DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Automated Cavitating Waterjet Cleaning Device

Navy SBIR 23.1 - Topic N231-031
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command
Pre-release 1/11/23   Opens to accept proposals 2/08/23   Closes 3/08/23 12:00pm ET

N231-031 TITLE: DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Automated Cavitating Waterjet Cleaning Device

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop an automated cavitating waterjet cleaning device for conformal hull array areas.

DESCRIPTION: Acoustic receive arrays mounted to the contours of Navy submarines and surface combatants provide detailed understanding of the undersea environment and the entities within that environment. However, these sensitive surfaces can easily become fouled by biological growth during deployment. This biofouling causes sound energy to impinge on the sonar arrays, clouding sonar images and effectively reducing array sensitivity.

Current practice for cleaning these hull-conformal acoustic receive arrays is to utilize divers to manually remove the biofouling. This is particularly true for conformal arrays onto which it is not possible to add tri-butyl tin oxide (TBTO), a powerful anti-fouling agent that is approved for the large sonar domes on surface combatants. Some commercially-available technologies exist to clean ship hulls; however, the Navy seeks a US-sourced technology approved for Navy-specific materials and technologies, which currently do not exist.

Hull-conformal acoustic arrays, often coated with anti-fouling materials, can cover large areas of the hull of a submarine or surface combatant. Using current practice, this results in a need to manually clean large, fouled surface areas, which comes with a concomitant risk to divers. A technology that could properly clean acoustic arrays could also be used for general hull cleaning to increase fuel efficiency and reduce flow noise.

The Navy seeks an automated cleaning device that will provide for automated cleaning of biofouling and allow a cleaning device to automatically clean a surface on a docked vessel on which biofouling has grown and not damage the surface being cleaned. Hull conformal acoustic arrays, such as the Large Vertical Array (LVA) present on select submarines, could be degraded in performance if the surface were damaged. Such an automated cleaning device would need to increase or decrease its cleaning cycle dependent on the amount of biofouling that has occurred to enable longer or more passes on biofouling that resists removal while touching only lightly on areas where there is little or no biofouling.

The envisioned result of the innovation sought is reduced damage to hull-conformal arrays and any anti-fouling treatment as well as reduced danger to divers charged with removing biofouling across large areas on the hulls of surface ships and submarines.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA), formerly the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

All DoD Information Systems (IS) and Platform Information Technology (PIT) systems will be categorized in accordance with Committee on National Security Systems Instruction (CNSSI) 1253, implemented using a corresponding set of security controls from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-53, and evaluated using assessment procedures from NIST SP 800-53A and DoD-specific (KS) (Information Assurance Technical Authority (IATA) Standards and Tools).

The Contractor shall support the Assessment and Authorization (A&A) of the system. The Contractor shall support the government�s efforts to obtain an Authorization to Operate (ATO) in accordance with DoDI 8500.01 Cybersecurity, DoDI 8510.01 Risk Management Framework (RMF) for DoD Information Technology (IT), NIST SP 800-53, NAVSEA 9400.2-M (October 2016), and business rules set by the NAVSEA Echelon II and the Functional Authorizing Official (FAO). The Contractor shall design the tool to their proposed RMF Security Controls necessary to obtain A&A. The Contractor shall provide technical support and design material for RMF assessment and authorization in accordance with NAVSEA Instruction 9400.2-M by delivering OQE and documentation to support assessment and authorization package development.

Contractor Information Systems Security Requirements. The Contractor shall implement the security requirements set forth in the clause entitled DFARS 252.204-7012, "Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting," and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for an automated cavitating waterjet cleaner that meets the parameters in the Description. Demonstrate the concept through modeling and analysis. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype automated cavitating waterjet cleaner from concept development in Phase I. Demonstrate that the prototype meets parameters of the Description. The prototype will be tested on a representative bio-fouled test surface in a controlled body of water.

It is possible that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. Work with Navy subject matter experts to develop a design that can clean with minimal manning. In the event the Navy determines that the designs are appropriate for use with hull-conformal arrays, the Navy will refine system requirements and either levy the improved requirement on prime contractors producing towed arrays or will purchase prototypes and low rate initial production (LRIP) units from the company.,

Potential dual use of the automated cavitating waterjet cleaning technology would be any maritime or oceanographic surface or vessel that must be kept free of biofouling for customer enjoyment or functional performance. Examples would include piers, aquariums, rigging for oil and gas exploration, and cleaning of commercial vessels to achieve maximal fuel efficiency.


1.       Navy Fact File, "Attack Submarines - SSN," U.S. Navy Office of Information, 08 Oct 2021.

2.       Navy Fact File "AN/SQQ-89(V) Undersea Warfare / Anti-Submarine Warfare Combat System," 20 Sep 2021.

3.       Howard, S. C. et al. "Research and Development of a Cavitating Water Jet Cleaning System for Removing Marine Growth and Fouling from U. S. Navy Ship Hulls." Daedalean Associates Inc., Woodbine MD. 1 Jun 1978.


KEYWORDS: Large Aperture Bow; LAB; biofouling; fuel efficiency; attack submarines; automated cleaning device for ships; biofouling removal


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.1 SBIR Topics pre-release on January 11, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on February 8, 2023, and closes March 8, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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