Latest updates[?]: Naval Air Force Atlantic tested a long-range aerial drone last weekend, the Navy announced. The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on vessels that are moving rapidly at sea. The proof-of-concept test was conducted last Sunday by transporting lightweight logistical equipment from the mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station Norfolk on board USS Gerald R. Ford while the carrier was in-port.
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
Latest updates[?]: Work to integrate the AN/SPY-6 radar on the new Aegis Flight III guided-missile destroyer, the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), has started. Installation is being carried out at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. “As the future USS Jack Lucas takes shape, we are at the cusp of a new era for detection and discrimination of threats and decision-making at sea,” said Capt. Jason Hall, program manager for Above-Water Sensors for the US Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems. “SPY-6 will fill critical mission gaps and enable precision operations in jammed and cluttered environments like never before.”
The US Navy’s Dual-Band Radar that equips its forthcoming Gerald R. Ford class super-carriers replaces several different radars with a single back-end. Merging Raytheon’s X-band SPY-3 with Lockheed Martin’s S-band VSR allows fewer radar antennas, faster response time, faster adaptation to new situations, one-step upgrades to the radar suite as a whole, and better utilization of the ship’s power, electronics, and bandwidth.
Rather than using that existing Dual-Band Radar design in new surface combatant ships, however, the “Air and Missile Defense Radar” (AMDR) aims to fulfill DG-51 Flight III destroyer needs through a new competition for a similar dual-band radar. It could end up being a big deal for the winning radar manufacturer, and for the fleet. If, and only if, the technical, power, and weight challenges can be mastered at an affordable price.
In April 2009 Bath and Ingalls agreed to the Navy’s surface combatant plans, thus heralding a significant restructuring within the American naval shipbuilding community. Under the agreements, the USA would end production at 3 Graf Spee sized DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class “destroyers,” but shift all production from the Congressionally-mandated joint arrangements to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine, which had already made program-related investments in advanced shipbuilding technologies.
Northrop Grumman (now Huntington Ingalls Industries) would retain its DDG-1000 deckhouse work, but their main exchange was additional orders for DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. Their Ingalls yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi would continue building the DDG-51 destroyers, beginning with 2 ordered in FY 2010-2011.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin Rotary Mission Systems won a $731.1 million deal for engineering and technical services for Aegis in-service combat systems engineering, ship integration and test engineering, computer program maintenance, integrated logistics support and planning and in-country support for multiple international partners employing Aegis. This contract provides in-service lifetime support efforts, including engineering, technical and logistical support related to the maintenance and modernization of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Aegis Combat System and Aegis weapon system equipment and computer programs. The deal includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $750,000,000 and involves FMS to Japan, Australia, Republic of Korea, Norway, Spain and Canada. Work will take place in New Jersey, Korea, Japan, and Australia. Expected completion date will be in December 2024.
The AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System seamlessly integrates the SPY-1 radar, the MK 41 Vertical Launching System for missiles, the SM-3 Standard missile, and the ship’s command and control system, in order to give ships the ability to defend against enemy ballistic missiles. Like its less-capable AEGIS counterpart, AEGIS BMD can also work with other radars on land and sea via Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). That lets it receive cues from other platforms and provide information to them, in order to create a more detailed battle picture than any one radar could produce alone.
AEGIS has become a widely-deployed top-tier air defense system, with customers in the USA, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Spain. In a dawning age of rogue states and proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, the US Navy is being pushed toward a “shield of the nation” role as the USA’s most flexible and most numerous option for missile defense. AEGIS BMD modifications are the keystone of that effort – in the USA, and beyond.
Latest updates[?]: General Dynamics Bath Iron Works won a $23.9 million contract modification to exercise options for the accomplishment of planning yard efforts such as engineering, technical, planning, ship configuration, data and logistics efforts for DDG-1000 class destroyers post-delivery and in-service life-cycle support. The Zumwalt Class is the largest and most technologically advanced surface combatant in the world. Zumwalt is the lead ship of a class of next-generation multi-mission destroyers designed to strengthen naval power from the sea. Work will take place in Maine and California. Estimated completion will be by December 2021.
67% of the fleet
DID’s FOCUS Article for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class “destroyer” program covers the new ships’ capabilities and technologies, key controversies, associated contracts and costs, and related background resources.
The ship’s prime missions are to provide naval gunfire support, and next-generation air defense, in near-shore areas where other large ships hesitate to tread. There has even been talk of using it as an anchor for action groups of stealthy Littoral Combat Ships and submarines, owing to its design for very low radar, infrared, and acoustic signatures. The estimated 14,500t (battlecruiser size) Zumwalt Class will be fully multi-role, however, with undersea warfare, anti-ship, and long-range attack roles. That makes the DDG-1000 suitable for another role – as a “hidden ace card,” using its overall stealth to create uncertainty for enemy forces.
True, or False?
At over $3 billion per ship for construction alone, however, the program faced significant obstacles if it wanted to avoid fulfilling former Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter’s fears for the fleet. From the outset, DID has noted that the Zumwalt Class might face the same fate as the ultra-sophisticated, ultra-expensive SSN-21 Seawolf Class submarines. That appears to have come true, with news of the program’s truncation to just 3 ships. Meanwhile, production continues.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman Systems won a $10.7 million modification to procure two additional Surface-to-Surface Missile Modules (SSMM) for integration into the Littoral Combat Ship framework. The SSMM fires a Longbow Hellfire missile that will be added to the surface warfare mission module aboard the Littoral Combat Ship. In July 2019 the US Navy successfully completed structural testing of the Longbow Hellfire missile for the Littoral Combat Ship Surface-to-Surface Missile Module. LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship, with three types of mission packages including surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare. The Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS) is responsible for delivering and sustaining littoral mission capabilities to the fleet. Work will take place in Huntsville, Alabama; Bethpage, New York and Hollywood, Maryland. Estimated completion will be by November 2022.
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.
As the U.S. decides who will be president for the next four years a review of procurement spending indicates that the Trump Administration has shown little difference in appropriations versus previous administrations, despite claims to have radically increased spending.
The upshot is that the last four years saw about $2.9 in spending appropriated in inflation-adjusted dollars, which was larger than Barak Obama’s second term, but less than the Obama Administration’s first term.
President Trump’s campaign speech claims of spending during his term relative to previous terms are incorrect. President Trump claimed this year that military spending in the 90s “used to be ‘million.’ And then, about 10 years ago, you started hearing ‘billion.’ And now you’re starting to hear ‘trillion,’ right?” Of course, U.S. defense spending hit the billions in the late 1940s, and recent spending has been on pace with spending from the decade previous.
The Trump Administration has done little to change the often-criticized Pentagon trend of investing more money in fewer pieces of equipment, such as fighter jets that cost a quarter billion dollars each when fully kitted out. The navy is running fewer ships that each cost more. Previous administrations did no better in reversing this trend, of course.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden stated multiple times that he has no plans to reduce military spending, but indicated a desire to refocus military budgets and planning on “near-peer” powers Russia and China, while attempting to recover some of the goodwill of allies tested by the Trump Administration’s active skepticism in cooperation with allies, especially the NATO alliance.
Latest updates[?]: HSC-22 received their first MQ-8C Firescout on September 15 aboard Naval Station Norfolk, the US Navy said. It is now the first East Coast squadron to operate the MH-60S, MQ-8B and MQ-8C. The Firescout is the US Navy’s latest combat drone to hit the skies and provide aerial surveillance, reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support, and precision targeting support to ground, air, and sea units. The MQ-8C Fire Scout’s main purpose is to provide radar surveillance with its multi-spectrum targeting system. The multi-spectrum targeting system is a camera that is capable of reading light, heat, and electrical signatures to find anything that might be of interest.
MQ-8B Fire Scout
A helicopter UAV is very handy for naval ships, and for armies who can’t always depend on runways. The USA’s RQ/MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has blazed a trail of firsts in this area, but its history is best described as “colorful.” The program was begun by the US Navy, canceled, adopted by the US Army, revived by the Navy, then canceled by the Army. Leaving it back in the hands of the US Navy. Though the Army is thinking about joining again, and the base platform is changing.
The question is, can the MQ-8 leverage its size, first-mover contract opportunity, and “good enough” performance into a secure future with the US Navy – and beyond? DID describes these new VTUAV platforms, clarifies the program’s structure and colorful history, lists all related contracts and events, and offers related research materials.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon announced Tuesday that it has delivered the first AN/SPY-6(V)1 radar array to Huntington Ingalls for installation on the Navy's future USS Jack H. Lucas guided-missile destroyer. "SPY-6 will change how the Navy conducts surface fleet operations," said Capt. Jason Hall, program manager for Above-Water Sensors for the US Navy's Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems in a press release. The first 14-foot-by-14-foor modular array was transported from Raytheon's Radar Development Facility in Andover, Mass., to the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., company officials said. In November 2019, Raytheon received a $97.3 million contract modification for integration and maintenance of the AN/SPY-6(V) air and missile defense radar system on Navy vessels.
The DBR concept involves a significant change from current naval design approaches, and that change is not without risk. The USA’s GAO audit office remains concerned that key tests may not happen before the radar is installed on new ships, and any more development or testing snags could put much larger programs at risk. In April 2009, a successful full-power “lightoff” of both DBR radars was encouraging, but 2010 saw a major program shift. Sharp drops in the planned number of DDG-1000 destroyer created a per-ship cost crisis. Part of the response involved a shift to a single X-band SPY-3 radar for the Zumwalt Class, leaving DBR as a dual-band SPY-3/ SPY-4 solution only on America’s new carriers.
As Asia-Pacific nations invest in submarines, serious regional players also need to invest in anti-submarine capabilities. Aircraft like the P-8A Poseidon are great, but nothing really replaces dedicated and capable ASW ships. Their opponents’ anti-ship missiles are also experiencing a jump in capability, so a secondary air defense role isn’t optional. Australia’s 2 remaining FFG-7 Adelaide-class frigates have finished an expensive and somewhat rickety systems upgrade, but they fall short of what’s needed, and won’t last all that much longer. The Adelaide-class will soon be succeeded by 3 new Hobart-class AWD. The RAN’s 8 ANZAC-class frigates are receiving much smoother ASMD air defense upgrades that will make them quite useful, but their service life will begin ebbing around 2024. Hence Australia’s SEA 5000 Future Frigate program, which may receive an early push from issues with Australia’s naval industrial base…