L- 3 KEO [formerly Kollmorgen Electro-Optical] has supported the
U.S. submarine fleet since 1916. The L- 3 KEO submarine imaging
workforce consists of approximately 250 highly skilled associates supporting design, manufacturing and test operations at our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Northampton, Mass.
The Virginia class incorporates several innovations not found in previous
U.S. submarine classes. Instead of a traditional periscope, the class uses a pair
of Photonics masts located outside the pressure hull. The incorporation of non-penetrating optronics allows the sensor data to be displayed virtually anywhere
on the ship. The elimination of hull-penetrating masts removes an expensive,
somewhat maintenance-intensive component of the ship. And most importantly, optronic mast configurations are inherently more flexible and enable more
efficient sensor upgrades as mission demands change over time.
Each mast contains high-resolution cameras, along with light-intensifica-tion and infrared sensors, an eye-safe laser rangefinder and an integrated electronic support measures array. Signals from the mast’s sensors are transmitted
through data lines and signal processors to the control center. Visual feeds
from the masts are displayed on LCD interfaces in the command center.
Since the introduction of the Photonics mast aboard the USS Virginia,
almost a decade ago, L- 3 KEO has incorporated performance, reliability
and cost improvements, such as the insertion of high-definition color cameras. These and other improvements serve to support the changing mission needs of the submarine force. Likewise, international customers have
benefitted from lessons learned regarding reliability and performance.
In addition to Photonics Mast System, KEO has been an energetic competitor in the penetrating periscope segment of the domestic and international markets. This gives KEO the benefit of a strong production base
with the U.S. Navy and broad array of interfaces and technical solutions for the international market.
Photonics Mast Bringing L- 3 KEO
to a Century of Submarine Support
The Photonics periscope, built by
L- 3 KEO, is an extendable mast
that does not penetrate the pressure
hull of a submarine. It is equipped
with electro-optical, high-definition color, infrared, low-light-level
television and laser range-finder
sensors. Data is displayed in the
submarine’s control room.
The Photonics masts are installed on
the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class attack
submarines (SSNs) and Ohio-class
guided-missile submarines (SSGNs).
KEO has built 50 for the Navy: 20 for
Blocks I and II SSNs plus seven
spares; eight for the SSGNs, 12 for
Block III SSNs to date plus one spare
and two in the low-profile configuration. Ten more are on order. L- 3 KEO
also has sold 14 of an approved
export version to allied navies.
L- 3 KEO began developing concepts and prototypes in the 1980s.
The Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency ordered development of the Non-Penetrating
Periscope in 1988 and the Improved
Non-Penetrating Periscope in 1993.
Initial production began in May
1997. The current production contract for 16 was awarded in 2010
and valued at $123 million. The
masts are delivered by the Navy as
as part of the imaging system to
Huntington Ingalls Industries or
General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Matthew J. Richi is president of L- 3
A Photonics mast is shown at the front of the sail on the Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii.