Latest updates[?]: A US Navy announcement for an overhaul of the troubled Littoral Combat Ship program will include turning the first four ships into test vessels. The change comes after the naval branch announced an engineering stand-down for LCS crews following an August 29 engineering casualty on the USS Coronado. Under Thursday's plan, the Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth and Coronado will become single-crewed testing ships that could be deployed as fleet assets on a limited basis, the Navy said.
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.
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.
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.
Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). LHA/LHD are a key element of the Seapower 21 doctrine pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, transporting, launching, and landing elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) via a combination of LCAC hovercraft, amphibious transports and vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft.
Designed to project power and maintain presence, LHA-Replacement (LHA-R, aka. LH-X, and now the New Amphibious Assault Ship or NAAS) large deck amphibious assault ships were slated to replace the US Navy’s 6 LHA-1 Tarawa Class vessels. They are based on the more modern LHD Wasp Class design, with the LHD’s landing craft and well deck removed in favor of more planes and hangar space. While its LHA/LHD predecessors were amphibious assault ships with a secondary aviation element, it’s fair to describe the America Class as escort carriers with a secondary amphibious assault role.
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).
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].
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.