Non-Explosive Wire Rope and Cable Cutter
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-098
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Non-Explosive Wire Rope and Cable Cutter


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Operational Logistics (OPLOG) Program


OBJECTIVE: Develop an innovative tool to cut one inch or thicker wire rope or cable during an emergency breakaway situation.


DESCRIPTION: During Connected Underway Replenishment (CONREP) operations, Navy Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ships connect to the receiving ship with a 1-inch wire rope highline at each solid cargo transfer station. The ship’s crew needs the ability to cut the highline quickly in the event of an emergency and prevent damage to equipment or injury to personnel.


The CLF ships currently employ a man-portable explosive emergency wire rope cutter at each solid cargo transfer station. The current emergency wire rope cutter uses explosive cartridges to drive the cutting blade through the wire rope. The Navy has not purchased any cartridges since 1989. While there are several thousand cartridges in inventory, no future acquisition of these explosive cartridges is planned. Additionally, there is no current program in place to assess and manage the fitness of the cartridges currently in inventory. The explosive nature of the cartridges requires special handling and storage procedures. A new tool will simplify the operations by eliminating the need to store and handle explosive cartridges during CONREP operations.


One vessel, the USNS ARCTIC (T-AOE 8), has a unique man-portable hydraulic wire rope cutter because of the 1 3/8 -inch wire rope highline installed on the prototype Heavy Underway Replenishment (UNREP) station. That specialized cutter is cumbersome and relies on a connection to a Navy Standard hydrostatic transmission to operate. This solution would not be usable on new CLF ships because the hydrostatic transmissions are not part of the newer UNREP technology.


The Navy needs an innovative tool to safely and reliably cut a 1-inch (or thicker) wire rope or cable within one second in an emergency. The Navy purchases the wire rope highline in accordance with RR-W-410, Paragraph, Type I, General Purpose, Class 3 Construction 6, 6 X 37, Uncoated, Independent Wire Rope Core (IWRC). The system should include appropriate redundant safety mechanisms to prevent premature cutting of the rope. In addition, the system should be scalable to wire ropes up to 1 3/8 -inch to account for any future Heavy UNREP requirements. The system should be man-portable, with minimum acquisition and integration costs of no more than

$10,000 to $20,000 per UNREP Station. The cutter must be able to sever a 1-inch (minimum) wire rope or cable in under one second and be able to reliable sever 50 ropes without a failure. Additionally, the system should be able to operate at temperatures from -20°F to 125°F in marine environments.


Commercial metal cutters that are available are too slow or large and expensive to serve in this emergency capacity. However, these basic technologies may be applied to the final tool, including both plasma and laser cutters, as well as pneumatic and improved hydraulic cutting systems packaged in an innovative man-portable fashion to meet the system usability requirements. The final system may have applicability to emergency tow cable disconnection and other steel cable cutting operations.


PHASE I: Develop a conceptual design for a wire rope/cable cutting system. Demonstrate the conceptual basic cutting technology and perform an analysis of its ability to cut a representative wire rope or cable. Use both experimentation and physics-based modeling to determine the feasibility of the design concepts. Develop a Phase II plan. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a full-scale prototype system in Phase II.


PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype system and validate it with respect to the topic’s objective. Construct and demonstrate a full-scale prototype wire rope/cable cutting system for testing and evaluation. Test the prototype in accordance with the Technical Warrant Holder’s direction to validate the cutting speed, reliability, and suitability of the system. Once the final prototype has completed the testing, the Technical Warrant Holder will be able to issue a Fit for Purpose letter for the system.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use. Once the awardee has the appropriate Fit for Purpose letter from the Navy Technical Warrant Holder, the Military Sealift Command will be able to purchase new cutter systems based on the final design specifications.

As packaged, the off-shore oil and gas industry may have similar emergency breakaway requirements for wire ropes. There may also be commercial crane and towing uses for the final product.



1.   Navy Tactics, Techniques and Procedures: Underway Replenishment (NTTP 4-01.4), March 2009.


2.   Federal Specification For WIRE ROPE AND STRAND (RR-W-410H). General Services Administration, Dec 2015.


3.   “How to Select and Operate a Hand Held Plasma Cutter.” Miller Electric Manufacturing, LLC.


KEYWORDS: Emergency Wire Rope Cutting; Emergency Steel Cable Cutting; Connected Underway Replenishment (CONREP) Operations; Emergency Breakaway; Tow Cable Disconnection; Heavy UNREP Requirements



James Wegner






Michael McLachlan






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