Latest updates[?]: Austal USA won a $11.4 million contract modification to exercise an option for littoral combat ship (LCS) industrial post-delivery availability support for USS Augusta (LCS 34). The LCS main purpose is to take up operations such as patrolling, port visits, anti-piracy, and partnership-building exercises to free up high-end surface combatants for increased combat availability. Work will take place in Alabama and Massachusetts. Expected completion will be by September 2023.
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)
Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon Technologies won $447.6 million modification, which provides for the procurement of recurring sustainment support activities including maintenance of support equipment, common program activities, unique and common base recurring sustainment, repair of repairables, field service representatives, common replenishment spares, conventional take-off and landing/carrier variant F-135 unique maintenance services, and short take-off and landing F-135 unique services in support of the F-35 Lightning II F135 propulsion system for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Air National Guard, non-Department of Defense (DOD) participants, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. Estimated completion date is in May 2022.
F135 Engine Test
Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney have successfully performed the first start of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft test engine, using an integrated power package (IPP) that the functions traditionally performed by the auxiliary power system, emergency power system, and environmental control into a single system. The system was used to start a Pratt & Whitney F135 short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) engine at the company’s advanced test facility in West Palm Beach, FL. The IPP is a subsystem of the F-35 Power and Thermal Management System (PTMS).
The JSF program has targeted the successful IPP engine start as a major milestone since the beginning of the System Development and Demonstration phase of the program in 2001. The achievement paves the way for additional development testing in preparation for the F-35’s first flight in 2006, and comes about a month after the Pratt & Whitney F135 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) program successfully completed the post test Critical Design Review (CDR) by the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Joint Program Office (JPO). The JPO review found that the F135 propulsion system has met all review objectives and is on track to deliver the first flight test engine later this year.
Latest updates[?]: The UK Royal Marines are currently embarking their new Commando Merlin HC4 helicopters on HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the carrier’s four-month ‘Westlant 18’ deployment. In the upcoming months the helicopters will be provide a SAR capability in support of F-35B trials. The UK is currently in the process of upgrading a total of 55 helicopters at cost of $3 billion. Of which, 25 AW101s are refurbished to the Merlin HC4 configuration, which includes cockpit modernizations and minor redesigns, plus standard naval changes like a folding rotor head, strengthened landing gear, deck lashing points, and a fast roping point for the Royal Marines.
Merlin & HMS Sutherland
As part of Britain’s fiscal rebalancing, The Royal Navy is set to inherent the RAF’s Merlin HC3/3A medium-heavy battlefield helicopter fleet, while simultaneously upgrading its existing set of Merlin HM Mk1s. The entire effort approaches $3 billion for a final total of 55 refurbished helicopters, and these refurbishments will be carried out as part of the AW101 fleet’s long-term maintenance plan.
The navy’s existing fleet is being progressively upgraded and returned to service, adding a range of technological improvements to the helicopter’s avionics, control systems, sensors, and radar. The Royal Navy received 44 EH101 Merlin HM1s between 1998-2002 for training, surface attack and anti-submarine warfare duties, and has since lost 2 in accidents. The remaining 42 helicopters are now expected to remain in service until 2029, though only 30-38 will be upgraded. Another 28 EH101 Merlin HC3/ HC3A medium support helicopters currently serve with the UK Royal Air Force, and they will join the Navy to succeed the Sea King Mk.4 Commandos as the Royal Marines’ battlefield helicopters.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin has secured legal permission to explore the potential use of exoskeleton technology for the military market. The firm secured licensing of bionic augmentation technology from B-Temia and will incorporate it to supplement its FORTIS industrial exoskeleton project. Designed to make labor easier by transferring pressure through the exoskeleton to the ground in a process that makes heavy tools "weightless," the system requires no external power to operate, and can boost military capabilities by enabling soldiers to carry more equipment over longer distances. The product can be used in standing or kneeling positions, and uses a tool arm to reduce muscle fatigue and boost productivity.
Most military programs don’t coordinate news releases with major motion pictures. With Iron Man in theaters and getting reviews that may get DID’s staff to go see it, Raytheon is taking the time to promote its US Army-funded exoskeleton suit. Originally funded under a 7-year, $75 million DARPA program, the suite has now gone on to the next stage under a 2-year, $10 million follow-on Army grant:
The problem they’re trying to address is no stunt. The weight of a soldier’s equipment easily approaches 80-100 pounds, far higher than the 30 pounds recommended for maximum mobility. As we load our soldiers down with more technical gadgets, that weight tends to go up, not down. The USA and Japan are only a couple of the countries working on aspects of a mechanical exoskeleton that would give its wearers vastly improved strength and endurance. While Japanese demographic and cultural trends in particular are giving concepts like individual soldier augmentation a push, we can still expect a very long wait before we see exoskeletons that can deliver the required performance to justify their cost, can handle military conditions, and can be maintained in the field at reasonable cost. It’s far more likely that first fielding, if there is one, will involve more limited use by disabled soldiers, or be used like Cyberdyne Japan’s HAL-5 in private, para-public, and first responder roles. Raytheon release | Raytheon feature | Popular Science [PDF].
April 13/17: Lockheed Martin has secured legal permission to explore the potential use of exoskeleton technology for the military market. The firm secured licensing of bionic augmentation technology from B-Temia and will incorporate it to supplement its FORTIS industrial exoskeleton project. Designed to make labor easier by transferring pressure through the exoskeleton to the ground in a process that makes heavy tools “weightless,” the system requires no external power to operate, and can boost military capabilities by enabling soldiers to carry more equipment over longer distances. The product can be used in standing or kneeling positions, and uses a tool arm to reduce muscle fatigue and boost productivity.
It’s time to modernize New Zealand’s only serious combat ships. New Zealand bought 2 ANZAC frigates in the 1990s, as a cooperative venture with Australia using the MEKO 100 German design. F77 Te Kaha was commissioned in 1996, and F111 Te Mana was commissioned in 1997. At the time, the ships were adequate low-end frigates, but 20 years later, they’re simply obsolete. New Zealand has long realized that changes were required, and has been planning and funding a whole series of changes since 2006.
USS Makin Island [LHD-8] was built in Pascagoula, MS, as the last ship of America’s Wasp Class amphibious assault carriers. The keel was laid in February 2004, but all of the changes from the LHD-1 Wasp Class meant that about 67% of the previous line drawings, and 75% of the test procedures, needed to be modified for Makin Island. Then Hurricane Katrina hit the in-progress ship. The labor pool also took a hit, with up to 1/3 of the Gulf Coast personnel leaving the area and the company. The pool of electrical professionals was especially hard hit, and 55-60% of the LHD 8’s final labor force was under the 4-5 year threshold to be considered experienced workers.
Even so, Katrina hit back in August 2005. Which is why Northrop Grumman was surprised at the slowness of its integration and testing progress during final construction in 2008, as part of the ship’s preparation for sea trials. That led to a comprehensive review and audit – and a bill of $320-360 million to fix the ship, which was footed by Northrop Grumman:
Submarines travel underwater, but they all need oxygen. Diesel-electric submarines need it for their engines, and must surface to get it, though modern AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) systems allow moderate power cruising for weeks at a time without surfacing. Nuclear-powered submarines can cruise at full power for years, of course, as their engines do not need air. Their crews, however, do. Hence Electrolytic Oxygen Generators (EOGs), which break up water molecules and keep the oxygen for use aboard ship.
Treadwell Corp’s Model 6L16 EOG was first introduced in 1965…
New Finmeccanica acquisition DRS EW & Network Systems, Inc. in Buffalo, NY received a $6.9 million fixed-price, time and materials contract for a Gigabit Ethernet Data Multiplex System (GEDMS) for DDG 53, a Flight 1 Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS destroyer commonly known as USS John Paul Jones. Some may remember the ship’s namesake as the Scot who became the father of the American navy, and uttered the famous battle phrase “I have not yet begun to fight!”
The GEDMS is a network for Arleigh Burke Class destroyers that acts as a ship wide data transfer network for a ship’s machinery, steering, navigation, combat, alarm and indicating, and damage control systems. It was designed to replace the miles of point-to-point cabling, signal converters, junction boxes, and switchboards associated with conventional ship’s cabling. DRS will also provide a land-based GEDMS trainer, EDMS hardware, and installation and checkout repair for the DDG53 GEDMS, and the contract includes an option which would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $7 million.
USS John Paul Jones
Work will be performed in Johnstown, PA (80%) and Buffalo, NY (20%), and is expected to be complete by December 2009. This contract was procured on a limited competition basis, with 2 proposals solicited and 2 offers received via the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (N00178-08-C-2001).
At present, F-35 Lightning II/ Joint Strike Fighter production is led by Lockheed Martin, with BAE and Northrop-Grumman playing major supporting roles, and many subcontractors below them. F-35 main production and final assembly is currently slated to take place in Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, TX plant, though Italy and Britain may end up getting Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) plants of their own.
In order to cut F-35 production cycle time, and hence production costs, the team currently produces major sections of the aircraft at different feeder plants, and “mates” the assemblies at Fort Worth. This is normal in the auto industry, but it’s a departure from the usual fighter-building process which has raw materials and individual parts or small sub-assemblies feed into production lines, then rolls finished fighters out the other end. The precise tolerances required for a stealthy fighter, however, are much more exacting than even high-end autos. To cope, Manufacturing Business Technology reports that the team has turned to an integrated array of back-end IT systems in order to manage this new process, from CATIA CAD, to Visiprise MES, TeamCenter PLM, SAP ERP, and even a locally-designed Production & Inventory Optimization System (PIOS) for manufacturing resources planning and supply chain management.
This ‘digital thread’ has been very successful for the team, with part fits showing incredible precision, and successful coordination of plants around the end schedule for key events like the Dec 18/07 F-35B rollout. The system’s ultimate goal is to cut a plane’s production cycle time from the usual 27-30 months to about a year, and lead time from order creation to printed, matched manufacturing orders from 15-20 days to 6-8 days. Read MBT’s “Fly high on a thread” to learn more.
Submarines travel underwater, but they all need oxygen. Diesel-electric submarines need it for their engines, and must surface to get it, though modern AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) supplemental systems allow one to cruise at moderate power for over a week without surfacing. Nuclear-powered submarines could cruise underwater at full power for years, of course, as their engines do not need air. Their crews, however, do. Hence Electrolytic Oxygen Generators (EOGs), which break up water molecules and keep the oxygen for use aboard ship.
Treadwell Corp’s Model 6L16 EOG was first introduced in 1965. It breaks up distilled water by passing an electric current through an electrolyte solution (30% potassium hydroxide) in 16 high-pressure cells, connected in series. This equipment can produce 150 standard cubic feet per hour of oxygen, and variants remain the primary oxygen producers aboard the USA’s SSN-688 Los Angeles Class fast attack submarines and SSBN-726 Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines. Treadwell also produces Oxygen Generation Plants (OGPs) for the new SSN-21 Seawolf Class fast attack submarines, which include OGP electrolysis modules that depend on proton exchange membranes for oxygen separation.
The US Navy is moving to upgrade both of these systems.