Navy on the verge of major shipboard electronics breakthroughs

Open-architecture and COTS technologies are critical for advances in ship propulsion, navigation and guidance, weapons control, ballistic missile defense, modular mission packages, and related systems for the nation’s maritime defense.


The new amphibious ship Makin Island (LHD-8), equipped with a hybrid propulsion system that includes an electric motor, represents a new approach to ship propulsion that could be adapted for in-service ships.
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By Edward J. Walsh

The U.S. Navy achieved significant shipbuilding and technology development milestones in 2009, recovering from the previous year, which was marked by cost overruns in the Zumwalt-class destroyer (DDG-1000) and Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS-1) programs that led to congressional criticism.

Last October, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead announced top-level initiatives to address widely perceived shortcomings in the coordination of Navy acquisition goals and strategy. He established a Naval Warfare Integration Group “to assess the alignment between Navy warfare strategy and investments, and to provide CNO recommendations on how best to improve the Navy’s ability to deliver the capability, capacity, and strategy needed to meet national and combatant commander needs.”

The new group also is to identify gaps in the Navy’s plans “to deliver expected capability and capacity in key warfare areas across platforms and communities.” The CNO also consolidated the job of director of naval intelligence and deputy CNO for communications networks and other information-related capabilities into a new deputy CNO for information dominance.


The Navy plans to purchase 55 littoral combat ships (LCS), which will be fitted with mission modules for anti-submarine, anti-surface, and mine warfare. These photos show Freedom (LCS-1) conducting help certification and Independence (LCS-2) underway during trials.
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In December, Congress approved the 2010 defense appropriations bill, providing $12.5 billion for seven ships: one Virginia-class attack submarine, one Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) destroyer, two logistics ships, two littoral combat ships instead of three sought by the Navy, and one joint high-speed vessel (JHSV). The budget also funds completion of DDG 1000 and the tenth San Antonio-class amphibious ship, as well as advances procurement for two more Burkes and a new America-class (LHA 7) amphib.

The 2010 CNO Guidance document mentions only briefly the “truncating” of the Zumwalt class to just three hulls and cites the restarting of the Arleigh Burke production line to build nine to 12 more, which would join the long-planned ’51 class of 62 ships.

The Burke restart decision followed extensive Navy studies of both programs that showed that while the DDG-1000 is superior in most combat capabilities, the DDG-51 Aegis combat system can be more easily upgraded for ballistic missile defense. The Navy also argued that while the DDG-1000 will be manned by a crew of only 142 personnel compared to more than 300 for the Burkes, the savings in manning costs will be outweighed by the higher costs of maintaining the DDG-1000’s advanced systems.

An October 2009 Congressional Research Service (CRS) study noted that Navy officials, in congressional testimony and in other statements, cited a changed assessment of the threat and a greater need for anti-air warfare, open-water anti-submarine warfare, and ballistic missile defense to be the primary missions of the Burke class. The CRS reported the Navy’s cost estimate of the first two DDG-1000s came to more than $6.6 billion, with the third costing more than $2.7 billion.

Building more DDG-51s, Navy and industry officials say, will mean the termination of the CGX future cruiser program that was being studied as a replacement for the 22 remaining Ticonderoga-class (CG-47) Aegis cruisers now in service. The modernized Burke design also may evolve into a Future Surface Combatant, 18 of which were planned through 2022.


U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ships (LCSs), like the one shown above, are designed to be small, fast, maneuverable, and relatively inexpensive.
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Underlining its continuing focus on new capabilities for coastal, or littoral operations, the Navy completed important acquisition steps for the LCS and the JHSV–a new class of fast transport ships to be built for the Navy and Army to move personnel, vehicles, and equipment within operational theaters. In December, JHSV builder Austal USA’s Mobile, Ala., shipyard began fabrication work for the first JHSV, set for delivery in 2012.

In November, Northrop Grumman’s Newport News, Va., yard laid the keel for aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), first of a new three-ship Ford class of big-deck carriers. Ford is scheduled for delivery in 2015. The yard will start work on CVN-79 in 2013 and on CVN-80 in 2015.

Although the Navy suffered a costly blow with the grounding of the Aegis cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) in February 2009 in Hawaii, requiring an estimated $40 million in repairs, a large-scale modernization of the Aegis combat system aboard the 22 cruisers and the Burke destroyers continued to move forward.

Commercial computer technology

The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) continued to push Navy and industry systems engineers to comply with its Open Architecture (OA) initiative, which requires the use of commercial computing standards for combat system architectures to maximize commonality and portability for system upgrades and the use of commercial hardware and software.

The DDG-1000s, displacing nearly 15,000 tons, were planned initially to provide fire support for Marine Corps and Army units ashore from greater ranges than possible with the current fleet. The Zumwalts will be armed with two 155-millimeter advanced gun systems with ranges beyond 50 nautical miles, and will launch missiles against land targets from an automated “peripheral” vertical launch system.

In early 2009, the Navy, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman agreed that all three Zumwalt destroyers would be built at GD’s Bath, Maine, shipyard. Northrop Grumman’s Pascagoula, Miss., yard became the lead for the restarted Burke program, but would continue to build the composite DDG-1000 deckhouse.

In February 2009, Bath started construction of Zumwalt under a $1.4 billion contract awarded in early 2008. Work on DDG-1001, the USS Michael Monsoor, is scheduled to start this year.


The SM-3 ballistic missile defense weapon now in development will be derived from the design of the SM-2 air-defense missile, shown at right being launched from the Aegis cruiser Princeton (CG-59).
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Also in February, Raytheon Network Centric Systems in McKinney, Texas, delivered for Zumwalt the first production equipment for its cooperative engagement capability (CEC), which processes sensor data from multiple CEC-equipped ships to produce composite target data pictures accessible by a CEC network. The CEC is fielded to Aegis cruisers and destroyers, carriers, big-deck amphibs, and E-2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.

In late November, the Navy awarded a $241 million contract to Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Tewksbury, Mass., which is acting as DDG-1000 systems integrator, to write software that integrates DDG-1000 machinery control and damage control systems. The new programs will provide computer graphics user interfaces and technical data management for the ship’s integrated power and propulsion system that permit interoperability and compliance with the Navy’s Open Architecture initiative.

The machinery control programs also will be integrated with the DDG 1000 total ship computing environment (TSCE), which networks sensor, weapon, and other ship systems.

Earlier in the fall, Raytheon IDS and the Navy completed a critical design review for the X-band/S-band dual-band radar (DBR), which the company provides for DDG-1000 and the new Ford-class aircraft carriers. The review found the DBR, already in production for Zumwalt, is ready for production for the Ford.

The X-band system, designated SPY-3, is a high-frequency (10 gigahertz) radar for horizontal and “on the deck” surface search, periscope detection, and navigation. The lower-frequency (3 GHz) S-band segment, or volume-search radar, developed by Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors (MS2) in Syracuse, N.Y., conducts high-altitude search.

Raytheon and Navy officials say that the DBR will be the primary sensor for both classes, and can be modified for ballistic missile defense.

Raytheon IDS partnered with a small business, KaZak Composites of Woburn, Mass., to introduce for the Zumwalt a ballistic screen fabricated from composite material by means of a company-unique “pultrusion” process. The company says that the process consists of pulling a woven fabric through a heated resin; the resin penetrates the fabric to form the hardened composite. Meanwhile, in December 2009, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding won a fixed-price $171 million contract for long-lead materials for restarting the DDG-51 production line.

Littoral combat ship

The LCS program seeks one ship class capable of conducting anti-surface, anti-submarine, and mine countermeasures with modules customized for each mission that are loaded and offloaded as required. The LCSs will be manned by a crew of 40, with additional personnel to operate the mission modules.

In September 2009, the Navy announced that it would cancel the current LCS solicitation and instead award a fixed-price contract in 2010 to one industry team for an LCS design of as many as 10 ships. The initial award would be for two ships in 2010 with options out to 2014. The winner would provide an LCS combat system for five additional ships. A second competition may build ships beyond 2014.

Navy officials said the decision to drop the previous two-team strategy was based on funding constraints, but that the Navy remains committed to a requirement for 55 LCSs.

The decision prompted a letter in early December from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., home of General Dynamics partner Austal USA, to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, arguing that “the draft request for proposal emphasizes cost as the decisive factor in the design decision, placing technological advancements as secondary criteria. This means that price is more important than quality and that performance is not a critical factor.” 

The 2010 defense appropriations bill requires the Navy to submit monthly reports on LCS construction costs, in part because of the cost overruns for the LCS program that led the Navy to terminate contracts for LCS-3 and -4 two years ago. In December, the Navy announced that the fixed-price contract for LCS-3 awarded to Lockheed Martin MS2 and Marinette Marine Corp. is worth $470.8 million for construction and related costs, but not government-furnished equipment and systems. The General Dynamics-Austal USA contract for the same tasks for LCS-4 is valued at $433.7 million.

The shaky start for LCS led the Program Executive Office for Ships, Rear Adm. Bill Landay to initiate a major reassessment of Navy shipbuilding strategy.

“We didn’t get LCS right up front,” he said last fall. “Getting it right means seeking stable requirements, technology maturity, and a properly staffed PEO.” Technology must provide capabilities needed at acceptable risk levels and reasonable cost, he added.

In November 2009, the Navy commissioned lead ship USS Freedom, built by the Lockheed Martin-Marinette Marine team. Freedom completed at-sea acceptance trials in May 2009 and combat system ship qualification trials in December. Last January, the Navy commissioned USS Independence (LCS-2), built by the General Dynamics-Austal USA team.

In December, Austal USA laid the keel for USS Coronado (LCS-4). Marinette Marine laid the keel for USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) in July. Both Coronado and Fort Worth are scheduled for delivery in 2012.


The Zumwalt (DDG-1000) destroyer program now will end at three ships, but will demonstrate many groundbreaking ship-system technologies.
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The Lockheed Martin-Marinette Marine LCS design is for a high-speed semi-planning monohull 379-feet long that displaces 3,089 tons. The GD-Austal design is a three-hulled trimaran with a stabilized monohull 417-feet long displacing 2,794 tons. Both ships are armed with a Mk110 57-millimeter naval gun system provided by BAE Systems.

Both LCS programs have developed new ship combat management systems. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems is building an LCS Open Computing Infrastructure or “Open CI” that company officials say supports the austere LCS crew by automating many tasks.

GDAIS officials say that Open CI will enable the LCS command center, manned by three crewmen, to integrate navigation and ship control with the functions of a combat information center. Watchstanders will use one workstation to view navigation, ship control, combat systems, power, and propulsion systems data.

The company says that the system is based on work by Digital System Resources, a small Virginia company acquired by GD in 2003, which developed critical middleware for the Navy’s Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (ARCI) initiative that slashed the time necessary to field computing upgrades for attack submarines.

Lockheed Martin says that its LCS combat system, called COMBATSS-21, also fully OA-compliant, is derived from the Aegis combat system and the SQQ-89 surface-ship sonar aboard Aegis ships.

Ship electronics and weapons

Modernization of the Aegis combat system for the Ticonderogas and Burkes, under contract to longtime Aegis prime Lockheed Martin MS2, is based on moving the Aegis programs to new OA-compliant “advanced capability builds” (ACBs).

The initial effort, the cruiser modernization baseline for CG-52 through CG-59, consists of a new ACB-08 computer program and a computer hardware upgrade or technical insertion (TI-08). ACB-08 introduces a range of OA upgrades for processing, displays, and anti-air warfare systems. The Navy certified ACB-08 for fleet deployment in November 2009 after at-sea testing aboard the cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52). Two more CGs–USS Mobile Bay and USS Philippine Sea (CGs 53 and 58) started testing with ACB-08 in November. Lockheed Martin is incorporating for the cruiser program an air tasking attribute correlator developed by Lakota Technical Solutions of Laurel, Md.

The remaining cruisers, CG 60 through 73 and Burke-class destroyers DDGs 51 through 78 will be upgraded through the Aegis modernization baseline with a new ACB-12 Aegis program.

Jim Sheridan, Lockheed Martin’s director for U.S. Navy Aegis programs, says that ACB-12 will introduce still more new capabilities, including naval integrated fire control and counter air (NIFC-CA), the SM-6 extended-range air-defense missile, Common Processing System, and an enhanced ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability, which is enabled by a multimission signal processor (MMSP).

The ACB-12 software and new hardware will extend the BMD capability already fielded aboard 19 U.S. Navy and two Japanese Aegis ships. Lockheed Martin won a $78.6 million Navy contract in early 2009 for new BMD development that will introduce the company’s 4.0.1 BMD equipment suite.

In June 2009, Lockheed Martin installed the 4.0.1 BMD suite, including a BMD signal processor, referred to as BSP, aboard the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70), anticipating Navy certification in 2011. Ships already BMD-capable are being upgraded with a newly certified program, Aegis BMD 3.6.1, which provides the ability to destroy short-range ballistic missiles in terminal approach. ACB-12 is scheduled for testing aboard CG-62 and DDG-53 in 2012. Also in 2012, the BMD 4.0.1 suite, with addition of the MMSP, will be upgraded to BMD 5.0.

Mercury Computer Systems in Chelmsford, Mass., a longtime provider of COTS-based processors for the Aegis program, will deliver to Lockheed Martin its Ensemble 7100 processor for integration with the MMSP. Mercury also is providing its PowerStream 7000 processor for the BSP as an element of the 4.0.1 BMD upgrade.

In October, the Missile Defense Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $1 billion contract for continued work on integrating BMD into the Aegis modernization baseline and to support BMD development for allied navies.

Lockheed Martin is teamed with GoAhead Software Inc., a Seattle-based small business that with several corporate partners founded the Service Availability Forum (SAF), which establishes commercial software standards for commercial companies.

GoAhead provides its Self-Reliant middleware to perform resource management functions for ACB-08 and –12, and has developed a new product, called SAFfire, that will support future ACBs. GoAhead also is supporting Lockheed Martin’s work on the LCS COMBATSS-21 combat system, and with the Royal Australian Navy for installation of the Aegis system aboard the Australian Hobart-class air warfare destroyers.

In January, GoAhead joined the industry team led by Global Technical Systems (GTS) to provide the SAFfire middleware for the Navy’s Common Processing System. The SAFfire, through its dynamic resource management functionality, ensures reliability of critical CPS applications.

Tyson Moler, director of Federal systems for GoAhead, says that the Navy identified SAF standards as a CPS requirement.

GTS won a $95 million Navy contract in March for the CPS development, leading a team that also includes Northrop Grumman Maritime Mission Systems, IBM, and DRS Technologies.

According to GTS, the CPS “provides processing, memory, storage, and input/output to host software applications of Navy combat systems.” The GTS program went through a critical design review in December, and is building CPS first-article test units, which will be housed in a modular advanced COTS enclosure cabinet.

Open Architecture remains the foundation for fleet combat systems modernization. In early January PEO IWS Rear Adm. Terry Benedict said that the Navy achieved its 2008 OA goals, including decoupling combat system hardware from software, separating development of systems from platforms, “componentizing” combat systems architectures, and establishing a common objective architecture for combat systems.

Benedict cited the certification last June of an OA-compliant ship self-defense system (SSDS) upgrade for the carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68), certification of the ACB-08 program aboard Bunker Hill, and the ongoing work on ACB-12.

The Navy will introduce a new ACB every two years and a new technical insertion every four years, he said. ACB-14 will provide OA common components for the MH60R helicopter. PEO IWS expects to multiply the number of OA-compliant components within each ACB through 2022.

The Navy Aegis SM-3 BMD missile, developed by Raytheon Missile Systems and based on the company’s SM-2 missile design, will be fielded in several variants. Launched from the Mk 41 vertical launch system of Aegis CGs and DDGs, the SM-3 is guided to the target and destroys it with a high-energy kinetic warhead.

In June 2009, Raytheon, with the Missile Defense Agency and Japan’s Defense Ministry, completed a joint system design review of the SM-3 Block 2A, the newest SM-3 iteration. Flight testing is scheduled to start in 2012. A month later, the company completed a critical design review of SM-3 Block 1B, aiming at flight testing this year.

The Block 1B adds a throttlable divert and attitude control system and replaces the Block 1A’s single-color seeker with a two-color all-reflective infrared seeker, which the company says will enable longer-range acquisition and more precise threat discrimination. The Block 2A will introduce 21-inch second- and third-stage rocket motors, and a more lethal kinetic warhead.

In August, Raytheon completed airframe and autopilot testing for the SM-6 air-defense missile. The SM-6, Raytheon says, incorporates the advanced signal processing and guidance control of the company’s advanced medium-range air-to-air missile.


The Navy’s Aegis cruisers and destroyers are going through an extensive combat-systems upgrade that will add extensive new capabilities, including ballistic missile defense. Shown here: the cruiser Cowpens (CG-63) and the destroyers Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and Mustin (DDG-89) underway in the Pacific.
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In September, the Navy awarded Raytheon a $93 million contract for low-rate initial production of the SM-6. Also in September, the company won a $151 million contract for 186 upgraded Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles (ESSMs), with an option for 255 more. The ESSM is a primary air-defense weapon for the Aegis ships,

In addition to innovations for combat systems and weapons, the Navy is seeking a new air and missile defense radar (AMDR) for DDG-51s or a Future Surface Combatant. In July, the Navy awarded $10 million contracts to Lockheed Martin MS2, Raytheon IDS, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems–builder of the air-search SPQ-9B radar, an element of the Aegis modernization–for six-month concept studies of an scalable AMDR that integrates X-band and S-band capability for defense against future airborne and ballistic missile threats.

Power and propulsion

The Navy will achieve key gains in ship power and propulsion systems through the introduction for Zumwalt of an electric-drive integrated propulsion system (IPS), a longtime goal for the surface fleet, which is based on one power plant to generate power for propulsion, weapons, and sensors, and ship services.

The IPS uses an electric motor to power the propeller shaft and a zonal power distribution system to transmit power among ship systems. It eliminates the need for large reduction gears and reduces the number of gas turbine or diesel engines required. Because the motor could be linked to the propellers by cabling instead of a lengthy shaft, IPS allows ship designers to rethink hull space allocation.

The Navy initially planned to introduce a high-torque permanent magnet electric motor for the Zumwalt IPS. Due to concerns about technology risk, the program selected instead a more mature advanced induction motor built by Converteam, formerly Alstom.

The full-up IPS design won’t be an option for already-fielded ships, which might receive electric drive through a “hybrid” design that integrates an electric motor with the conventional gas turbine or diesel engine plant. In July 2009, the Navy awarded a contract to a team of General Atomics and DRS Technologies to design a hybrid drive system for the Burke-class destroyers and possibly other vessels.

The system consists of power electronics provided by team lead General Atomics and a DRS permanent magnet motor. The team will deliver the drive system in 2011 to the Navy’s Philadelphia land-based test laboratory for testing. The drive then will go aboard the destroyer USS Truxton (DDG-103) for at-sea tests in 2012.

Glen Sturtevant, director of science and technology for PEO Ships, says that while the Navy continues to focus on integrated electric drive for new ships, the hybrid system will be a power-saving solution for the in-service fleet.

He points out that while the LM2500 gas turbine engines that power the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, Burke-class destroyers, and other ships are built for peak efficiency at top speeds, those ships often operate at lower speeds. By using a fuel-efficient electric motor for low-speed transit, it is possible to shut down one of the gas turbines to achieve considerable fuel savings.

USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the last of the Wasp-class, big-deck amphibs, which was commissioned in October, is built with a hybrid mechanical-electrical power plant. The ship demonstrated the promise of the hybrid design when it saved some $2 million in fuel during transit last summer from Pascagoula, Miss., to San Diego, according to PEO Ships Rear Adm. Landay.

North Atlantic Industries of Bohemia, N.Y., a manufacturer of embedded power system components, provided for Makin Island its NAI 64C1 multifunction card, which performs machinery control through monitoring of input/output signals for hatches, valves, engines, and other functions. The 64C1 also is capable of monitoring I/O signals for power management, navigation, and weapon systems functions.

The Office of Naval Research’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department is sponsoring research supporting the IPS and hybrid systems, including advanced switches and power controllers needed for bi-directional distribution of power that allows storage of excess power in an energy storage module.

ONR also has sponsored development of a high-temperature superconducting motor and collaborated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build a prototype of a solid-state transformer. The motor and the transformer are being tested at the Philadelphia land-based test site.

An important ONR initiative, officials say, is development of a medium-voltage DC distribution system, which would eliminate the need for circuit breakers and transformers.

ONR also sponsors an Electric Ship Research and Development Consortium of seven universities, based at Florida State. The consortium is developing modeling and simulation software that creates physics-based models of a shipboard electrical distribution system and other IPS components.

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February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
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