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Navy ship systems work moves forward in tough times

Congressional experts predict the U.S. Navy's fleet of ships will drop to near 300 over the next several decades, yet new electronics and electro-optical systems and technology upgrades promise shipboard electronics capability like never seen before.

BY Edward J. Walsh

The U.S. Navy is braced for severe budget cuts for shipbuilding and other systems acquisition and technology development this year, such that the Navy will not be able to achieve its hoped-for fleet strength of 310 to 316 ships over the next 30 years.

Even before the threat of deeper cuts, the Navy expected to face further constraints for critical shipbuilding, systems acquisition, and science and technology development programs.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis released last December pointed out that the Navy's 2013 to 2017 five-year shipbuilding plan contains 41 ships, compared to 55 ships in the 2012 five-year plan covering 2012 through 2016, and the 57 ships that had been planned previously for 2011 to 2015.

The ships dropped or delayed from the plan include eight joint high-speed vessels (JHSVs), one TAGOS surveillance ship, one Virginia-class (SSN-774) attack submarine, two littoral combat ships (LCS), one LSD(X) amphibious assault ship, and three fleet replenishment oilers.

Virginia-class attack submarines will benefit from the acoustic rapid COTS insertion of new processing technologies. Shown here, USS Virginia tied up at the Groton, Conn., sub base.
Virginia-class attack submarines will benefit from the acoustic rapid COTS insertion of new processing technologies. Shown here, USS Virginia tied up at the Groton, Conn., sub base.

The Navy also proposed retiring seven Ticonderoga- class Aegis guided-missile cruisers-four this year and three in 2014. When the House Armed Services Committee objected and the House and Senate appropriations committees funded the ships for 2013, the Navy reversed course on the 2013 decommissionings.

The CRS also says that the Navy's 2013 30-year shipbuilding plan would cost about 19 percent more than the Navy's own estimates: 11 percent higher the first 10 years, 13 percent higher for the second 10 years, and 33 percent more than the Navy's projection for the final 10 years.

The Navy also is worried about long-term shipbuilding trends. Speaking to Navy and industry officials in January, Rear Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, director of the Surface Warfare Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), said the Navy is "going in the wrong direction-costs are going up and numbers are going down," despite a current robust shipbuilding program.

The cost of combat systems has become a major driver in the cost of new ships, and upgrades to combat systems are a major factor in determining whether ships will fulfill their planned service lives, he says.

Rowden added that the Navy must "decouple the cost of the combat system from the hull, and focus on cost and schedule as key performance parameters in order to deliver capable and affordable ships."


Still, major ship programs moved forward in 2012, with a few new surface combatants joining the fleet. The Navy is building two littoral combat ship classes: Freedom (LCS-1), a conventional 3,200-ton monohull, and the 2,800-ton Independence (LCS-2) class designed with a trimarin hull.

Last September, the Navy commissioned the third LCS, Fort Worth (LCS-3). The second of the Freedom class was built in Marinette, Wis., by shipbuilder Marinette Marine with the Lockheed Martin Corp. Mission Systems and Training (MS2) segment in Moorestown, N.J., as systems integrator.

Two more Freedom-class ships, Milwaukee and Detroit (LCS-5 and -7) are under construction. In March, the Navy awarded the team a $715 million modification to its LCS contract for construction of Little Rock and Sioux City (LCS-9 and -11).

Austal USA, the shipbuilder for the Independence-class LCS team led by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (GDAIS), laid the keel for Jackson (LCS-6) at its Mobile, Ala., yard and completed light-off for the combat system and main engine for Coronado (LCS-4). The team also is building Montgomery (LCS-8), Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), and Omaha (LCS-12).

The LCS teams each are working on contracts to build 10 ships. The LCSs will accommodate separate surface, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare mission packages, which are brought aboard as needed based on missions assigned.

Freedom and Independence already are operating with the fleet. In June, Freedom completed first-stage testing of its surface warfare package, including the Mk 46 gun system, 11-meter rigid inflatable boat, and MH-60R helicopter. Freedom is set for deployment to Singapore in March.

Newer Ticonderoga-class cruisers are expected to be upgraded with the baseline 9 combat system program. Shown here, Vella Gulf (CG-72) underway during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Newer Ticonderoga-class cruisers are expected to be upgraded with the baseline 9 combat system program. Shown here, Vella Gulf (CG-72) underway during Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Navy's plan is to build 55 LCSs, but the program has been controversial. In April, the non-profit Project on Government Oversight charged that the Navy had not fully reported design and performance problems with the Freedom class and that the mission packages were experiencing delays. The Navy responded that the problems had been reported promptly and addressed, noting that Freedom "has traveled more than 65,000 nautical miles…and continues to meet our expectations."

The Navy added that development and integration of the mission packages with the seaframes has been a considerable challenge, acknowledging that systems originally selected for all three packages have been replaced.

Northrop Grumman Maritime and Tactical Systems in Bethpage, N.Y., as prime contractor for the mission packages, is overseeing development of them independent of the seaframe construction. In Sept. 2012, the Navy awarded the company an $18 million contract modification to an earlier contract for engineering and production planning for the LCS mission packages.

Austal also is teamed with GDAIS to build nine 308-foot-long joint high-speed vessels (JHSVs), which will transport personnel, vehicles, and equipment at high speeds within combat theaters and to support humanitarian operations. In October, Austal launched Choctaw County (JHSV-2), and in December, the team delivered the first ship, Spearhead (JHSV-1) to the Navy.

In other shipbuilding developments, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, in December installed and integrated the deckhouse of the new land-attack destroyer Zumwalt (DDG-1000) with the ship's hull. The 1,000-ton, 155-foot-long deckhouse was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries at its Gulfport, Miss., yard.

The 15,000-ton Zumwalt, first of a class of three, is set for launch this year and delivery to the Navy in 2014. Construction of Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) is underway with delivery planned for 2016. The third ship, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), will deliver in 2018.

In November, BAE Systems won a $24 million modification to an earlier contract for the 155-millimeter Advanced Gun System (AGS) for DDG-1002. The Zumwalts will be armed with two AGSs, which fire a GPS-guided, long-range land-attack projectile in support of units ashore.

Also in December, the Navy took delivery of Arlington (LPD-24), the eighth San Antonio-class amphibious assault ship, following acceptance of Anchorage (LPD-23) in November. Currently 11 San Antonios are planned to replace 41 older amphibs. Arlington, like New York (LPD-21) and Somerset (LPD-25), is named in honor of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

John P. Murtha (LPD-26) is under construction by Huntington Ingalls, which in August started fabrication for LPD-27. In June, the company launched America (LHA-6), the first of a new class of helicopter assault ships, which will replace the retiring Tarawa class.

The America class will be powered by the hybrid gas turbine/diesel and electric drive propulsion system and use the zonal power distribution system introduced aboard Makin Island (LHD-8), the last of the Wasp class of big-deck amphibs. Huntington also in June won a $2.3 billion contract for detail design and construction for Tripoli (LHA-7) with delivery set for 2018.

OPNAV is conducting an analysis of alternatives for a new amphib, now called LX, that will replace the Whidbey Island (LSD-41) and Harper's Ferry (LSD-49) class amphibs.

In November, the Navy launched USNS Montford Point (MLP-1) at General Dynamics NASSCO yard in San Diego. The vessel is the first of a new class of mobile landing platforms, which will act as floating ports.

The MLPs will provide some 25,000 square feet of stowage and will transfer personnel, vehicles, and equipment from maritime prepositioning ships and other transport ships to ship-to-shore connector craft. NASSCO will build two more, John Glenn (T-MLP-2) and Louis B. Puller (T-MLP-3).

In a major shipbuilding development, in May, the Navy took delivery of Michael Murphy (DDG-112), the last Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to be built before the restart of the Burke class with John Finn (DDG-113), now under construction. The restart program will build the class out to at least DDG-125 in a dramatically redesigned Flight III configuration.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Laboon (DDG-58) and Forest Sherman (DDG-98) escort a Military Sealift ship in the Mediterranean. The Burkes are being fitted with new air and ballistic missile defense capabilities through Aegis combat system enhancements.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Laboon (DDG-58) and Forest Sherman (DDG-98) escort a Military Sealift ship in the Mediterranean. The Burkes are being fitted with new air and ballistic missile defense capabilities through Aegis combat system enhancements.

Systems development, systems integration

The Navy achieved important progress in several major ship-systems integration efforts, and pushed forward on its centerpiece goal of modernizing the surface combatant force to offset smaller numbers.

The highest-profile effort is a huge modernization program for Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Burkes, especially for the ships' Aegis combat system and the weapons and sensors integrated with it.

Jim Sheridan, director of Navy Aegis programs for Lockheed Martin MS2, longtime prime for Aegis, says that the company has completed installation of a "baseline 8" combat system (formerly called advanced capability build or ACB-08 for its first year of fielding) for seven cruisers, CGs-52 through -58.

Aegis, originally the name for the shield of the Greek god Zeus, is an integrated naval weapons system from Lockheed Martin that uses powerful computers and radars to track and guide weapons to destroy enemy targets.

The new baseline modifies the ships' Mk 41 vertical launch system for launching the Raytheon-built evolved Seasparrow air-defense missile, and adds the SPQ-9B air-search radar; upgraded Mk 15 Phalanx block 1B terminal defense gun and, among others, the cooperative engagement capability (CEC), a networked sensor system that enables the ship's weapons to engage targets detected by other ships and aircraft linked in a CEC network.

Lockheed Martin also finished installing a new baseline 9A (formerly ACB-12) aboard the cruiser Chancellorsville (CG-62) and neared completion of the installation of baseline 9C on the destroyer John Paul Jones (DDG-53) in late 2012.

Baseline 9A primarily provides anti-air warfare upgrades for the cruisers. Baseline 9C, for the DDGs, is a decisive combat system enhancement for ballistic missile defense and integrated air-missile defense (IAMD) through new open-architecture software, a new BMD 5.0 program, and multi-mission signal processor (MMSP), as well as new display and processing upgrades for the Aegis SPY-1D(v) radar. Baseline 9 integrates the RIM-174 SM-6 air-defense missile, which is built by Raytheon Missile Systems and fitted with an active seeker for extended range.

OPNAV's Admiral Rowden says that when the baseline 9C upgrade is complete, "John Paul Jones will be the most capable warship on the planet."

Industry and Navy officials say that a critical component of IAMD is the naval integrated fire-control counter-air (NIFC-CA) capability. The NIFC-CA integrates CEC with remote sensors, including the E-2D advanced Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and the Army's joint land-attack cruise missile defense elevated netted sensor system (JLENS), a long-range surveillance aerostat.

In September, the Navy and Army demonstrated NIFC-CA at the White Sands, N.M., Missile Range. The Aegis baseline 9 program used data from a JLENS, processed through CEC, to launch an SM-6 to destroy a cruise missile target in flight.

In October, longtime CEC prime Raytheon Integrated Network Centric Systems won a $20 million contract for 2012-2013 CEC production, following September awards for CEC engineering support.

The Navy eventually will install baseline 9C on all the destroyers up to DDG-112. Baseline 9D, which will go aboard John Finn, will adopt baseline 9C and add new radar advances. Lockheed Martin's Sheridan says that Finn will be the first ship designed "from the keel up" to be BMD-capable. Keel-laying for Finn is set for July.

The Flight III ships will add a common display system, built by DRS Technologies, which also will go aboard the Zumwalt-class submarines and aircraft. Other Flight III upgrades include an integrated bridge system for bridge and navigation control, machinery control system, and digital video surveillance system that uses 22 cameras for operator situational awareness.

Wasp-class amphibs will get the Mk 2 Ship Self-Defense System during a planned mid-life upgrade. Here, Iwo Jim (LHD-7) transits the Suez Canal.
Wasp-class amphibs will get the Mk 2 Ship Self-Defense System during a planned mid-life upgrade. Here, Iwo Jim (LHD-7) transits the Suez Canal.

The Flight III combat system will go through additional upgrades with ACBs-14, -16, and future iterations. The Navy is expected by March to award a contract for a new systems integrator for the ACB-16.

Baseline changes are made easier because the combat system programs are maintained in a common source library (CSL) that Navy officials say enables developers to "build once and apply to many baselines." Capabilities are selected from the CSL based on commonality, both for system modernizations and new-ship construction, maximizing interoperability and minimizing or eliminating the need for development of new program code.

Navy and industry officials say though that the Aegis SPY-1D(v) radar limits future growth. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman are awaiting a Navy decision on a contract for development of a new S-band air-missile defense radar (AMDR). The three companies, after two-year AMDR studies, submitted proposals and are awaiting the selection. The AMDR is planned for first fielding aboard DDG-123.

BMD capability is a frontline initiative for Aegis. Lockheed Martin now is developing a baseline 9E for the Aegis Ashore system that will be deployed in Rumania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018.

In March, the Navy certified an Aegis BMD program, designated BMD 4.0.1, for the baseline 8 cruisers. The program introduces a BMD signal processor that will support the launch of the SM-3 missile.

In mid-May, the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency used BMD 4.0.1 aboard the cruiser Lake Erie (CG-70) to track and intercept a ballistic missile target. A month later, Lake Erie conducted a successful intercept of a separating ballistic missile target with an SM-3 block 1B missile.

Also in May, Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control segment in Orlando, Fla., started a series of airborne captive-carry tests for the sensor suite of a long-range anti-ship missile (LRASM) for the Ticos and Burkes. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research are managing the LRASM effort. The project is developing a low-signature subsonic missile, fitted with a GPS RF sensor and electro-optical seeker, which will use the airframe for the Air Force's joint air-to-surface standoff missile-extended range.

In early June, the Navy awarded Raytheon Missile Systems a $338 million contract for production of Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles. The ship- and submarine-launched Block IV succeeds two earlier Tomahawk variants, with all three now aboard some 140 U.S. Navy ships and attack submarines and the U.K. Royal Navy's Astute- and Trafalgar-class submarines. In March 2011, the destroyer Barry (DDG-52) launched the 2,000th Tomahawk during Operation Odyssey Dawn in support of the U.N. campaign in Libya.

Raytheon also has discussed with the Navy the development of a new semi-autonomous offensive anti-surface weapon or multi-mission Tomahawk for use against surface targets. The new variant, planned for the 2015 timeframe, would use Tomahawk subsystems and add a new moving target seeker and an upgraded datalink for detection, discrimination, and terminal guidance.

Raytheon continued work on its longtime ship-launched missile and ship-defense programs. The company won a $140 million contract for engineering support for the Evolved Seasparrow block II missile in December and, over recent months, awards for production and spares of SM-2, SM-6 Block I low-rate initial production, SM-3 all-up rounds, and the rolling airframe missile and SeaRAM system for terminal ship defense.

In related combat systems activity, in October, the Navy released a draft request for proposals for further upgrades to the Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS), which, like Aegis for the Ticos and Burkes, integrates sensors, weapons, and combat system processors. Although Raytheon has built SSDS since 1997 in a Mk 1 version for the Whidbey Island and Harpers Ferry-class LSDs and Mk 2 for Nimitz-class carriers and large amphibs, the RFP is open to all competitors, with the final RPF to be released in March.

SSDS is the first shipboard combat system to comply fully with the Navy's Open Architecture initiative through use of its Open Architecture Computing Environment or OACE. Eventually, Raytheon says, the Mk 1 architecture will be converted to the Mk 2 configuration, resulting in a single-source SSDS baseline. The Navy also will install SSDS Mk 2 aboard the Wasp (LHD-1) amphibs during a planned mid-life upgrade.

As systems integrator for the San Antonio-class LPDs, Raytheon builds for those ships an integrated electronic systems control network, called the shipwide area network (SWAN). The system was problematic aboard the first several LPDs, but Navy officials say that additional testing has resolved the shortcomings. Raytheon replaced an early-generation gigabit Ethernet design with a gigabit Ethernet token-ring network. The Navy now plans to augment SWAN with the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).

In February, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $37 million contract for production of the CANES system, which the company says will provide a common computing environment for dozens of surface ship, submarine, and shore-based command, control, intelligence, and logistics applications. The overall goal, says Maj. General Tom Hanifen, OPNAV's director of Expeditionary Warfare, is to "go from fleet-unique to fleet-standard."

Major Navy contractors also worked together. In Jan. 2012, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin formed a team to capture a Navy award for the newest generation-Block 3-of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, or SEWIP, a series of improvements to the Raytheon-built shipboard SLQ-32(v) electronic warfare system, which is aboard nearly every surface ship. The multiple SEWIP variants will provide more effective capability for actively and passively countering hostile electronic signals.

GDAIS built several Block 1 versions, but Lockheed Martin won the Block 2 program in late 2009. The Lockheed Martin-Raytheon team demonstrated the Block 3 SEWIP last year during the RIMPAC naval exercise in the Pacific.

The Navy plans to build 55 littoral combat ships of the Freedom (LCS-1) and Indepen-dence (LCS-2) classes. Shown here, the trimarin Independence (foreground) and monohull Freedom underway off California.
The Navy plans to build 55 littoral combat ships of the Freedom (LCS-1) and Indepen-dence (LCS-2) classes. Shown here, the trimarin Independence (foreground) and monohull Freedom underway off California.

Subs, sub systems

The Navy in late December awarded a five-year contract valued at nearly $2 billion to General Dynamics Electric Boat for research and development on a new submarine class to replace the 14 Ohio-class ballistic-missile subs with 12 new ones. The first five of the original Ohio class have been converted to guided-missile submarines (SSGNs) for conventional land attack and insertion of special operations units. Construction of the first Ohio replacement SSBN is scheduled to start in 2021 for delivery in 2027; it will be the first of a class that is projected to serve until 2083.

Also in December, General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls won contracts worth $2.5 billion for construction of two Virginia-class (SSN-774) attack submarines, under a multi-year arrangement set by Congress in 2008 that stipulates construction of two SSNs per year.

In the past year, the Navy continued to push efforts to contain costs of submarine systems through its acoustic rapid commercial off-the-shelf insertion (ARCI), with a series of awards to Lockheed Martin MS2 for development and production of common acoustics technologies for upgrades to the Virginia-class sonars and sonar processing suite.

GDAIS won a $28 million award in December for engineering and production of multiple upgrades of a submarine multipurpose processor and total ship monitoring system, to be integrated with the ARCI processing architecture. The company also won contracts in June and July for technology migration and technical support for the BYG-1 submarine tactical control system for U.S. Navy and Royal Australian submarines.

Lockheed Martin is teamed with L-3 KEO for the non-penetrating "photonic mast" periscopes for the Los Angeles-, Seawolf-, and Virginia-class SSNs and the Ohio-class SSGNS.

The masts are imaging systems that provide visual data and digital imaging capabilities. L-3 KEO is the former Kollmorgen Electro-Optical of Northampton, Mass., which L-3 acquired in March of last year.

The Navy awarded L-3 KEO an $11 million award for mast systems for SSNs-788 last March, and the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin $7.5 million for two systems in July. The photonic mast is integrated with the universal modular mast, which also incorporates four other mast-mounted sensors.

The Navy continues to field the Block IV Tomahawk land-attack missile while looking at potential upgrades. Here, the Burke-class destroyer Sterett (DDG-104) launches a Tomahawk from its Mk 41 vertical launch system during an exercise in California.
The Navy continues to field the Block IV Tomahawk land-attack missile while looking at potential upgrades. Here, the Burke-class destroyer Sterett (DDG-104) launches a Tomahawk from its Mk 41 vertical launch system during an exercise in California.

Research and development

The Navy continued extensive R&D for surface and undersea warfare, exploring the integration of weapon, sensor, and command and control technologies and on finding affordable ways of outfitting future platforms.

In a high-profile surface warfare project, the Office of Naval Research is evaluating two electromagnetic railgun prototypes, one developed by an industry team led by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems and the second by BAE Systems. The prototypes are capable of generating 32 megajoules (one megajoule is the power to propel a one-ton object at 100 mph). The BAE prototype was test-fired at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren, Va., lab last February and the General Atomics "Advanced Containment Launcher" was fired at Dahlgren in October.

The railgun uses a magnetic field generated by extremely high-powered electrical current to accelerate an armature between two rails to launch a projectile at velocities in the range of 5,600 mph. The teams now are developing thermal management systems and automated loading systems.

Under a January 2012 award, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems is developing a design for a pulse-forming network to generate railgun power.

ONR and industry have collaborated on new mechanical, and electrical systems that, beginning with the Zumwalt-class DDGs, will support "electric drive" propulsion and shipboard power.

All-electric drive designs use electric motors and advanced distribution systems to deliver order-of-magnitude increases in power and lower fuel costs.

NSWC's Carderock Division demonstrated the integration of motor and power control technologies developed by Rolls Royce, GE Marine, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, at its Philadelphia land-based test site in mid-2012 in a three-year effort, aimed at installation aboard Zumwalt next year. The power architecture will be built around advanced induction motors and electronics provided by Converteam.

Multiple other initiatives are underway. For example, Rockwell Automation is working, under a $21 million award from the Carderock lab, to provide and support programmable logic controller hardware and software for shipboard machinery control systems.

In submarine systems, Penn State University won a Sept. 2012 contract potentially worth up to more than $850 million over five years for R&D, engineering, and testing of guidance, navigation, and control of undersea systems, thermal propulsion concepts, advanced propulsors, and related technologies.

In June, the Navy awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat an $11 million modification to an earlier contract for further research on advanced submarine technologies, across such areas as manufacturability, reliability, manning, machinery, hydrodynamics, and acoustics, as well as human factors, weight margins, and affordability.

EDWARD J. WALSH is the Naval Systems columnist for U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. A former Marine Corps communications-electronics officer and veteran defense journalist, he is the former senior editor for Sea Power magazine, where he reported on Navy weapon system and technology development, and is the founding editor and publisher of Naval Systems Update, a semi-monthly publication that covers Navy systems integration and program news.

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