Automated Fiber Optic Connector Inspection, Diagnostics, and Cleaning Tool

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-096
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N232-096 TITLE: Automated Fiber Optic Connector Inspection, Diagnostics, and Cleaning Tool


OBJECTIVE: Develop automated fiber-optic termini inspection and cleaning equipment for use on military aircraft.

DESCRIPTION: Currently automated technology exists to inspect and clean termini in military-grade connectors not installed on the aircraft. Military aircraft require that the fiber optic connectors on Weapons Replaceable Assemblies (WRAs) and disconnect panels have compact spacing that limits the usability of automated equipment. The problem is compounded by the confined working space on the aircraft.

Aerospace-grade fiber optic connectors contain multiple termini. For example, MIL-DTL-38999 connectors have up to 37 termini. Time studies have shown effective inspection and cleaning of the connector plug and receptacle with 30+ termini can take up to two hours using video inspection and manual cleaning tools currently available to the DoD. Recent aircraft modifications have seen the addition of significantly more fiber optic connector pairs containing thousands of termini. MIL-STD-1678 requires that all termini shall meet minimal optical transmissivity criteria (cleanliness) prior to final installation in the aircraft. To meet the requirement, all the termini in all the connectors must be inspected and cleaned as needed until each terminus meet the cleanliness criteria. To meet the increased demand for connector cleanliness, an innovative approach is being sought to automate the process and have the equipment fit within the perimeter of the connector and within a 6 in. clearance perpendicular to the connector. The inspection and cleaning tool can be remoted. The goal is to reduce on-aircraft maintenance time and enable inspection and cleaning within confined spaces.

The automated inspection and cleaning tool design should address the following considerations:

(a) must operate on connectors attached to WRAs, and disconnect panels meet SAE AS50881, Section 3.7.1.,

(b) have a user interface that automates termini inspection and cleaning processes,

(c) provide connectivity and data transmission, meeting Navy cyber security requirements,

(d) have only two external connections � one for 115 VAC and one for the umbilical attached to the head,

(e) operate on 115 V (50�400 Hz) or battery power,

(f) have portability per MIL-PRF-28800G,

(g) have a removable hard drive per Navy cyber security requirements,

(h) able to locate, inspect, and clean to optimize the assessment accuracy (minimum 95%),

(i) must be able to be used on connectors with no less than 37 fiber optic termini,

(j) need to adapt to MIL and ARINC shell sizes 11�25 connectors,

(k) need to adapt to ARINC rectangular connectors,

(l) capable of being qualified under MIL-PRF-28800G, and

(m) be one person carry.

PHASE I: Design and demonstrate feasibility of the inspection, diagnostics, and cleaning tool. Compare approach to existing manual and automated solutions. Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Optimize design, fabricate, and demonstrate the prototype in a simulated aircraft maintenance environment. Deliver two prototypes for Government evaluation.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The fiber optic connector, cleaning, and diagnostics technology developed under this SBIR topic could be transitioned to industry for companies that produce and sell fiber optic support equipment to both the DoD and commercial sector. The fiber optic connector, cleaning. and diagnostics technology could be used in commercial sector data centers and internet hubs.


  1. Naval Sea Systems Command. (2021, November 17). MIL-PRF-28800G: Performance specification: Test equipment for use with electrical and electronic equipment. Department of Defense.
  2. SAE Technical Standards Board. (2020, March). ARP6283/2: In-service fiber optic inspection, evaluation, and cleaning, best practices, multi-fiber push on termini. SAE.
  3. SAE Technical Standards Board. (2018, August). ARP5061/A: (R) Guidelines for testing and support of aerospace, fiber optic, inter-connect systems. SAE.
  4. U.S. Department of Defense. (2019, October 7). Department of Defense Instruction: Number 8500.01 Cybersecurity.
  5. Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime. (2016, October 3). Department of Defense standard practice: MIL-STD-1678-1D Fiber optic cabling systems requirements and measurements (Part 1: Design, installation and maintenance requirements) (Part 1 of 6 parts). Department of Defense.
  6. SAE Technical Standards Board. (2019, August). AS50881G: Wiring aerospace vehicle. SAE.

KEYWORDS: Fiber optics; connector; inspection; cleaning; automation; maintenance


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

Direct Contact with Topic Authors: During the pre-release period (April 19, 2023 through May 16, 2023) proposing firms have an opportunity to directly contact the Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the specific BAA topic. Once DoD begins accepting proposals on May 17, 2023 no further direct contact between proposers and topic authors is allowed unless the Topic Author is responding to a question submitted during the Pre-release period.

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Topic Q & A

5/2/23  Q. Why not move to an automated CMM system and NOT use arms? Nothing wrong with Hexagon arms; they are very good. But what about an automated process such as - that flags the descriptions as a pass/fail and integrates with DEXcenter and other requirements?
Would the Navy consider such an approach for this requirement?
   A. This effort aims to augment the workload of a CMM, a bottleneck in the Organic Industrial Base (OIB). The OIB does not currently leverage articulating arms as inspection tools, because the measurement uncertainty is not well quantified. This effort aims to quantify the measurement uncertainty of non-contact articulating arms for inspection purposes.

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