By John McHale
PASCAGOULA, Miss. - Commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) electronics are likely to play a large factor in the design of the U.S. Navy's next-generation destroyer, DD-21, which industry experts are calling the first fully automated network-centric ship in the fleet.
Engineers for the DD-21 Gold team - made up of experts from Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., Raytheon Co. in Lexington, Mass., Boeing in Seattle, and about 40 other companies - plan to design one of the largest, self-contained computational systems ever created, claims Jack Cronin, Raytheon engineer and vice president of the DD-21 Gold Team.
U.S. Navy leaders are competing so-called "Gold" and "Blue" teams against one another to find the best DD-21 design. Members of the Blue team are the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Md., Northrop Grumman Corp. in Los Angeles, and Science Applications International Corp. in San Diego.
In April 2001 the Gold or Blue team will win the contract to produce the DD-21 warships, Cronin says. The first ship of the class, which Navy officials say will be especially suited to attacking land targets with a vast array of missiles and guns, is to be deployed in 2010 with a 35-year service life.
Raytheon and Boeing are qualified for the design through their unique expertise in building large distributed networks, air traffic control systems, and related U.S. Army and Navy applications, Cronin claims.
Cronin declined to comment on specific electronics to be used because his team is still competing. Commercial technology, however, will be an important consideration in the team's efforts to deploy 2010-vintage state-of-the-art electronics when the first ship goes to sea. Designers will blend new and old software and hardware in the DD-21 electronics, he adds.
DD-21 will be an automated network-centric ship with an open-system computing architecture throughout the vessel, Cronin explains. The DD-21-class destroyer will also operate together with ground and air forces, he adds.
However working at the edge of the state-of the art will also create challenges for dealing with obsolescence, Cronin says.
Gold Team officials plan to manage the life cycles of different technologies through technology insertion and other methods, says Bat Robinson, Litton Ingalls engineer and vice president of the DD-21 Gold Team.
Earlier this year the Gold team participated in the Navy's weapons effect tests, which evaluated damage on several sample and prototype structure components, pieces of COTS equipment, and arrays of special-purpose sensors.
Test engineers from the Gold team will use the data to improve remote sensing and automated damage control, find the best crew size, improve quality of life for crew members, harden systems and equipment, and design the most efficient ship compartments, DD-21 officials say. The experiments will also provide qualitative data to potential commercial equipment vendors.
DD-21 is to be the first class of the U.S. Navy's surface combatants for the 21st century. The class will consist of 32 ships and enter the fleet as today's Spruance-class destroyers (DD-963) and Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (FFG-7) retire. A next-generation cruiser, CG- 21, will follow DD-21 as the air-dominance cruiser replacement for Ticonderoga-class cruisers (CG-47).
DD-21 is focused on land-attack, anti-air, anti-ship, and anti-submarine warfare, as well as on ship survivability and joint interoperability. The program will use automation to increase effectiveness, reduce crew size, and cut operating and maintenance costs, Navy officials say.
One of the vessel's primary missions is to protect troops ashore. To do this, the ship will have the high-volume, rapid-fire advanced gun system using 100-mile global positioning system guided munitions, Navy officials say. Included will be a large arsenal of precision-guided ballistic and cruise missiles to reach inland as far as 1,600 miles.
The DD-21 will take advantage of sensor fusion by employing off-board sensors for accurate 3-D pictures of radar and sonar images on land and undersea, Cronin explains. Intelligent networks will enable the ship's commander to use data efficiently and in real-time, he adds.
The ship will have a stealthy hull and topside design, which will make it difficult to detect or sink, and will protect itself from enemy aircraft, missiles, ships, submarines, torpedoes, and mines - using active and passive self-defense systems. Navy officials plan for the ship to automatically recover all ship systems and protect the crew if it sustains battle damage.
DD-21's electric drive is the key power source for the whole ship, Robinson says. The drive will use low-maintenance engines connected to generators providing electric power to motors connected by short drive shafts to the propellers. These same generators will supply the rest of the ship with electricity.
The electric drive enables reroute of ship's power and reconfiguring of ship systems to improve survivability, handle damage, and continue uninterrupted operations while freeing up space to accommodate crew needs, Navy officials say.
Automated tools will reduce workload and maintenance by humans throughout the ship, he adds.