Champlain Cable wire and cable solutions for military and navy conditions

The challenge:

  • Create a zero halogenated, low-smoke emission, water-blocked Cat 5e cable for the US Navy fleet.

Project background:

The U.S. Navy has a long-standing set of requirements that identify wire & cable constructions that can be installed on U.S. Navy ships.

Shipboard wire & cable products must meet all requirements set forth by the Navy in their QPL (Qualified Product Listing) specifications. The criteria required for most of the cable constructions allow an option of a “Non-Water-Blocked” or a “Water-Blocked” design.  There have been very few exceptions to this requirement but among the exceptions were Ethernet Cables, which are vital to the ship’s communication and data transmissions.

In 2006-2007 the U.S. Navy identified the need to have a qualified (QPL) Category 5e Ethernet Cable that could be supplied in either configuration – “Non-Water-Blocked” or “Water-Blocked”. Champlain Cable was asked by the industry if we would consider utilizing our materials and irradiation expertise to design both Cat 5e configurations for the U.S. Navy.

Historically, Category Cables have been designed and produced with Fluoropolymer (FEP) material technology. Although a very stable and high performing material, FEP could not be used on Navy ships due to its high halogen content and smoke emission.  These materials will generate life threatening byproducts (halogen & toxic smoke) when exposed to direct flame.  This is not allowed by the Navy’s QPL testing criteria.  Additionally, prior to 2006-2007 no Category Cable had ever been manufactured successfully utilizing a fluid blocking material to slow or prevent water egress through the interstices of the cable.

The challenge:

Champlain Cable set out to create a low-smoke, zero halogen, water-blocked Cat 5e Ethernet cable that met or exceeded the requirements of the Navy’s QPL specifications.

Three strategic steps were determined by Champlain Cable in approaching the solution:

  • Step 1 | Formulate a specialized “Team Approach”, selecting the correct personnel from Engineering, R&D, Manufacturing, Marketing & Sales to identify the challenges and identify the best solution[s] to overcome the challenges.
  • Step 2 | Invest in the correct materials, processing equipment and product validation procedures to ensure repeatability.
  • Step 3 | Utilize the superior material innovation and irradiation technologies available to Champlain Cable.

The solution:

There were many iterations of product development over an 18-month timeframe, but early in 2008 Champlain Cable qualified its first lot of QPL accepted Cat 5e Ethernet cable available for use on all US Navy Ships.

The insulation material used for its low-smoke, zero-halogen properties was a proprietary EXRAD® XLPE 105C rated material.  The water-blocking material was developed in unison with our material supplier, allowing for materials without residue or adherence to adjacent components and electrically “friendly” to the performance required of a Cat 5e cable 1-100MHz @ 100 meters.

The technology:

One of the most important aspects in bringing all of the technologies together was the development of Champlain Cable’s Jacketing material: EXRAD® 150ZH. This material has no halogenated by-products (gases) present when exposed to direct flame, which ensures that the minimal smoke generated will not be life threatening for the specified period of time required by the QPL. The materials will perform in extreme cold or hot conditions with performance ensured should fluid (water) ingress take place due to a breach of the cable surface or end connection.

Today, Champlain Cable remains the number one supplier to the US Navy of Category 5e, QPL approved cable. As technology moves forward within the Department of Defense and specifically the U.S. Navy, Champlain Cable has utilized the material and irradiation technology to qualify the next generation of Category Cable – Cat 6A. This cable will, over time, replace the Cat 5e products being installed on all U.S. Navy ships. Cat6A cable will provide all the same technical and performance qualities as the Cat 5e, with the added benefit of transmitting data and information at 5x the speed ! (500 MHz @ 100 meters).