When aerospace manufacturing giant Boeing was tasked with designing a new IT network on board the US Navy’s upgraded Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, finding the right surge protection equipment was critical.  When a lightning strike, power surge, or operational imbalance could destroy the high current electronics system, lives are on the line and mission-critical information is hanging in the balance.

 MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is proud to say that after rigorous testing with Boeing, as well as sea-testing on board the USS Spruance, the MAX-200 High Current Power TVS Diode has proven capable of protecting the redesigned shipboard network system from dangerous power surges.

 Find out more about how naval vessels are at risk for critical voltage transients, how the new Gigabit Ethernet Data Multiplex System from Boeing benefits the Navy, and how the MAX-200 functions as high current circuit protection on board.

“Robust communications are critical to the US Navy’s superiority over our adversaries. Much of our communication these days is through digital paths, and we are careful to employ rigorous safeguards and redundancies to protect our networks from both man-made and natural disturbances.”

How Naval Ships are Affected by Lightning Strikes

If water attracts lightning in a storm, and lightning strikes the tallest points in an area, then does that mean that the masts and radio towers of ships at sea are targets for lightning strikes? It would seem so, which is why the design of modern naval crafts are designed with this propensity in mind.

In fact, the phenomenon of lightning strikes has been studied at length, especially with regards to application to naval crafts. One study, entitled “Maritime Structures & Ships’ Lightning Protection”, explains that all-metal ships are often struck by lightning, though they are rarely damaged by strikes. That’s because the huge mass of the metal hull in direct contact with water allows rapid dissipation of the electoral charge into the water.

However, more modern crafts are constructed differently in order to reduce weight and to offer more concealment from enemy radar. To do so, the superstructures of naval war ships are constructed from fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) or are coated in rubber to create lighter, more buoyant crafts less perceptible on radar than steel. This change in structure changes the way electrical current from lightning strikes dissipates. It creates a space between the superstructure of the vessel and the hull, so the current is not carried directly to the water for dissipation.

Instead, any time lightning strikes the upper mast or an ungrounded radio antenna, the metal carries the charge to the electrical equipment and destroys them.

It is critical to naval operations to protect circuits, electronics, and data from power surges caused by lightning or otherwise.

There are, of course, many lightning protection systems in place on modern naval vessels. These systems don’t reduce lightning strikes, but they protect sensitive electronics from damage.

It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to lightning strikes, there are other causes of power surges that can severely damage electrical components on board ships. Switching operations, power anomalies, short circuits, or a blown fuse. Even lightning that strikes anywhere within a kilometer from the power and signal systems of a naval craft can induce large enough transients that can permanently or temporarily damage the electrical and electronic systems of the craft.

All electronics are susceptible to damage from voltage transients, power spikes, and PSQ problems. Any of these can damage electronics, ranging from minor malfunction to total devastation of the circuit.

“The most efficient method of protection against spikes and transients is the installation of surge protection devices (SPDs).” (Sofras)

For the network on board U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, that surge protection device is the MAX-200 High Current Power TVS Diode.

Back in 2011, Boeing tested out a redesign of shipboard networks that would replace mile of point-to-point cabling, signal converters, junction boxes, and switchboards that make up a conventional ship’s cabling. The new network is called the Gigabit Ethernet Data Multiplex System.

To protect the network backbone from power surges, Boeing chose the MAXPAK™ Series MAX-200 High Current Power TVS Diode. After passing rigorous testing, the MAX-200 was installed within the GEDM System.

The first ship to carry the new GEDM System with the MAX-200 High Current Power TVS Diode was the USS Spruance (DDG 111).
The Navy completed sea trials and testing of GEDMS on the Spruance in March 2011.

The Gigabit Ethernet Data Multiplex System

The GEDMS is the most recent upgrade to the Data Multiplex System (DMS) networks, which offers enhanced network communication capabilities by providing an IP-based backbone that supports multimedia services such as video and data, Boeing officials say.

The new network design increases the missile destroyers’ ability to support data transfer within the ships. The hull, mechanical and electrical systems in these ships have all received upgrades in their design, starting with the USS Spruance. These upgrades required an upgrade to the data network as well.

With the network upgrades of the GEDMS, the Navy expects a reduction in manpower and an ability to use video and sensors to monitor remote and confined spaces. These improved abilities increase safety of the vessel’s crew, according to the team at Boeing.

According to Navy officials, the GEDMS network transfers inputs and outputs for the Burke-class destroyers’ machinery control systems, damage control system, steering control system, Aegis combat system, navigation displays, and interior communications alarms and indicators.


Surge Protection of MAX-200 High Current Power TVS Diode

High Current Transient Voltage Suppression Diodes (Power TVS Diodes, like the MAX-200) are a solid state electronic component that is used in electronic circuits to protect sensitive semiconductors against transient currents that occur in the circuit or from electrostatic discharges. These devices exhibit a variable impedance depending on the current flowing through them (or the voltage across their terminals). During normal conditions, these devices have a high impedance and therefore appear “invisible” to the circuit. However, in the presence of a transient voltage, their impedance decreases and current flows through them to ground. That is, they divert the transient away from the load (shunting), thereby, putting a clamp on the residual voltage.

The reasons TVS diodes are so effective in these types of situations include:

  • They respond almost instantaneously (picoseconds) to transients (faster than varistors).
  • TVS diodes have high impedance, so they act like open circuits during normal operating conditions (have low current leakage).
  • They do not degrade, provided they are operated within the limits for which they are designed.
  • They are manufactured in a variety of surface and through-hole circuit mounting options, making them perfect as board level protectors.
  • TVS diodes have low clamping voltages, making them ideal for sensitive circuits operating at low voltages (e.g., microprocessors).
  • They also protect circuits from Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)


Put more clearly, the excess transient current is diverted from the protected circuit and flows through the transient voltage suppressor diode to ground. When the voltage across the circuit exceeds the Breakdown Voltage of the TVS diode, the diode clamps the excess voltage, allowing the protected circuit to operate safely.

Due to the high current formed during breakdown in when a diode reverse biased regular diodes are at a significant risk of being permanently destroyed. TVS diodes are constructed so that the breakdown occurs uniformly in order to prevent current crowding. This makes them far more resilient and as long as their operating limits are respected no degradation of the electrical specifications will occur.

MAXPak High Current Power TVS Diode Series  are rugged devices for land or sea and meet MIL-STD 1275 and MIL-STD 1399 Section 300 B requirements.  The features Boeing looked for in a surge protector for the new GEDMS network that are boasted by the MAX-200 High Current Power TVS Diode include:

  • UL1449 Recognition
  • 10KA Surge Capability @ 8 x 20 µsec waveform (per IEC- 61000-4-5)
  • Peak Power Dissipation 288K
  • Bi-directional
  • High clamping capability
  • Repetition rate (duty cycle): 0.05%
  • Sharp breakdown voltage
  • Low incremental surge resistance
  • Fast response time: typically less than 1.0 µs from 0 Volts to BV
  • Operation temperature: -40°C to +125°C
  • Epoxy encapsulated package with Underwriters Laboratory Flammability Classification 94 V-0

For more information or mechanical specs on the MAX-200, view data sheet here.

Updates from USS Spruance & the New Arleigh Burke-class Guided Missile Destroyers

The USS Spruance (DDG 111) was commissioned in 2017 as one of the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. It was the first destroyer to be outfitted with the new GEDMS shipboard network from Boeing. (Credit: US Navy Facebook)

(Side note: named for famed World War II Navy Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, DDG 111 is not part of the Navy’s old Spruance-class destroyers, the last of which was decommissioned in 2005. Adm. Spruance commanded Navy forces during the Battle of Midway in 1942.)

She is the 61st ship in her class and was formally commissioned in 2017. The ship is named in honor of Adm. Raymond Spruance, commander of Carrier Task Force 16 during the World War II Battle of Midway. Spruance is the second Navy ship to bear the name.

The USS Spruance has been participating as part of Carrier Strike Group 3, alongside the USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-hoon (DDG 93) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). In May, the group underwent a series of group sail training in the Pacific Ocean in preparation for an upcoming deployment. Details of the pending deployment are confidential.

USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS STOCKDALE (DDG 106), USS CHUNG-HOON (DDG 93) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) maneuver together during group sail training in the Pacific as Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 prepares for its next deployment. Credit: USS Spruance on Facebook

Continued Contracts

In 2016, the Navy extended the contract with Boeing to continue support of the GEDM System within U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.

As of April 2017, Boeing has been given the green light for the GEDMS to be installed on new Burke-class destroyers, as well as part of upgrades to back-fitted to 27 flight I/II Burke-class destroyers hull numbers 51 to 78, and to 28 flight IIA Burke-class destroyers hull numbers 79 to 107. Work on these ships is expected to be completed in 2023.

MDE Semiconductor, Inc.

MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is an innovative, quality oriented device manufacturer with a Single Minded Focus on Circuit Protection Products. Our Transient Voltage Suppression (TVS) Devices are designed specifically for the protection of electronic systems from the destructive effects of Lightning, Electrostatic Discharge (ESD), Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (NEMP), and Inductive Switching. All silicon devices are constructed with our famous low leakage glass passivation process with high-energy absorption capability from 400 watts up to 288,000 watts. www.mdesemiconductor.com