sought. Potential solutions might include atmospheric water solutions, black & gray water re-use systems, and new reverse osmosis technologies that incorporate reductions in energy demand.
  1. Safe (non-propagation/non-flammable) Lithium batteries or any related technologies (underwater submersible or like-type platforms).

This post was originally published on the Blue Value Facilities Engineering Blog and was re-published by permission. 

3D Printing: I’ll Take a Cruiser in Pink

We’re out of toner again.

Third in our series on 3D printing.

The U.S. may not have much capability to launch humans into space these days, but in many other ways we are moving towards the sort of future envisioned in the likes of such sci-fi mainstays as Star Trek (if you are just joining this blog – I am in fact somewhat of a nerd). In our smartphones we have a close approximation to the series’ tricorders and communicators, able translate, record data, communicate and scan items. Researchers are even developing the device’s medical scanning functions as apps and add-ons. Elsewhere energy weapons and rail guns are taking shape in the labs of the U.S. military. Even the underlying science behind the series’ most fantastic device of all – transporters, able to instantaneously transmit matter and people from one location to another thousands of miles away – may have been discovered with the recent breakthroughs in quantum entanglement. So it should come as no surprise that another of the series’ future tech is already progressing through very real early stages of development, that of the replicator.

In this 3rd installment in our series on 3D printing – also known as additive manufacturing – I lay out my own thoughts on how this very real technology is impacting and will impact shipbuilding and design, particularly for the U.S. Navy.

“We’re Gonna Need a Lighter Boat”

3D printing will revolutionize the way every piece of equipment for a navy is built, and this starts at the design stage with a focus on decreasing a ship’s weight. First, the way parts can be created using 3D printing, building components as a whole rather than requiring further assembly later, allows designers to mimic the intricate internal structures found in nature to develop extremely strong parts while using lighter materials such as carbon fiber in place of steel. Second, components created a piece at a time in a traditional factory typically require additions like brackets and flanges for handling and for surfaces to bolt or weld the pieces together. Third, designers can create more rounded shapes for system components such as ducting and piping. This not only allows internal ship systems to operate more efficiently, as the rounded shapes are much more conducive to fluid flow than elbow-shaped pipes and ducts stamped out in a traditional factory, but again will decrease weight by eliminating unnecessary system volume. The Economist reports the Navy is already using “a number of printed parts such as air ducts” in F-18s for these very reasons.

As maritime professionals know, lighter does not mean weaker, but does mean faster. It also means cost savings from decreased fuel consumption, and increased operational range – less reliance on oilers and brief stops for fuel.

Heavy Metal Savings

3D printing can bring down costs in other ways. The material savings of additive manufacturing can be enormous. According to The Economist, while traditional manufacturers of parts requiring high-grade metals such as titanium for aircraft can see up to 90% of the costly material cut away and wasted, researchers at EADS show the use of titanium powder to print the parts uses only 10% of the raw material.

3D printers can similarly reduce the costs of creating prototypes in comparison with traditional methods, and because they can make the prototypes much more quickly they allow designers more time to experiment with models of everything from valve handles to hull forms.

After the printer is purchased or built, the cost to customize an item or completely switch production is primarily only the labor cost of the design change and the difference in the material. The potential savings are huge to customers such as shipbuilders and navies, where constant updates, upgrades, and requirement changes would otherwise lead to cost overruns.

I’ll Take a Cruiser in Pink

Where does this lead us? In the short-term there will still be many high-volume, high-use parts that vary little and are cheaper to make using traditional methods. But as 3D printers replace assembly lines, ever more complicated 3D printers that can produce greater portions of a finished vessel or aircraft will make their mark on the fleets of the future. Sooner than you think shipyards’ production halls may be transformed into large 3D printer complexes able to print the hull and major superstructure pieces, leveraging the ability to create highly complex internal structures and designs to bring down weight and cost.

As most of the ship design and production is nowadays done by defense contractors, sailors may be less aware of these impacts of 3D printing on their experience at sea. In the next post in our series, I respond to Matt Hipple’s and take a look at the much more direct impacts of 3D printing on life at sea, including the potential to shift supply and production from ashore to afloat.

Photo: US Navy

3D Printing: Logistics Tail Under The Knife

Yes, but where are the coffee mugs we ordered?

Second in our series on 3D printing.

The laser engraver is a staple of ship life. Nametags, space identifiers, and last-minute commemorative plaques can be made within moments. Engraving is a refreshingly quick process in a world of requisition forms, funding codes, mismatched part numbers, and drawn-out waiting periods. However, stateroom labels that conspicuously misspell the ship’s latin motto  – as mine did – are only the beginning. The dawn of 3D printing technology will carve away wait times, dramatically decrease the costs of space and part availability, open room for more dual-use technical personnel, and break open a whole new world of possibilities for vessels at sea. Already the buzz of the private sector, 3D printing will quickly revolutionize the way we conduct supply at sea in a variety of ways.

Waiting to Wait:

3D printing will exponentially accelerate repair times by the virtually instant availability of repair parts. While underway, simple repairs are at times impossible due a lack of parts. Incomplete repairs often pile up, degrading other systems and crew morale. Even if the time exists to complete the repairs, the parts might not arrive for weeks. With an on-board 3D printer, many of these particular pieces can be produced on demand. Ships’ systems can have their schematics loaded into a database and, using the technical drawing, identify exactly what part needs to be produced. For more complicated or legacy systems, waiting for a rare-produced item or a subcontractor to machine different pieces will become obsolete. More robust shore-side 3D printing facilities will be able to build those systems without requiring legacy facilities or downstream suppliers.

Finance and Floor Space:    

3D printing will also decrease navies’ expenditures by ending many purchasing commitments and freeing up property. When travelling on orders recently, I was rather surprised to discover the “military price” for rooms at a hotel to be higher than the regular price. It was told that while regular prices and availability change year round, rooms set aside for the military are always available and at the same price. The same principle drives the supply system. For any particular requisition parts may be more expensive than if the Navy shopped around, but deals are struck in advance to guarantee the availability of the part at the trade-off of a cheaper price. 3D printing will render obsolete the requirement for many of those deals by creating a continuous part availability. 3D printing will also drive into obsolescence acres of warehouse and administrative space for the storage and transit of these parts. The raw mineral content required for 3D printing can be housed and bought far more efficiently than the vast catalogues of part sub-types. Much of this material may not even have to be stored, since it could be purchased and transferred to replenishment ships from local markets. In terms of money and space, 3D printing is the equivalent of putting the supply community through “The Biggest Loser.”


3D printers will eliminate the need for many personnel that lack directly mission-applicable skills. Logistical Specialists (LSs) are often purely administrative, managing the arcane system of forms, finance, and finagling that they have inherited with an unwieldy logistical juggernaut designed to support an entire fleet. A logistics system that simplifies or removes huge swaths of that administrative system with 3D printing will shift the need from LS’s and supply contractors to sailors who specialized in the repair and operation of 3D printers and their software. These technically savvy sailors would be more in-sync for use in the engineering and IT world, where LSs are a rather niche service. Specialization in such equipment could even become an NEC for rates that already exist.

Blood and Beans:

Materials are important in war, but until military drones run themselves, the hunger and health of human personnel will be paramount. Military personnel are used to MRE’s, so using 3D printers to create food consumed by sailors and marines would not be a large jump. Honestly, powdered eggs could only be improved by the application of laser science. Perhaps even more beneficial, 3D printers hold out the promise of saving personnel involved in accidents or combat on ships and in the battlefield, where they could one day be used to replicate damaged tissue or even entire organs.

More Tailbone than Tail:

Shorter wait-times, leaner overhead, more flexible personnel, and better maintained personnel are only the beginning for 3D printing. 3D printers are capable of making parts that are lighter, stronger, and more efficient than the ones we produce in modern machine shops. Equipment can be made safer, removing typical seams and welds. There mere fact that technicians can see the part before it is produced, rather than waiting months to realize the wrong item has been sent, will remove untold frustrations. Biomining, the extraction of minerals using micro-organisms, also offers promise when combined with 3D printing. The ocean contains especially high concentrations of magnesium, used widely in electronics and engine components. Some raw supplies may, one day, no longer require replenishment from the shore but can be gathered by larger vessels from the sea directly for use. 3D printers can produce the guns, grub, and guts necessary to keep personnel operating.  General Sherman once said, “Good logistics is combat power.” With 3D printing, we can bring an entire industrial base with us.

Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.