Next-Gen Naval Gunfire Support: The USA’s AGS & LRLAPNov 20, 2012 13:41 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
It’s easy to forget that the original rationale for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class centered around naval gunfire support for troops ashore, as the ship’s estimated costs have risen and its missions have proliferated. Heavily armored US battleships with massive 16-inch (406 mm) guns once performed extremely well in this role, as their volkswagen-weight shells gave enemies pause. USS Iowa was brought back into service during the Reagan era, but she was decommissioned again in 1990. That left America with a floating museum in Los Angeles, and a gap in its options.
While European manufacturers are fielding guided, long range adaptations of existing 127mm/54 and 76mm shells, the Zumwalt Class will be getting an entirely new Advanced Gun System that fires the same 155mm shells used by field artillery ashore. The goal was to combine the wide range of available 155mm shell options with extra-long range, GPS precision guidance, and rapid fire.
The AGS/LRLAP System
The Zumwalt Class’ 2 AGS gun systems are each expected to fire up to 10 rounds per minute, using an automated magazine. The 304 round magazine has to organize and process ammunition and propellant changes from up to 38 pallets. Each pallet weighs about 6,000-pounds, holding 8 propelling charges, and 8 of the 230-pound, GPS-guided 155mm LRLAP shells. The gun can take and fire up to 10 rounds per minute, which BAE explains as “140 to 160 projectiles in the air at once [with] multiple round simultaneous impact effects against single or multiple targets.” On the other hand, actually doing that would quickly exhaust this ship’s 2 magazines.
The gun will use the AGS Intra-Ship Rearmament System (AIRS) for reloading, providing a safe way of moving AGS pallets between the flight deck and the gun magazine’s pallet hoist, with full performance in conditions up to Sea State 3. Unlike past loading systems, which have relied on hydraulics, AGS is designed to be all-electric.
The AGS ammunition is equivalent to the USMC’s M198 155mm Howitzer in firepower, and its GPS/INS guided Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) is capable of hitting targets accurately up to a distance of 70-100 nautical miles. That’s a major improvement over the current 13 nm range of existing 127mm/5-inch guns. Future LRLAP variants may also incorporate seeker heads, and efforts are underway to achieve as much commonality as possible with U.S. Army 155mm projectiles.
With fully automated magazines and LRLAPs, the AGS is intended to provide the needed accuracy, range, responsiveness, and volume of fire for effective and sustained Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS). Unfortunately, it looks set to be confined to the Zumwalt Class’ 3 ships, as its high electrical power and space requirements (approximately 800 kW per mount) limit the US Navy’s ability to refit it to older designs.
AGS doesn’t have any direct counterparts in other navies yet, but Italy’s OtoMelara has created a rocket boosted, GPS-guided shell system called Vulcano [PDF]. It can be fired from the OtoMelara 127/64 caliber guns that equip a number of existing European ships. Vulcano’s 100 km/ 54 nm range is shorter than AGS. On the other hand, it’s a much cheaper retrofit that doesn’t require a new ship design. OtoMelara and Diehl are currently working on a dual GPS/laser guided shell.
Given the number of Zumwalts projected, and the battlefield’s requirements, there is some question regarding the AGS concept’s adequacy in the Naval Fire Support role. This controversy will not be erased until it is put to the test in combat, but the contra side of the argument may receive its best expression in a JAWS Masters Thesis by Col. Shawn Welch, USARNG: “Joint and Interdependent Requirements: A Case Study in Solving the Naval Surface Fire Support Capabilities Gap” [PDF].
Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP’s U.S. Combat Systems in Minneapolis, MN receives these contracts from US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC.
Feb 22/13: BAE Systems announces a series of successful LRLAP guided flight tests at White Sands Missile Range, NM, using a pre-conditioned tactical rocket motor in hot, ambient, and cold temperatures.
“All test requirements were met or exceeded, and all range, accuracy, and lethality objectives were successfully demonstrated.”
Nov 19/12: 1002. BAE Land and Armaments’ US Combat Systems subsidiary in Minneapolis, MN received a $24 million contract modification, paying additional funds for DDG 1002′s AGS. Total announced AGS contracts for DDG 1002 now total $239.3 million.
Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (37%); Cordova, AL (30%); Minneapolis, MN (28%); and Burlington, VT (5%), and is expected to be complete by January 2018. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C manages the contract (N00024-12-C-5311).
FY 2011 – 2012
March 30/12: GAO report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. Lead ship delivery is expected in July 2014, with the class expected to be ready to deploy by July 2016. Expected cost per ship remains around $3.5 billion, where it has been for some time now. A number of technologies remain delayed, however, even though the Zumwalt Class has spent more than 3.5x its original R&D projections:
“Three of DDG 1000′s 12 critical technologies are currently mature and the integrated deckhouse will be delivered to the first ship for installation in fiscal year 2012. However, the remaining eight technologies will not be demonstrated in a realistic environment until after ship installation…
“According to program officials, [TSCE] software release 5 has been completed and was used in land-based testing in fiscal year 2011. The program has made changes to release 6, and has prioritized the software needed to support shipyard delivery over… activating the mission systems. This functionality was moved out of the releases and will be developed as part of a spiral… the gun system’s long-range land-attack projectile [LRLAP] has encountered delays, primarily due to problems with its rocket motor. The Navy plans to finalize and test the rocket motor design by March 2012… guided flight tests using older rocket motor designs… demonstrated that the projectile can meet its accuracy and range requirements… Shipbuilders have experienced several challenges in constructing the first and second ships, including issues with the manufacture and installation of certain composite materials.”
March 16/12: 1002. BAE’s US Combat Systems division in Minneapolis, MN receives a $14.3 million contract modification for FY 2012 system, specialty, and software engineering services, and “associated other direct costs,” for DDG 1002′s Advanced Gun System (AGS). Logistics support will include activities supporting AGS supportability, technical documentation, and training. This brings announced totals under the Oct 26/11 contract to $139.3 / 168 million.
Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (70%), and Louisville, KY (30%), and is expected to be complete by March 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington D.C, is the contracting activity (N00024-12-C-5311).
Jan 31/12: 1002. BAE Systems in Minneapolis, MN receives a maximum $52 million contract modification, exercising an option for DDG 1002′s Advanced Gun System (AGS). The first 2 sets for DDG 1000 and DDG 1001 were ordered on June 11/07.
Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (37%); Cordova, AL (30%); Minneapolis, MN (28%); and Burlington, VT (5%), and is expected to be complete by January 2018 (N00024-12-C-5311).
Oct 26/11: 1002. An unfinalized $73 million fixed-price incentive-fee firm target contract action for the Advanced Gun System (AGS) for DDG 1002, the last planned Zumwalt Class ship. This contract includes options, which could bring its cumulative value to $168 million.
Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (40%), Minneapolis, MN (30%), and Cordova, AL (30%), and is expected to be complete by January 2018. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-12-C-5311).
July 28/11: AIRS. A $20.9 million modification to previously awarded contract to establish a new cost-plus-incentive-fee CLIN (contract line item number) and buy the 155mm Advanced Gun System’s Intra-Ship Rearmament System (AIRS) for DDG 1000 and DDG 1001. AIRS is part of the ships’ gun reloading system, and provides a safe way of moving AGS pallets between the flight deck and the gun magazine’s pallet hoist, with full performance in conditions up to Sea State 3.
Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (90%), and Louisville, KY (10%), and is expected to be complete by December 2015 (N00024-05-C-5117).
April 11/11: AGS Lite. BAE Systems unveils its AGS – Lite at the US Navy League Sea-Air-Space show. The new design is intended to be ore attractive as a retrofit option for existing ships. It replaces the stealth turret with a simple conventional design, cuts the number of LRLAP rounds in the magazine, and simplifies the feed/eject system. The resulting turret is about half the weight of the original, but still twice the weight of the existing MK45 127mm.
Unanswered: whether its power consumption is also lower. On the other hand, the logical target for AGS – Lite is the forthcoming DDG-51 Flight III ships, which will need higher power output anyway. Aviation Week.
AGS Lite unveiled
FY 2009 – 2010
May 25/10: BAE Systems’ partnership with General Dynamics ATP has delivered the 1st major production component of the 155mm Advanced Gun System to the US Navy. The new automated magazine eliminates the need for sailors to handle ammunition, which is a first for large-caliber guns in the US Navy. BAE Systems.
Dec 22/09: LRLAP. An $185.3 million modification to previously awarded contract for LRLAP system development and demonstration restructure efforts, “in support of the two Advanced Gun Systems for the DDG-1000 class destroyers” (DDG 1000 Zumwalt, and DDG 1001 Michael Monsoor).
Phase 1 of the LRLAP program ran from August 2002 through September 2005. It concluded within budget and on schedule, with the successful flight of LRLAP to a range in excess of 63 nautical miles. The System Development and Demonstration program is Phase 2, which will conclude with a series of 5 LRLAP guided flight gun tests in 2010. BAE Systems says that the LRLAP program remains on budget and on schedule under its current baseline. This contract modification funds Phase 3, involving 49 months of work to complete full qualification of LRLAP by December 2012. In FY 2012, if all goes well, a new contract will fund LRLAP’s Phase 4 Transition To Production.
Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (46.39%); Minneapolis, MN (18.20%); Rocket Center, WVA (11.23%); Plymouth, MN (10.29%); Vergennes, VT (4.23%); San Diego, CA (3.35%); Miamisburg, OH (1.74%); Saint Marks, FL (2.12%); Burlington, VT (1.26%); Cincinnati, OH (1.06%); and Pinellas Park, FL (0.13%). Work is expected to be complete by 2013 (N00024-05-C-5117). See also BAE release.
Nov 5/09: LRLAP. An $11.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5117), exercising an option for continuing design and development of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), which is fired from the ship’s 155mm guns.
Work will be preformed in Orlando, FL (75%), and Minneapolis, MN (25%), and is expected to be complete by September 2010.
Aug 17/09: Gannett’s Navy Times updates the current status of major DDG-1000 sub-systems. It describes AGS and LRLAP as having finished development.
July 2009: Test. The 155mm AGS fires a LRLAP to its threshold range of 63 miles/ 101 km during a White Sands, NM test. DDG-1000 program manager Capt. James Syring is quoted as saying that further tweaking of the rocket motor’s chemistry should push the shell’s range over 70 miles. Gannett’s Navy Times.
July 23/09: LaBarge, Inc. announces a $6.1 million contract from BAE Systems to continue producing electronic assemblies for the Advanced Gun Systems that will be installed on both ordered Zumwalt Class destroyers. The Company expects this latest award will continue production on the AGS program at its Huntsville, Ark., facility through December 2009.
March 11/09: LRLAP. A $23.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5117), in order to continue development of the 155mm Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), which will be fired from the ship class’ Advanced Gun System. Work will be preformed in Orlando, FL (75%) and Minneapolis, MN (25%), and is expected to be completed by September 2010.
See also the May 27/05; April 24/07; June 11/07; and Dec 23/08 LRLAP awards, whose total adds up to $807.4 million.
Dec 23/08: A $23 million modification, exercising an option under a previously awarded contract, for common services related to the Advanced Gun System (AGS).
Work will be performed in Cordova, AL (32%), Minneapolis, MN (25%), Louisville, KY (23%) and Burlington, VT (20%) and is expected to be complete by September 2010 (N00024-05-C-5117).
FY 2005 – 2007
June 11/07: AGS into production. BAE Systems, Armament Systems Division in Minneapolis, MN received a not-to-exceed ceiling $276 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5117), for the design, development and construction of the advanced gun system (AGS) in support of the DDG 1000 Program. The contract also covers guns for the 1st 2 production ships, the future USS Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor. General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems will work with BAE.
Work will be performed in Cordova, AL (32%), Minneapolis, MN (25%), Louisville, KY (23%) and Burlington, VT (20%: GD-ATP), and is expected to be complete by February 2014. See also BAE release.
2-ship production contract
May 15/07: US Joint Forces Staff College JAWS Masters Thesis by Col. Shawn Welch, USARNG, is published: “Joint and Interdependent Requirements: A Case Study in Solving the Naval Surface Fire Support Capabilities Gap” [PDF]. It soon wins National Defense University’s 2007 Award for best thesis.
Col. Welch argues, persuasively, that current capabilities are insufficient, while casting doubt on the DDG-1000 Class as an adequate solution. He also makes a case that faulty assumptions have helped to create this problem, and references the fire support history of American battleships. Includes a number of interesting anecdotes, as well as analysis.
April 24/07: BAE Systems – Armament Systems Division in Minneapolis, MN received a $108.9 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract for completion of design, development and integration of the Advanced Gun System (AGS), in support of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class program. When added to the May 27/05 contract, it amounts to $484.9 million – $604.9 million if the LRLAP development contract is added.
Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (76%); Burlington, VT (19%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009 (N00024-05-C-5117). DID’s full coverage includes Germany’s attempt to field a similar naval capability via its MONARC system.
July 19/05: LRLAP. Lockheed Martin announces a 5-year, $120 million cost-plus-award-fee contract from BAE Systems for further development and test of the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for the Advanced Gun System (AGS). The new contract calls for additional development and tests in 2006-2008 and support to AGS qualification testing in 2009-2010. More than 100 projectiles will be delivered and tested under this contract, and full-rate production is expected to begin in 2011.
May 27/05: AGS RDT&E. BAE acquisition United Defense LP’s Armament Systems Division in Minneapolis, MN receives a not to exceed ceiling $376 million cost-plus-award-fee contract for continuation of design, development and test of the 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS), in support of the DD (X) Destroyer program. The contract includes the fully automated gun, magazine and Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP).
Work on this contract will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (55%) and Orlando, FL (45%), and is expected to be complete by September 2010. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DV (N00024-05-C-5117).
Additional Readings and Sources
- DID FOCUS Article – Dead Aim, or Dead End? The USA’s DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class Program
- BAE Systems – Advanced Gun System. Originally developed by United Defense, before BAE bought them and continued the project.
- BAE Systems – Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP)
- Lockheed Martin – LRLAP
- DID – Adding Arleigh Burkes: H.I.I. is Underway. Looks at plans for the class, including new design “Flight III” ships.
- DID – US Destroyers Get a HED: More Power to Them! Could be critical to solving the DDG-51 Flight III’s power needs.
- US Joint Forces Staff College (May 15/07) – JAWS Masters Thesis by Col. Shawn Welch, USARNG: “Joint and Interdependent Requirements: A Case Study in Solving the Naval Surface Fire Support Capabilities Gap.” “The history of NSFS, current national strategy, joint and service specific doctrine, current and alternative capabilities associated with providing NSFS are evaluated against current attempts to bridge NSFS gaps with naval aviation and missiles alone. This study will demonstrate a credible case for re-examining major caliber guns and the ships that mount them… identifies five  courses of action to meet the NSFS requirements to defeat a future near-peer competitor in the littorals in a timely and affordable manner.”
- M.I.T. Project in Naval Ship Conversion, Spring 2003 – Advanced Gun System (AGS) Backfit DD-988 Naval Gunfire Support Ship Conversion (PDF document). This study proposed turning the Spruance-Class Destroyer USS Thorn into a test bed for the AGS system in order to mitigate risk on the DD (X) project. According to the study, it would also be possible to turn retiring Spruance-class ships into land-attack destroyers by removing the aft 5-inch gun and some of its air defense capabilities.
Other NGS Approaches
- DID – 155mm NGS: Braveheart Goes to Sea? Britain is working on a related but less ambitious project, which is more similar to Germany’s MONARC.
- Defense Update (Sept 28/11) – Oto Melara Introduces a 76mm Version of Vulcano Multi-Mission, Long Range Naval Projectile Technology. An alternative approach that works with existing naval guns. Also available for 127mm/64 caliber [PDF], but the USA is standardizing on 127mm/62 caliber with BAE’s MK45 MOD 4 turret.