Latest updates[?]: The last three remaining RQ-4A BAMS-D unmanned air vehicles that belonged to the US Navy have been transferred to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. The ground control equipment and non-payload spares will be transferred as well. The sailing branch had acquired five BAMS-Ds and one was lost in a crash in 2012 while another was shot down by Iran in 2019. NASA will operate the aircraft on behalf of the Pentagon’s Test Resource Management Center.
RQ-4A Global Hawk
Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV has established a dominant position in the High Altitude/ Long Endurance UAV market. While they are not cheap, they are uniquely capable. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the system flew only 5% of the US Air Force’s high altitude reconnaissance sorties, but accounted for more than 55% of the time-sensitive targeting imagery generated to support strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk was also a leading contender in the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV competition, and eventually won.
The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program (GHM-D or BAMS-D) aims to use the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe as a test bed for operational concepts and technologies that will eventually find their way into BAMS, and contribute valuable understanding to the new field of maritime surveillance with high-flying UAVs. It’s not just a test program, however, as its remaining drones also deploy to assist the fleet in active operations.
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[?]: Saab has signed an agreement with Australia to provide combat management systems for Navy's surface ships. According to the agreement, Saab will deliver its Next Generation’ Combat Management System (CMS) to Australia’s new Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and the Supply class auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) ships. Saab will also modernize the 9LV CMS currently in use in the Anzac Class frigates and will provide the software for the future tactical interface for the Hobart class air warfare destroyer (AWDs) when their current CMS is modernized.
The FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates make for a fascinating defense procurement case study. To this day, the ships are widely touted as a successful example of cost containment and avoidance of requirements creep – both of which have been major weaknesses in US Navy acquisition. On the other hand, compromises made to meet short-term cost targets resulted in short service lives and decisions to retire, sell, or downgrade the ships instead of upgrading them.
Australia’s 6 ships of this class have served alongside the RAN’s more modern ANZAC Class frigates, which are undergoing upgrades of their own to help them handle the reality of modern anti-ship missiles. With the SEA 4000 Hobart Class air warfare frigates still just a gleam in an admiral’s eye, the government looked for a way to upgrade their FFG-7 “Adelaide Class” to keep them in service until 2020 or so. The SEA 1390 project wasn’t what you’d call a success… but Australia accepted their last frigate in 2010, and the 4 remaining ships will serve until 2020.
Latest updates[?]: The US Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $24.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to develop the first production unit fabrication and qualification of the TB-37X Multi-Function Towed Array (MFTA) System. The legacy TB-37/U MFTA is an integral part of the AN/SQQ-89A(V)15 Undersea Warfare Combat System Improvement Program for the Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyers (DDG-51), Ticonderoga Class missile cruisers (CG-47) and Zumwalt Class destroyers. The TB-37X MFTA shall incorporate next-generation telemetry to mitigate reliability and obsolescence issues experienced with the legacy TB-37/U MFTA. The TB-37X will be deployed on additional platforms, including Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Next Generation Guided Missile Frigates (FFG(X)). Lockheed will perform work in Liverpool, New York; Millersville, Maryland; Marion, Massachusetts; Cleveland, Ohio; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is expected to be completed by October 2026.
Naval technologies have advanced on many fronts, but one of the most significant is the growing roster of diesel-electric submarines that boast exceptional quietness. Some of the newer AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) models even have the ability to operate without surfacing for a week or two at a time. In exercises against the US Navy, diesel-electric submarines have successfully ‘killed’ their nuclear counterparts, and in 2006, a Chinese submarine reportedly surprised a US carrier battlegroup by surfacing within it.
The US Navy is slowly moving to beef up anti-submarine capabilities that had been neglected since the end of the Cold War, and other navies are also beginning to adjust. One of the first areas that requires attention is improved detection. That means wider coverage areas, longer baselines, better sonar and other detection systems, and greater use of small unmanned platforms on the surface and underwater. With UUV/USV platforms still maturing, and almost every advanced navy except the Chinese getting smaller due to the cost of new warships, towed systems are a natural place to start.
Latest updates[?]: The State Department also approved a FMS to Denmark for nine AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALFS) systems and six hundred AN/SSQ-36/53/62 Sonobuoys with support for an estimated cost of $200 million. The AN/AQS-22 ALFS dipping sonar and sonobuoy processing system is the primary anti-submarine warfare sensor of US Navy's MH-60R multi-mission helicopter. It provides mission-critical capabilities, including submarine detection, tracking, localization, classification, acoustic intercept, underwater communication and environmental data collection. The AQS-22 dipping sonar features 4-time greater area coverage than current systems, active or passive sonar modes, active or passive sonobuoys, enhanced shallow water capability, generate high power waveforms and many other advanced characteristics.
MH-60R & ALFS,
The AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low-Frequency Sonar (ALFS) will equip the US Nay’s new MH-60R multi-mission helicopters, serving as their primary anti-submarine sensor. The new FLASH sonar operates using lower frequencies and higher-power waveforms than existing dipping sonars, improving long-range detection. The AQS-22 dipping sonar claims 4x the area coverage of current systems, and includes both active or passive sonar modes to help track, localize, and classify submarines. A winching system with up to 2,500 feet of cable raises and lowers the sonar.
The ALFS system complements the MH-60R’s radar, and works in concert with other equipment including active or passive sonobuoys, signal processing improvements that are especially helpful in shallow water. This Spotlight article highlights ALFS-related contracts from 2002 to the present.
Sonobuoys are used to detect and identify moving underwater objects by either listening for the sounds produced by propellers and machinery (passive detection), or by bouncing a sonar “ping” off the surface of a submarine (active detection). They usually float, or have at least some part of them that does. Specialized sonobuoys can also detect electric fields, magnetic anomalies, and bioluminescence (light emitted by microscopic organisms disturbed by a passing submarine); as well as measuring environmental parameters like water temperature versus depth, air temperature, barometric pressure, and wave height.
Sonobuoys are generally dropped from aircraft or helicopters that are equipped with a means to launch them, and electronic equipment to receive and process data sent by the sonobuoy. They can also be launched from ships. This entry will discuss some of the new sonobuoys in use, and cover related contracts.
This DID Spotlight on ARCI adds a bit more explanation of exactly what the program entails and where its benefits were focused, as well as covers contracts placed under the A-RCI program from FY 2005 onward. The program’s concept is simple: you can upgrade the system without changing the sensors. By sharply upgrading ship sensor processing, it integrates and improves the boat’s towed array, hull array and sphere array sonars, running more advanced algorithms and providing a fuller “picture” of the surrounding environment. Sometimes, it really is all about what you can do with it. A-RCI’s open architecture concept also make it easier to integrate additional sensors, providing a dual-track improvement option for American submarines.
In late May 2013, Thales UK signed a 10-year, GBP 600 million Sensor Support Optimisation Project (SSOP) with the Ministry of Defence. It extends the 2003 Contractor Logistics Support deal that covered electronic warfare/ ESM and sonar system support on an array of submarines and surface ships.
SSOP coverage includes all British submarine classes (SSN Trafalgar and Astute classes, SSBN Vanguard Class), Type 45 Daring Class destroyers, Type 23 Duke Class frigates, and the Hunt and Sandown Classes of minehunting vessels. It also covers all visual systems (periscopes etc.) for all Royal Navy submarines, which had been a separate contract with Thales UK’s optronics business in Glasgow. This progression is familiar to readers who have followed British Future Contracting for Availability practices over the last several years.
The Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory serves as a U.S. Navy UARC (University Affiliated Research Center) in Defense science and technologies, with a focus in naval missions and related areas. In September 2012, they were awarded a 5-year, maximum $415 million cost-plus-fixed-fee indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity task order contract. in return, they’ll provide up to 2,060,076 staff hours for research, development, engineering, and test and evaluation. An option for an additional 5 years could bring the maximum value to $853.3 million, and the cumulative staff hours to 3,935,759.
PSU’s ARL will work on guidance, navigation and control of undersea systems; advanced thermal propulsion concepts and systems for undersea vehicles; advanced propulsors and other fluid machinery for marine systems; materials and manufacturing technology; atmosphere and defense communications systems; and other related technologies. Individual task orders will be issued as needs arise. Work is expected to be completed by September 2017, or September 2022 with all options exercised. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-12-D-6404).
Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc., in Huntsville, AL recently received approval from the U.S. Navy to move into the Full Rate Production (FRP) Phase on the underwater Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Glider (LBS-G) Program. The first Full Rate Production option calls for the manufacture of 35 gliders, with additional options for 100 more, and a total contract value of $53.1 million if all options are exercised. US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command manages the contract.
The Teledyne Team has already delivered 15 Low Rate Initial Production LBS-Gs to the US Navy’s Program Executive Office for C4I, under a December 2010 contract. That team includes Teledyne Brown (System Integration), Teledyne Webb Research in East Falmouth, MA (Slocum Glider development and production), and the University of Washington – Applied Physics Lab (Glider Operations Center software). Their 2m long design features a very innovative propulsion concept.