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Author: Subject: U.S.Navy, 2017 onwards

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[*] posted on 8-7-2017 at 05:08 PM

Australia Steps Up to Jam

(Source: US Naval Air Systems Command; issued July 5, 2017)

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --– The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) intent to collaborate on the development of the AN/ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer Mid-band (Increment 1) (NGJ-MB) program is on track to become a reality with the assistance of the Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) and the Navy International Programs Office (Navy IPO).

The allies joined mid-June for a Cooperative Partnership week, during which the RAAF had an opportunity to gain insight into the current status of the NGJ-MB program, in anticipation of formally entering a cooperative project later this year.

PMA-234 and Navy IPO representatives, in concert with the Australian Department of Defence, are negotiating an agreement that will solidify both governments’ intent to establish the joint program office and mature the electronic warfare capability together.

“We are extremely excited about this international partnership,” said James Smith, PMA-234 principal deputy program manager. “NGJ-MB will allow more cooperation and interoperability throughout our joint peace-keeping missions as we protect our mutual interests from current threats and emerging adversaries.”

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[*] posted on 10-7-2017 at 06:40 PM

Textron Systems adapts Aerosonde SUAS for USN missions

Anika Torruella - IHS Jane's Navy International

09 July 2017

Aerosonde is being marinised, including an optional VTOL capability, for USN mission roles. Source: Textron Systems

Key Points
- Textron Systems has marinised its SUAS for sea-based missions
- Improvements include an adaptable VTOL kit, ship-based launch and recovery turntable, and improved sliding surfaces

US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Textron Systems a potential maximum of USD1.73 billion indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract to provide its Aerosonde small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS). The contract makes Textron Systems eligible to compete for the first sea-based task orders for the Aerosonde SUAS on US Navy (USN) vessels. The Boeing Insitu-built Scan Eagle small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) is also eligible to compete.

According to David Phillips, vice-president for Small and Medium Endurance UASs for Textron Systems, the sea-based contract requires a much smaller area in which to operate the SUAS and a heavy fuel engine, one that would "run the same kind of fuel that the navy vessel is running". According to Phillips, Aerosonde has been trialled on board two USN ships at "relatively high sea-states".

Aerosonde has a 36 kg (80 lb) gross take-off weight aircraft, is enabled to carry up to an 8-9 kg payload depending on the payload, and can be operated with a crew of 3-4 operators, Phillips said. It is powered with a 4 hp, heavy-fuel, Lycoming EL-005 engine. It currently flies signal intelligence, tactical communications, relay radio, and ground-to-ground support forces radio extender missions, among others roles. In addition, Textron has an open 18 cubic m (700 cubic in), 2.25 kg maximum 'customer space' within the fuselage of the Aerosonde SUAS aircraft with 200 W dedicated power, to enable the USN to "very quickly integrate and/or swap payloads out in the field to keep pace with their emerging missions set", Phillips told a group of reporters on 5 July 2017.

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[*] posted on 11-7-2017 at 03:28 PM

I`ve got to admit ... I am underwhelmed. They want new FFG big enough for 200 personnel and a range of 3.000nm at 16 knots. Not so far away from european frigate designs of the 2000s. And what is it with the US Navy obsession with 57mm on major surface combatants? Else pretty standard layout with ESSM/SM-2 and et al. Only the VLS for Hellfire stand out.
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[*] posted on 11-7-2017 at 11:01 PM

Quote: Originally posted by Wolftrap  
I`ve got to admit ... I am underwhelmed. They want new FFG big enough for 200 personnel and a range of 3.000nm at 16 knots. Not so far away from european frigate designs of the 2000s. And what is it with the US Navy obsession with 57mm on major surface combatants? Else pretty standard layout with ESSM/SM-2 and et al. Only the VLS for Hellfire stand out.

They have a current production line for that turret and calibre and have a new 57mm guided round they are developing I suppose?

In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 12-7-2017 at 11:23 PM

Exclusive interview: The Navy's surface warfare director talks frigate requirements

By: David B. Larter, July 11, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy's requirements for a new guided-missile frigate hit the street Monday with a request for information that blew the competition for the new ship design wide open.  

The ship will be expected to use systems already widely in use in the fleet, be able to keep up with the carrier and network into the strike group. The Navy hopes to drive the cost down by using common equipment, saving money on integration of new systems into existing designs, and that could be anything from the two littoral combat ship designs in production today to a foreign design such as the British Royal Navy's Type 26 global combat ship.

The man in the hot seat for creating the requirements for the frigate is the Navy's director of surface warfare, Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, head of the Chief of Naval Operations N96 office.

Defense News got an exclusive interview with Boxall to discuss what the Navy wants from its future small surface combatant, that it hopes to start buying in 2020. 

This ship seems like quite a departure from the LCS. What was the thinking that went into that?

Conceptually it's a little bit different of a ship. We took the good things that we like about LCS and we improved on the other things that it needed. One of the reasons we are where we are with LCS is the initial front-end direction.

What we did with this effort is to say "OK, let’s go really look at this environment we're in, let's see what the world looks like right now." You've seen the proliferation of missiles to just about everybody; we've got to make sure that these ships can fit into a future distributed maritime operations and be a contributor to that wider network of systems. And to do that you need some commonalities. There is a big move afoot to get more common systems and to think about these things on the front end.

So, the RFI is just that: it's a request for information. You look on there and say: "Oh wow, this looks like a lot of things you'd like to have on a Navy ship." And that's true, but the other question is "Can we afford them all?"

What we did in the requirements evaluation team was go in and say "OK, we think this is what we need this ship to do." The more we can get it to do, the better, but the cost could be really high. So this RFI is to have that dialogue with industry that we've not done well. Obviously we want to get the most capability for the best price.

This is an effort to get the design right up front.

This started out as an FF and is now an FFG, what changed?

This is not new thinking but the idea was if you could make them a bit more survivable and you can use them a little bit more independently, they become a force multiplier. If you operate these ships in a contested environment as part of distributed maritime operations with the capabilities on there that match the other ships out there, to me that's really what's changed.

We don't want the ship to be so big that it competes with the destroyer. We want this to be part of the high/low mix. So ensuring we get those capabilities at the best value is important.

So we're going to put some missiles on there for defense, but how many and how big? That's one of the questions that drives the design of the ship. So we want to know what the impact of our choices would be on those designs.

Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall is the U.S. Navy's director of surface warfare.

The other part we have to consider is future growth. The LCS – we built those out with the extra space we reserved for the modular capabilities, but it limits the space we have for future growth where we have to do it in the modules themselves.

With these ships, if we're going to a future that includes, perhaps, directed energy or increased power applications for other military use, we want to put more margin in there. So ... do we need to have a bigger power plant to be able to accommodate that? Where do we need to make the trades down the road between the size of the power plant and the number of missiles we need to defend the ship? So we know kind of the range of things we're looking for, and then we want to see what industry comes back with. From there we'll lock it down and go into the detailed design and construction phase and we can get this thing out by 2020.

What kind of radar are you looking to put on there? Are you looking at a SPY-6 radar?

The answer to that is absolutely not. We are not putting something the size of the SPY-6 on this ship. But the key element of the SPY-6 radar are these radar modular assemblies. They are these two-foot-by-two-foot cubes that you build. On an AEGIS destroyer, you'll have 37 of those RMAs on one of four of those faces. So on this ship we are looking at something more like a three-by-three, so four six-foot-by-six foot arrays.

Is it going to be as powerful? No. Will it be able to connect virtually identically? [Yes]. Any changes we make to the big ship will work on the small ship. The combat system changes we make on the big ship will work on the small ship. Those are the things that I call spending in the right direction.

These commonalities make a difference. They make a difference in training, they make a difference in sparing. If you have a radar technician, they can fix the radar on both ships.

So you are set on a fixed and not a rotating.

There is a lot of goodness in using the kind of fixed array that we use on the other ships. And as we move forward on future ship designs we are going to continue to use this concept for things that we build with radars to the extent it makes economic sense.

Will the ship be using the AEGIS combat system?

Any system we put on this ship, because it has a common radar and weapons systems that we already own and know – every time we have something that we already use and know how it works, we don't have to pay an additional integration cost. And as we upgrade these systems more and more by software, they become seamless between other systems that also use that [combat system]. One of the things we looked at was making sure we got that commonality right up front.

Do you have a sense of where you want the price range to be? Somewhere between, say $600 million and $1.2 billion?

I'd say you're in the ballpark there. This ship will give multi-mission capability, independently operating. So look at that from a cost perspective. What we want with this RFI, industry should come back and say: "Well if you want that, its going to cost this." We're going to refine costs as we know more about what we're getting for that cost. We're not going to lock ourselves in but what we're doing here is giving an industry a look at what we think is most important. What's most important is the commonality element.

If we are going to be quicker in out ability to produce capability, we've got to be more responsive to what industry says they can do. Historically we would create a hard requirement, throw that to the acquisitions side, they would achieve that requirement at all costs and then they'd come back to us with the cost and we'd go: "Holy cow, that's how much that costs?"

We know we could get ships to do all kinds of things, but you can also go broke doing it. So having that give-and-take at the front end, then going into the design phase and locking it down prior to contracting, we believe is the way to get there faster and get a better value.

The crewing is different on this ship, it has the upper limit set at 200. Obviously that factors into long-term ownership costs. It is a departure, however, from the ideas that drove the design work for LCS. This is much more a traditional frigate manning construct.

Manning is a unique one. When we looked at moving to an open competition, we looked at many existing designs. So our purpose in putting the number out there is we didn't want to exclude anybody. I believe that number is high.

When we get to a request for proposal later, we are going to value those inputs. When we go out to industry: If you have fewer people that do the same thing, you are going to be advantaged by that. So you are going to be incentivized to keep the manning low. You are going to be incentivized to keep the cost low. You are going to be incentivized to get the most value per capability.

So that is a merely the starting point of the manning discussion. If you have something so big that its going to be more than 200 people, we are not interested at all.

If we are going to have these dialogues, you can't get sticker shock. The things we have on there are the desired capabilities and we want to know what that does to your design. We may come back and say, well we can't get this on there, or, wow, we're going to get even more than we thought.

This is new-world territory for us but I think it’s the right direction. The chief of naval operations and the secretary of the navy have been very keen on getting industry involvement here early. Don't take the RFI for what the ship will be down the road but as we move on, hopefully you can tell a bit about what we are valuing.

How long do you expect to keep the RFI open?

I'd say on the order of months, but this is just to get the first waves. Our first part of this is to find those parent designs that want to play.

On the RFI, you make it clear that you want the ship to be able to keep up with the carrier. How does that affect the mechanical and propulsion systems you are looking at? Are you talking about a very traditional twin or single screw ship with an LM-2500 engine?

Welcome to the RFI. This is exactly the kind of thing I’m trying to find out. I do not want to tell four or five or however many ship designers what we need their plant to do. What I’m telling you and what we put in here is what we would like the ship to do. If changing the plant design is going to cause a radical departure, but you can do everything else? OK, lets talk about that. But this is exactly what we’re trying to determine.

Somewhere along the line if you are trying to get all this capability on the ship, you’ve got to compromise somewhere. We’re not sure where that is yet but certainly the engineering plant is something that is going to matter to some more than others.

Having said that, one of things we are willing to give up: The speed that we have with LCS is great, an awesome capability; but the reality is if the ship is going to be doing more of these distributed operations, you pay a premium for that speed with how much stuff you can fit on the ship.

There is no draft requirement on this RFI. We had a very limited draft on LCS. But what we’re saying is that we are willing to give up a little of that draft if you are putting more systems on that ship.

Everybody, all the designs, are going to have to work a bit to get in this space.
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[*] posted on 13-7-2017 at 12:54 PM

Published: Wednesday, 12 July 2017 09:15

Expeditionary Sea Base USNS Lewis B. Puller Begins First Operational Deployment
The U.S. Navy's first purpose-built expeditionary sea base, USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), departed from Naval Station Norfolk to begin its first operational deployment, July 10. Puller is deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet to provide operational support for U.S. Navy and allied forces operating in the region.

NORFOLK (July 10, 2017) The Military Sealift Command expeditionary mobile base USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) departs Naval Station Norfolk for its first operational deployment. Puller is deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. Navy and allied military efforts in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Bill Mesta/Released) 
"We call ourselves 'Team Puller,'" said Cmdr. Arlen Rose, the military detachment's officer in charge. "The Puller is a brand new ship, so we had a lot to learn. The military crew has been training with the ship's civil service mariners for a year to prepare for this deployment."

"We are ready to get Puller out there to takes its rightful place in the fleet," added Rose. "Everyone is really excited to get to work and see what the Puller can do."

USNS Lewis B. Puller was delivered to the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) in June 2015 and is the Navy's first purpose-built expeditionary sea base. The ship has a hybrid-manned crew with a combination of military personnel and civilian mariners (CIVMAR).

"The CIVMARs aboard Puller primarily focus on the operation of the ship," said Capt. George McCarthy, the Puller's master. "The CIVMARs perform a variety of critical tasks including navigation, propulsion and ventilation services."

ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 16, 2016) A U.S. Navy MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopter attached to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) lands on the flight deck of Military Sealift Command's expeditionary mobile base, USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3). Sailors from HM-15 worked in concert with Sailors and Civil Service Mariners serving aboard Puller on a four-day Airborne Mine Countermeasure Deployment training exercise. (U.S. Navy Photo by Bill Mesta/Released)
The 784 foot-long vessel features a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces. Able to accommodate up to 250 personnel, USNS Lewis B. Puller will support multiple missions, such as air mine counter measures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions, and crisis response operations.

According to McCarthy, the Puller is going to be permanently deployed overseas, which saves a tremendous amount of time in terms of operations. So the ship's maintenance, repairs and crew swaps will take place in theater.

USNS Lewis B. Puller is named after Lt. Gen, Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, one of the most decorated members of the Marine Corps. He is one of only two men, and the only Marine, to be awarded five Navy Crosses. He fought in Haiti and Nicaragua, and participated in battles of World War II and the Korean War. Puller retired from the Marine Corps in 1955 and spent the remainder of his life in Virginia.

USNS Lewis B. Puller is the expeditionary sea base-variant of the expeditionary transfer dock (ESD) which includes USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1) and USNS John Glenn (T-ESD 2). The second expeditionary sea base, USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams (T-ESB 4), is currently under construction by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) in San Diego.

MSC operates approximately 120 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, and strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, while moving military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
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[*] posted on 14-7-2017 at 08:37 PM

USS America Leadership Look To Aircraft Carriers For Inspiration On Leveraging Aviation-Centric Design

By: Megan Eckstein

July 13, 2017 5:34 PM

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), left, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) are underway in formation during a simulated straits transit on June 5, 2017. US Navy photo.

As the first-in-class USS America (LHA-6) begins operations on its first major overseas deployment, leadership has a good understanding of the basics of operating this new type of ship – an amphibious assault ship without a well deck – but also a lot of room to learn how to maximize the new capability it brings to the fleet.

Col. Joseph “J.R.” Clearfield, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard America, told USNI News earlier this year that the Marines and their Navy counterparts would experiment with several different loadouts of equipment on the three-ship Amphibious Ready Group – America, amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD-22) and dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) – to validate what does and doesn’t help the warfighters meet their missions.

Clearfield told USNI News on Tuesday, aboard America while transiting from California to Hawaii, that leadership found they had a lot of good options despite lacking a well deck.
“The LHA-6 was well wargamed out and there were several [memos] that came out about operational considerations. There were a whole series of them about what the ship, what it’s capabilities were and what it’s limitations were,” Clearfield said.

“I think they were pretty much spot on with the hangar bay being bigger and what we could unfold in it, with more fuel capacity, with you may need to rely more on heavy lift helicopters because there were no surface connectors. … I think all [pre-deployment training program] did was sort of validate that. So we had good operational considerations coming in, we went at it that way, and then during the workup all those operational considerations got validated.”

Capt. Rome Ruiz, commander of Amphibious Squadron 3, who took command partway through the pre-deployment workup, said the aviation-centric nature of the ship, as well as the advanced command, control, computers, communication and intelligence (C4I) capabilities on the ship, create a lot of flexibility for the operators. He said there was still much to learn about operating this type of amphib and that he and his team were looking to the Navy’s aircraft carriers for inspiration.

“Given the robust communications and intelligence capability of this ship, and being able to be networked, this ship – when you think about dominating the maritime battlespace, you start looking at projecting power, maritime security, those type of things, very similar types of stuff when you look at our aircraft carrier capability – so there’s some things we can learn from how they do operations that we can even leverage to be, whether it be more effective or more efficient, and one of those is the composite warfare command concept,” Ruiz said, referring to the command and control relationship between the at-sea force and the landing force within an Amphibious Ready Group.

“What really comes to concern is the defense of the amphibious task force, given that the threat environment is starting to get a lot more capable and a lot more bold. So how do we defend ourselves to ensure we can continue to project power and continue to do maritime security operations and to continue to maintain maritime dominance in the battlespace?

“What we’ve been doing, or what we’ve been learning, is how do we work better together, even when we’re disaggregated; how do we maintain our combat power when we’re miles and miles away. And a lot of that has to do with the capability of the aircraft, being able to have long legs to be able to do deep strikes if that’s necessary, to communicate; there’s all kinds of packages we can do from an aviation-centric standpoint,” Ruiz continued.

“So I guess what I’m getting at is, we’re at really a journey of discovery here with opening up and kind of uncorking what we can really maximize with this capability, and it’s also making us think differently about how we use the ships, whether it’s the LSD and using her in a different way, with helicopters or aircraft or whatnot. So it really again goes back to maximizing flexibility to get us where we want to be.”

A pair of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 (reinforced), provides air support to the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during a simulated straits transit as part of Certification Exercise (CERTEX). on June 5, 2017.US Navy photo.

That the leadership team is focused on maximizing the new potential this ship brings, instead of looking at how to compensate for the lack of a well deck, is important given the conversations around the future of the Navy fleet. America will be just one of two amphibious assault ships of its configuration – Tripoli (LHA-7) will be built with the same design, but Bougainville (LHA-8) will have a small well deck reinserted into the design, with some aviation capability and some medical spaces sacrificed to reach a compromise design.

However, there are many supporters of the idea of using America as a launching point for a “light carrier” idea. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis included the America-based concept in its Future Fleet Architecture study delivered to the Navy earlier this year, and the Senate Armed Services Committee in its Fiscal Year 2018 defense bill sets aside $30 million for the Navy to conduct a preliminary design effort. The light carrier would add a catapult or two to the America-class’s straight flight deck to allow for larger fixed-wing aircraft, such as the Navy’s E2-D Advanced Hawkeye command and control plane, to operate as part of the ARG/MEU.

Though the light carrier concept is still a notional one, the ARG is set for near-term advances in capability and therefore changes in how it can operate. Once F-35B Joint Strike Fighters begin deploying aboard amphibious assault ships, that plane’s sensing and computing power, plus the long legs of the MV-22 Osprey, the heavy lift capability of the CH-53E today and CH-53K in a couple years, and the C4I power on the ship, would create a powerful combination that goes beyond traditional amphibious operations. The efforts by the America ARG, 15th MEU and PHIBRON 3 during this first deployment are sure to shape future efforts to leverage America’s high-end capabilities.

Ruiz said he doesn’t feel the ARG/MEU team is giving up anything by not having well deck space on the big-deck ship: “we can go in closer to shore to do things, and we can stay far our from shore and do things. And we can do it fast through the Ospreys and the (AV-8B) Harriers, or we can do it a little slower but with more lift with our helos. Three’s just so many options, we’ve got a menu of options to do to get after whatever we’re tasked to do.”

Clearfield agreed that this new ship doesn’t take away from his ability to move Marines ashore but rather provides “tailorability and flexibility; you can reconfigure to accomplish the mission.”

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) conduct a replenishment-at-sea with fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) on July 8, 2017, the day after leaving San Diego for America’s first deployment overseas. US Navy photo.

Capt. Joe Olson, America commanding officer, also played down the notion that anything was being lost by not having a well deck, saying that his ship was still able to conduct all the missions the Navy asked of it, such as contributing to battlespace awareness, while supporting the Marines.

“Just because we’re relying heavily on aviation, I think we still have the ability to do a lot of mission-essential tasks that the Navy puts out there for us to do as we operate over the horizon, if you will, all over the world,” Olson said.

“So while the ship is aviation-centric, there’s still plenty of other things we do onboard the ship to support all the Navy missions, plus the Marine Corps missions. We just happen to not have a well deck.”

The America ARG departed San Diego on July 7 and is expected to operate in the Pacific, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa during its first operational deployment overseas. The ship, which commissioned in October 2014, participated in last year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii as a lead-up to deploying this year.
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[*] posted on 20-7-2017 at 04:38 PM

CNO: USN focusing on future Ford ops, better ship-buying

Michael Fabey - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

19 July 2017

Tug boats manoeuvre USS Gerald R Ford into the James River. Source: US Navy/Matthew R Fairchild

The US Navy (USN) is preparing to commission its aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R Ford , on 22 July and is now considering how it will operate its newest class of ship, Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations (CNO), told Jane’s .

“It’s going to transform carrier warfare,” Adm Richardson said. “It’s going to deliver 30% more combat power than its predecessor, measured by the sorties rate and electrical power.

You want to buy a lot of persistence and power and volume and cooling to enable the weapons system.”

That extra power generation is vital for the ship’s new launching systems, Adm Richardson added. “It’s electromagnetic pulse – it’s a power-hungry thing.”

Such power will mean Ford can be armed with different weapons than previous carriers, he said. “You want to think about energy weapons,” he said. The presence of directed energy weapons, along with Ford ’s advanced sensor suite, raises the ship’s combat ability to a new level.

Still, he noted the vessel “is going to be defined by what it carries – the air wing”. New launch-and-recovery systems will enable Ford to accommodate a much broader range of aircraft – and the new equipment will be less destructive for those aircraft, increasing their lifespans and reducing aviation maintenance.

The USN wants more Ford-class ships and, Adm Richardson said, the service wants to do a better job buying and building them. Although the navy no longer needs to invent the launch-and-recovery systems, difficult work remains in integrating and testing the systems.

Adm Richardson said the USN wants to improve shipbuilding overall by working more closely with contractors. “We’re bringing them in much earlier in the process,” he said. “That helps them to think through what you’re trying to get at – ‘here’s the problem we’ve got to solve’.”

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[*] posted on 21-7-2017 at 11:40 AM

US Navy requirements could narrow trainer helicopter search

20 July, 2017 SOURCE: BY: Leigh Giangreco Washington DC

The US Navy is seeking a single-turbine-engined rotorcraft that could achieve an instrument flight rules (IFR) certification: a requirement that could potentially limit the field of candidates in the service’s TH-XX trainer helicopter recapitalisation competition.

The navy will replace its ageing fleet of 113 Bell Helicopter TH-57 Sea Ranger trainers with 105 new aircraft, with production beginning in fiscal year 2020 or 2021, according to a 1 June request for proposals published on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Use of the term “certifiable” perplexed industry, although the USN clarified in a 22 June notice that if the helicopter does not have a Federal Aviation Administration IFR certification, then it must have the equipment and data to achieve that approval in the future.

“A key component of the navy's acquisition strategy is to focus the evaluation on commercially available aircraft that will meet documented performance and training requirements,” the service says. “One of those requirements is that any replacement rotary training system must be able to operate to the standards set out in Appendix B FAR Part 27.

"The navy is currently working to understand the market and is willing to evaluate aircraft that have the ability to meet current and future FAA FAR Part 27 standards and safely operate within the modern national airspace system.”

Most single-engined helicopters meet visual flight rules (VFR) certification and only one candidate, Leonardo Helicopters' TH-119, a military version of the commercial AgustaWestland AW119Kx, currently meets both the single-engine and IFR-rated requirement. Several other manufacturers are eyeing TH-XX, but it would require significant upgrades to transition their aircraft to an IFR rating under the current regulations.

Controversy is swirling now over changes to the FAA’s regulation Appendix B FAR Part 27, which handles IFR certification for rotorcraft under 3,200kg (7,000lb) carrying nine passengers or under. Industry has criticised the FAA’s approach to rotorcraft safety standards, saying equipment and training for IFR operations in single-engined helicopters is still too expensive.

In a 2015 white paper, the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association recommended a policy update to Part 27 that would make IFR certification more affordable. The white paper’s supporters include Bell, which is pitching the VFR-certificated 407GXP for the TH-XX programme.

Even if Leonardo’s competitors decide to meet the IFR criteria, it would require significant investment and could put them at a cost disadvantage. Along with the Bell 407GXP and Leonardo’s TH-119, Airbus Helicopters, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are following the competition.

“There are currently no plans for a sole-source replacement of the TH-57,” the USN says. “To date, the navy has not formally evaluated any platform for compliance with current or future FAR Part 27 requirements.”
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[*] posted on 22-7-2017 at 08:32 PM

Navy Issues New MQ-25A Stingray Draft RFP to Industry Ahead of Final RFP in the Fall

By: Sam LaGrone

July 20, 2017 7:26 PM

The Navy issued its latest draft request for proposals for what will be the service’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle, U.S. Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

The Wednesday draft RFP for the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tanker will be the last refinement of the program requirements before the final RFP goes out to four industry competitors in the fall, Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, told USNI News on Thursday.

“What we’re looking for is.. our big next step in getting unmanned [aircraft] in the carrier air wing environment. The intent of this system is to extend the striking capability of the carrier air wing through organic tanking capability,” Darrah said.

“We want to make better use of our combat strike fighters and extend the range of the carrier air wing, and that’s what this system is intended to do. That’s its primary mission.”

The draft RFP for a planned engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract award in 2018 was issued to directly to the four competitors – Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics. The quartet will compete under new acquisition rules that allow the service to provide less specific guidelines for the Stingray as a rapid prototyping effort.

For example, the MQ-25A effort only has two key performance parameters (KPP) for industry to adhere to in their crafting of the airframe for the MQ-25A.

“In the NDAA 2017 language, the services were given the authority to designate one program as a pilot to reduce the number of key performance parameters that would be in our requirements documents,” Darrah said.

“We have requested from OSD that permission in accordance with that language, and this program was selected, and we have two KPPs.”

According to MQ-25A program manager Capt. Beau Duarte those are:

“Carrier suitability. The system needs to be able to operate off of the aircraft carrier and integrate with all of the subsystems of the carrier. That’s catapults, that’s existing launch and recovery equipment,” he told USNI News on Thursday.

“Mission tanking. Sea-based tanker is the second KPP. It needs to be able to deliver a robust fuel offload at range to support an extension of the air wing and add flexibility of what’s available from a mission tanking perspective. There are a number of key system attributes or other requirements lower than that that are subsequent to [those] and are of lower importance and that will allow us to focus on those two key areas on tanking and carrier suitability and let those be the primary design drivers. “

Both Duarte and Darrah were reluctant to outline more specifics on the effort other than to say the bids have to use existing aerial refueling systems already in the fleet.

“We are saying that you do have to use the existing aerial refueling store that F/A-18s [and] S-3s have used – and that’s externally carried – and that’s to reduce development, cost and timeline and risk,” Duarte said.

“But how you configure the air vehicle to deliver that fuel is up to industry.”

Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have published vague artist’s concepts of their bids showing an existing Navy buddy tank hanging from a wing like the current Super Hornets.

Darrah and Duarte didn’t talk cost estimates or ranges they’ve provided to industry.

“We have history. We’ve seen how [past] programs work,” Darrah said.

“When we put a number out there, eerily they tend to get to that number and go backwards, go backwards in their development so they hit that number. We are taking a different approach this time. We’re not going to define the that number at this point and direct them to provide us with their input so that we can adequately and accurately determine what they truly can do.”

While the air segment is the most visible part of the Stingray program, the physical UAV is only a third of the effort, which also includes the Navy-developed control system and data links to control the aircraft. While previous iterations of what is now Stingray have been based on developing new technologies, Darrah stressed the new airframe effort is less about developing new tech and more about mixing and matching existing systems to make unmanned tanking a reality on the carrier.

“The program has been structured so there isn’t any new development. There’s no new science here. This is an air system that will deliver an aeromechanical machine that can do the requirements,” he said.

“The government will be the lead systems integrator for those 70-plus programs of record which we feel gives us the capability to incorporate open architecture, flexibility for change in the future, and we’re driving the contractor to plug in into that architecture, that existing Navy architecture in the carrier environment.”

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator sits on an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on May 6, 2013. US Navy Photo

As to when the MQ-25A will be operational, Darrah said the program was aiming for the 2020s. However, officials have said that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson is pushing to have a real-world unmanned aircraft fly off a carrier as early as 2019.

The imperative is to alleviate the strain on the strike fighter fleet currently tasked with refueling the carrier air wing. The Navy estimates 20 to 30 percent of Super Hornet flight hours are used for tanking.

To support that effort, the Office of the Secretary of Defense directed the service to reshape the craft in early 2016 from an off-cycle intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform with a light strike capability to into a refueling tanker.
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[*] posted on 25-7-2017 at 11:55 AM

US Navy commissions Gerald R Ford

24th July 2017 - 14:30

by The Shephard News Team

The US Navy has commissioned its newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), at Naval Station Norfolk on 22 July.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the lead ship of the new Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carrier, and will begin the phased replacement of Nimitz class carriers following its commission.

The US Navy plans to build the three ships in the class, also to include the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and USS Enterprise (CVN 80). The vessels are being built with new technologies that are expected to improve operational availability and capability compared with Nimitz class carriers.

Built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, new technologies includes a new reactor plant, propulsion system, electric plant, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Advanced Arresting Gear, machinery control, Dual Band Radar and integrated warfare systems.
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[*] posted on 26-7-2017 at 04:04 PM

USS Ralph Johnson completes builder’s trials

25th July 2017 - 12:30

by The Shephard News

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has now completed builder's sea trials of the US Navy’s future destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), the Naval Sea Systems Command announced on 21 July.

During the trials, the ship spent four days in the Gulf of Mexico conducting a series of in-port and at-sea demonstrations. Major tests that took place included running the ship at full power and steering, self-defence detect-to-engage exercises, and anchoring demonstrations.

The DDG 51 class ships currently being built are Aegis Baseline 9 Integrated Air and Missile Defense destroyers with increased computing power and radar upgrades that improve detection and reaction capabilities against modern air warfare and ballistic missile defence threats.

The future USS Ralph Johnson will return to sea to conduct acceptance trials with the navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey. During the trials, all systems and gears will be inspected and evaluated to ensure quality and operational readiness prior to the navy accepting delivery.

HII is currently in production on future destroyers Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), Delbert D. Black (DDG 119), Frank E. Petersen Jr (DDG 121) and Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123).
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[*] posted on 28-7-2017 at 01:14 PM

EMALS Catapult Fixed But Won’t Reach Ford Until 2019

Sailors assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) give the “all clear” sign as the ship commenced a full-speed “no load” test of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) on May 12, 2015, in Newport News, Virginia. The test marked a significant milestone in Ford’s history as the ship prepares for commissioning in 2016. (U.S. Navy photo/Cory Rose/)

Posted By: Hope Hodge Seck July 27, 2017

A new electromagnetic launch system for aircraft carriers that has faltered when attempting to launch heavier planes is now sound thanks to a software fix, Navy officials announced this week. However, it won’t reach the Navy’s new carrier for more than a year.

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, is one of several brand-new technologies installed aboard the first-of-class supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, which was commissioned July 22.

The system has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, who said in a memorable May 11 interview with Time Magazine that he wanted the Navy to return to “goddamned steam” for its carrier catapults, as the new “digital” technology was unreliable and inexpensive.

Navy officials have said plans to install EMALS on the two other carriers in the Ford class are proceeding regardless.

The problems with EMALS came to light in spring 2014, when testers found the launch system exceeded operational limits when accommodating aircraft with wing-mounted external fuel tanks, causing “excessive vibrations” of the tank.

This significantly limited the air missions the carrier could accommodate. Fighters including the F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, which will launch from the Ford, frequently depart the ship with additional fuel stores.

But now the Navy says they have found a fix that will eliminate those limitations. Testing completed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey earlier this summer validated the software fix, according to a news release from Naval Air Combat Command.

In all, 71 EMALS launches were completed by a designated EMALS test team and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23, according to the release. They confirmed that both the Super Hornet and the Growler could launch with wing-mounted 480-gallon external fuel tanks without exceeding the aircraft’s stress limits, officials said.

“We were confident since the day that the issue was uncovered that it was solvable,” George Sulich, EMALS integrated program team lead, said in a statement. “The beauty of the system is that issues such as these can be accomplished with software updates instead of major hardware changes to machinery.”

Development of a software fix that fine-tuned the EMALS control algorithm was completed in 2015 and loaded into the system this April to test compatibility with other software loads.

Officials said the final test of the fix, complete with aircraft launched, was delayed a year because there were other systems that needed to be evaluated, but that all testing for the EMALS fix has now been completed.

However, the Ford won’t get the latest software improvements until 2019, according to officials. The software that will enable shipboard launches of Super Hornets with external fuel tanks will be installed following the ship’s post-shakedown availability, a maintenance period that follows a new ship’s first cruise.

“Test is a time for discovery and while schedules often shift, the EMALS team has done excellent work to further improve the system’s controls software, eliminating concerns about undue stress to the aircraft, regardless of external fuel tank configuration, during launch,” Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program Manager Capt. Stephen Tedford said in a statement.

“This small test victory gets us that much closer to launching an aircraft with a new technology aboard America’s newest aircraft carrier,” he added.
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[*] posted on 4-8-2017 at 02:59 PM

Coast Guard Design for Navy Frigate? It’s Doable, Zukunft Says

The Coast Guard's 418-foot National Security Cutter Hamilton cruises alongside the Fast Response Cutter William Flores off Miami Beach on Nov. 11, 2014. Mark Barney/Coast Guard

Posted By: Hope Hodge Seck August 3, 2017

This pops up about every 6 months or so. The comments are worth a read, just follow the link above.................

As the Navy searches for the best design for its future frigate, some are promoting an option based on the Coast Guard’s national security cutter.

And while Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft isn’t directly weighing in on the discussion, he has plenty to say about the ship in question.

At an event this week organized by the U.S. Naval Institute and held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Zukunft recounted a “sea story” that he has often retold in public: How the new Coast Guard cutter Hamilton, on its 2016 maiden deployment, more than paid for itself with a remarkable 13 major drug interdictions that resulted in the confiscation of a total of nearly $1 billion worth of cocaine.

On the same deployment, the Hamilton conducted medical evacuations from Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and intercepted hundreds of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally from Cuba.

“This is a ship that will be in service 30, 40 years from now,” Zukunft said. “So I would say that’s a pretty good return on investment. There were no hiccups. We didn’t have to tow her back in. It was a great maiden voyage.”

Nearly a decade after the commissioning of the Navy’s first littoral combat ship in 2008, the class has continued to face criticism over its survivability and design.

Last year, the Navy ordered major changes to engineer training and the LCS deployment strategy after four of the then-six ships in service suffered significant engineering casualties within 12 months of each other.

The Navy had been set to base its future frigate on the LCS design but, in early July, announced that it would reopen analysis, putting out a request to industry for possible frigate designs.

A Navy spokesman, Lt. Seth Clarke, said the decision was a result of changes to the operational environment.

“We have witnessed increasing competition for sea control, an increasingly complex operating environment, and an emphasis on Distributed Maritime Operations,” he told in a statement.

If the service pursues a design based on the national security cutter — a proposal being put forward by shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries — the concept will have to be significantly reworked in order to accommodate weapons and defenses for high-end naval warfare.

But that “can certainly be done,” Zukunft said.

“Many of the systems on there right now are Navy-type, Navy-owned,” he said. “It’s one of these national security cutters that is the flagship for the surface action group for the [biennial] Rim of the Pacific exercise. So we’re used to interoperability with the Navy as well.”

To date, however, no formal conversations have taken place between the Coast Guard and Navy about the design, Zukunft said.

The Navy is looking to award a contract for design and construction in fiscal 2020.

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[*] posted on 4-8-2017 at 03:35 PM

This is an OPV version of the same design..................

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[*] posted on 5-8-2017 at 08:49 PM

I read some of thsoe comments :crazy:

To be honest a NSC based design would be a significant improvement over the LCS, which doesn't do very much well at all, besides hoon around the ocean expensively converting fuel into speed.

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed,
the lips acquire stains,
the stains become a warning.
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion
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[*] posted on 9-8-2017 at 01:49 PM

US Navy moving towards new Air and Missile Defense Radar for destroyers

Daniel Wasserbly - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

07 August 2017

An artist's rendition of the Flight III DDG 51 shows the new AN/SPY-6(V) AMDR antenna array, which is slightly larger than current AN/SPY-1D(V) apertures. Source: HII

The US Navy has completed the second in a series of ballistic missile defence flight tests for its next-generation AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) announced on 3 August.

For the test, held on 27 July, a medium-range ballistic missile target was launched from the US Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii and the AN/SPY-6(V) AMDR “searched for, detected, and maintained track on the target throughout its trajectory”, the navy said. The test is the second in a series for the AN/SPY-6(V) AMDR.

“Based on preliminary data, the test successfully met its primary objectives against a complex medium-range ballistic missile [MRBM] target,” NAVSEA said.

These tests are being done with an engineering and manufacturing development model in Hawaii and it will eventually be moved to Lockheed Martin's Moorestown, New Jersey, facility for additional system integration and testing.

Raytheon is providing the SPY-6(V) AMDR for the US Navy’s the forthcoming Flight III DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.

(187 of 258 words)
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[*] posted on 9-8-2017 at 02:40 PM

Fight Fire with Fire

Proceedings Magazine - August 2017 Vol. 143/8/1,374

By Captain Sam J. Tangredi U.S. Navy (Retired)

Facing growing networks of anti­access warfare systems, the U.S. Navy can regain an early offensive capability by taking conventionally armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles to sea.

Attack effectively first. That is how retired Navy Captain Wayne Hughes, long-term sage of naval tactics, describes the fundamental principle that offensive action remains the key to victory in naval warfare. 1 But in the face of growing networks of antiaccess warfare systems that appear to require navies to remain on the defensive until they can achieve the range to commence an attack, how can that principle be applied?

As noted by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, public discussions of antiaccess/area denial (A2/AD) invariably focus on defensive operations, with an assumption that a potential opponent’s sea denial ambition is a fait accompli. 2 Contemplation of offensive maneuver is relegated to “step two.”

He also is right in noting that early offensive actions can be carried out from inside current A2/AD threat envelopes, especially by nuclear attack submarines (SSNs and SSGNs).

Yet, currently, our SSNs and SSGNs are armed with subsonic, low-altitude Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles that—while effective against many fixed targets—do not necessarily have the speed to be effective against such mobile targets as the transporter-erectors of the Chinese Dong Feng (DF) 21D antiship ballistic missile, often referred to as the “carrier killer.”

Neither do the Tomahawks necessarily have the power to destroy hardened or buried facilities. If carrier aviation must stay beyond the DF-21’s range, how could the U.S. Navy take the offensive actions that would be fundamental to victory if a conflict were to occur in the East or South China seas? And if the Navy lacks such offensive power, how can it be assured it could deter such a conflict?

A potential option to enhance deterrence and bring an early offensive capability against A2/AD strategies is to “fight fire with fire” and take conventionally armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) to sea. 3 Although there have been a small number of recent articles discussing the development of a land-based Pershing III IRBM for operation by the U.S. Army coast artillery, taking IRBMs to sea is an option that has not been publicly examined (at least since the 1960s). 4 It is, however, a future fleet architecture option discussed in the MITRE Corporation’s report to Congress of July 2016. 5 There would be many difficulties, cost, and risks, but as national security professionals, we owe it to the American people to discuss and debate this option.

What follows is a preliminary analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the IRBM option, not with a spirit of advocacy, but to lay out what appears to have been previously unthinkable.

Not an Arms Control Issue

Before beginning the discussion, we must dispatch the common perception that IRBMs are banned under the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which prompted both the United States and the Soviet Union to destroy their entire stocks of land IRBMs, as well as ground-launched cruise missiles.

Pushing aside the fact that China and other nations are not parties to the treaty, and that Russia appears ready to break from its constraints, the INF Treaty does not include sea-based IRBMs. This has been a consistent interpretation of the U.S. Department of State in every administration from President Ronald Reagan to President Barack Obama. The implications for arms control and objections to the idea of IRBMs at sea can provoke a fierce debate, but for now, it must be recognized that sea-based IRBMs and shorter-range ballistic missiles are not constrained by any treaty or informal agreement.

Another issue that needs to be resolved up front is what constitutes an IRBM. A range of 1,000-5,500 kilometers is covered by the INF Treaty. Other sources separate “medium-range” (1,000-3,000 kilometers) from intermediate-range (3,000-5,500 kilometers) ballistic missiles. This distinction often is used within the Department of Defense (DOD); however, it is not a distinction codified in international law. Other nations do not categorize their arsenals in terms of medium range. The DF-21 frequently is described by U.S. analysts as a “medium-range missile,” but it would fall under INF Treaty limits. Moreover, the DF-26 missile, follow-on to the DF-21 with additional booster staging, has an estimated range of 3,000-4,000 kilometers.

Referred to as the “Guam killer” or “Guam express,” the DF-26 is thought also to have an antiship ballistic missile variant.

Given these facts, it is logical to apply the IRBM term to the INF 1,000-5,500 kilometer range and include the DF-21/26 in that category.

The Chinese IRBM Threat

Under many scenarios, the DF-21D could be a severe threat to the operations of U.S. and allied navies in the western Pacific. Also known by the designation CSS-5 Mod 6, it is estimated to carry a 600-kilogram/1,330-pound warhead with maneuverable reentry and terminal guidance capability targeted from either radar or information provided by the Yaogan-series maritime reconnaissance satellites. 6 Combined with an expanding Chinese maritime reconnaissance-strike network of satellites, over-the-horizon radars, and maritime intelligence assets, the DF-21D is a significant and symbolic component of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) antiaccess strategy. 7
What makes it significant is its 1,450-kilometer/780-nautical-mile range, capable of reaching beyond the Taiwan Strait and “first island chain,” which is considered the potential area of Chinese naval dominance.

What makes it symbolic is the perception that it is a weapon through which the PLA can “use the land to control the sea,” particularly against the U.S. fleet. 8 This would ensure the United States could not intervene in a Taiwan crisis as it did in 1995-1996, when U.S. carrier strike groups operated as a deterrent in the Taiwan Strait with apparent impunity. With the DF-21, the PLA theoretically could threaten the U.S. fleet in the western Pacific without a sortie of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Another perceived advantage in land-based anti­ship strike is that the United States presumably would be more reluctant to attack targets on mainland China than PLAN units operating at sea.

Whether or not the DF-21 would be effective in combat, its impact on naval strategy debates in the United States has been profound and continuing. Critics of new U.S. aircraft carrier construction cite cost comparisons between a large arsenal of DF-21Ds and a single aircraft carrier. 9 Numerous studies suggest the U.S. Navy cannot operate within the first island chain, which stretches from Japan to Malaysia. Adding to the debate is the development of the follow-on land-attack/antiship DF-26.

Up to now, discussions of how to best counter the DF-21 and other antiship ballistic missiles have focused on defensive systems, such as the U.S. Navy Standard Missile (SM) 3 with its antiballistic missile capabilities, and on electromagnetic maneuver warfare (EMW) systems. The U.S. Navy also is developing the “distributed networked operations” concept. If these systems are combined with the inherent mobility of warships, defense against the DF-21 is possible, albeit difficult, particularly if reports that the PLA is working on a multiple independent reentry vehicle (MIRV) payload are accurate. 10 A MIRVed payload could cover a wider area, making a hit more likely, although striking a moving target in a clutter of deceptive EMW signals and physical decoys is much harder than many commentators suppose.

Even as we work on developing other defensive operational solutions, there are potential advantages to taking a countering action on the strategic level. Introducing our own IRBMs at sea to target the land elements of the reconnaissance-strike networks would allow us to put DF-21 launchers and hardened network nodes at risk in ways we currently cannot. In conjunction with the defensive systems in service and under development, this could allow for an early phase offensive capability to break A2/AD strategies. If the offensive is truly the key to victory, then greater offensive capabilities should be a source of more credible deterrence.

Strategic and Operational Advantages

A conventional sea-based IRBM capability appears to offer at least five strategic and operational advantages.

Sea-based IRBMs would deliver a prompt counter­targeting capability that Tomahawks cannot provide. Although calculations vary based on booster size, a ballistic missile warhead can achieve speeds of 24,000 kph/15,000 mph (20 Mach) by booster burn-out. The approach speed of a Tomahawk cruise missile is roughly 890 kph/550 mph (0.7 Mach). One of the reported lessons learned in the war on terrorism is that the Tomahawk cannot be used at the extent of its range against real-time terrorist targets because such targets can move during the missile’s flight. Obviously, conventional IRBMs could arrive on target much quicker. Having sea-based IRBMs could prove a strategic advantage over the proposed use of conventionally armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) under the Prompt Global Strike concept because a launch of ICBMs from the continental United States could more easily be perceived as a nuclear attack and be a greater source of nuclear deterrence instability.

Sea-based IRBMs would allow the U.S. Navy to place PLA (and other) A2/AD assets at risk at a greater distance than today, changing the war-planning calculus. The U.S. fleet could target the PLAN and C4ISR nodes without having to enter the first island chain and therefore not face the level of hazard that we currently expect. Potentially, sea-based IRBMs could out-range the DF-21/26, thereby neutralizing that aspect of a PLA antiaccess strategy without being subject to it.

Although there is considerable cost involved in a new-start IRBM acquisition program, the technology is mature, and there would be much less research-and-development cost and engineering risk than would be encountered in the development of more exotic weapons. Sources have suggested the DF-21 resembles a reverse-engineered U.S. Pershing II missile, the type destroyed under the INF. The Pershing II, with a range of 1,770 kilometers, is a proven system whose 1970s technology could be updated without having to explore previously unexploited technologies. Whether the tooling exists to rapidly reconstruct the Pershing is unknown, but from a technological risk calculation, it might be that such a system could have initial operational capability (IOC) at sea prior to the at sea IOC of, for example, the rail gun. With previous experience installing box and canister launchers, it is conceivable the Navy could put an IRBM capability to sea on big-deck surface warships with a minimum of structural changes. The word, however, is conceivable; there is no public record of weight and stability calculations for IRBMs on modern surface ships beyond tests of shipping Pershing missiles by sea conducted by the U.S. Army in the 1960s. 11 Conventionally armed IRBMs also could be fired from SSGNs. In fact, the original Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) would be considered an IRBM today.

Deploying SSGNs with IRBMs would raise arms control issues. Nevertheless, an updated Pershing could rely on proven technologies.

U.S. Navy IRBMs would provide a nonescalatory/unconstrained-by-treaty analogous response to the DF-21/26 that would enhance strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region and make the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) less likely to believe it could act aggressively without fear of a U.S. response. Since deterrence is about perceptions, symbolism matters. As long as it is perceived that the DF-21 can be a “carrier killer”—the symbol of a growing A2/AD network that ensures the United States cannot operate in the western Pacific—the deterrent effect of the U.S. Navy (and assurance to regional allies) is reduced. No matter the operational difficulties involved in countertargeting, regional perceptions that the United States has a carrier killer-killer that can reach beyond PLA A2/AD range would enhance regional deterrence. One could argue that the United States might not be willing to trade Omaha for Taiwan in an ICBM exchange, but it is harder to argue that the United States would be unwilling to hazard warships in a potential conventional IRBM battle.

It is possible that deployment of U.S. sea-based IRBMs might lead to an Asia-Pacific IRBM arms control treaty in a similar way that deployment of ground-based IRBMs (and ground-launched cruise missiles) in Europe led to the INF Treaty. The United States began the search for an INF Treaty with the Soviet Union years before actual missile deployment. The Soviets refused.

However, once it was clear that NATO was committed to the deployment and that the Soviet-sponsored antinuclear protest movement would not derail the decision, negotiations began and were completed in relatively short order. Would the CCP be willing to conclude such an agreement that would include the DF-21 missile family? Unknown. But it would be unlikely to even contemplate such an agreement without facing an actual deployment of sea-based IRBMs, rather than the mere suggestion.

It is conceivable that the initiation of an IRBM acquisition program itself could bring the CCP to the arms control negotiations table. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once maintained that the idea of the sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM)—even before developed—brought the Soviet Union to START. 12

Costs, Risks, and Disadvantages

Obviously, there are costs, risks, and disadvantages that must be weighed prior to embarking on any effort to bring modern IRBMs to sea. Depending on emerging trends and events, such cost and risks may outweigh the strategic and operational advantages. However, that can be determined only through more detailed analysis and open, public debate. At an initial over-the-horizon view, there are at least five significant disadvantages:

The first and most obvious is cost. To re-create a Pershing-type IRBM that can be deployed at sea will require resources on the level of other new-start acquisition programs. To determine an estimated “should cost” is beyond the scope of this article, but one source suggests a cost of $18 million per Pershing II in 2011 U.S. dollars, based on an original cost for the total 1980s program of $4.3 billion for 234 missiles. 13 This would translate to $19 million per missile in 2017. The per missile cost actually would be determined by the total buy, but a new acquisition program costing $4 billion would be difficult to propose in today’s constrained budget environment. Barring a substantial budget increase, other programs would have to be cut or reduced. Under the circumstance, naval IRBMs might not seem to be a priority.

Along with the cost of the missile is the cost of launchers. At 34.8 feet long and with a diameter of 40 inches, a Pershing II would not fit in the standard vertical launch system (VLS) cell.

VLS cells also are rated at a maximum missile weight of 9,020 pounds; the Pershing II weighed 16,451 pounds. Either a new, larger VLS would have to be developed or another launch system designed if a Pershing-type missile were to be installed on surface ships.

This is not an insurmountable problem, as the U.S. Navy has experience using box launchers fitted to existing ships. The weight involved likely would make it prohibitive for destroyer-sized vessels, but it could be supported by amphibious warfare ships—providing a capability that would result in some serious distributed lethality. Another option would be to tie down transportable erector-launchers on the decks of amphibs or aircraft carriers, and possibly smaller vessels, similar to those used for the former land-based Pershing IIs. This possibility follows a suggestion by Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller that the high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS), a road-mobile system transported by amphibious warfare ships, be equipped with antiship missiles. 14 While such a capability primarily would be used ashore, there appears little to preclude its use from the decks of amphibs. Targeting would be provided by other sea-based, airborne, or space-based assets. But, again, this would require resources.

Another option is to design new-type vessels specifically for sea-based IRBM systems, but that, of course, would increase costs substantially.

There have been no technical studies (at least no public studies) of the engineering requirements of putting IRBMs to sea, which means it is difficult to determine the technical risks of such a program. Despite the apparent feasibility, the risk of program failure may be high, particularly if initial cost estimates are understated and engineering difficulties mount. It is not that engineering challenges could not be surmounted; rather, the issue is that—despite the potential for the use of mature technologies—the total risks are unknown.

Like for all new capabilities, concepts of operations would need to be developed, and testing, experimentation, and training would need to be funded.

We have no clear idea how the CCP would react to U.S. development of a sea-based IRBM capability. Public rhetorical invective would be extreme, but what sort or political or military action the Chinese might seriously contemplate is unknown.

What Should be Done Now?

Given the advantages and disadvantages, what should the U.S. Navy do in the near term? Quite simply, now is the time for detailed study and experimentation.

First, the Navy should embark on multiple studies of the strategic, operational, and technical aspects of using sea-based IRBMs to counter antiaccess strategies and A2/AD systems.

These should be both internal and commissioned studies, with emphasis on engineering requirements and technical risks. The focus should be on how to obtain such capabilities using existing technology and at relatively low cost.

Second, the Navy should experiment with the operation of existing land-based missiles on surface ships. There is no reason to wait for optimal launch systems. Most can be tied down and tested using the amphibious force.

Third, in conjunction with the eventual replacement of the Ohio class, the Navy should examine the possibility of converting Ohio submarines into SSGNs that can fire conventionally armed IRBMs. This looks feasible from a technical point of view, but there are strategic and arms control implications that must be examined.

It may be that, after a detailed examination, the Navy and the nation determine sea-based IRBMs are the wrong option.

However, the time and effort it takes to examine the possibility will be worth it as it could lead us to identify a better option. In any event, we need to look at what might seem unconventional solutions if we are to regain the offensive capabilities to defeat antiaccess strategies and A2/AD systems. We cannot look at A2/AD as primarily a defensive challenge and expect to achieve victory. And we cannot allow an enemy to attack effectively first.
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[*] posted on 9-8-2017 at 04:21 PM

LCS Lives: They Still Count In Age Of Frigates

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on August 07, 2017 at 5:46 PM

The two variants of the Navy Littoral Combat Ship — LCS-1 Freedom and LCS-2 Independence – side by side off the California coast.

Yes, the Navy has cut short its Littoral Combat Ship program and started work on a bigger, tougher, better-armed frigate.

But the small ships will still be big part of the future fleet, experts we spoke to agreed, and the frigate will carry on much of the LCS legacy.

It’s true the Navy’s needs have changed, because the world has changed, with rising threats from major powers eclipsing Third World pirates – but the Littoral Combat Ship has changed as well. In particular, an LCS design conceived during the days of the “peace dividend” is being upgunned with both short- and long-range missiles that increase its relevance for major war.

The shift to frigates is not just a rejection of LCS, either. While the frigate concept turns away from some aspects of LCS – its high speed, its small crew, its limited combat power – it embraces others, such as extending the ship’s reach with unmanned craft and fleetwide networks. In other crucial respects, especially the frigate’s offensive and defensive firepower, the Navy’s still making up its mind.

The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Sirocco.

After studying the Navy’s Request For Information (RFI) on industry’s frigate designs, “I wouldn’t say the RFI repudiates the LCS approach, because the idea of having a smaller, less-expensive, shallow-draft, fast ship makes sense,” said retired commander Bryan Clark, now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments. The new frigate isn’t really replacing the 3,400-ton LCS, he argued, but filling a gap between smaller coastal patrol craft like the 380-ton Cyclone class and larger multi-role warships like 9,700-ton Aegis destroyers.

To that end, Clark wants the future frigate to have both the weapons and radar to conduct wide-area air defense of nearby ships in a task force or convoy –a mini-Aegis like Spain’s Navantia frigates – rather than only defend itself – like the current LCS.

That kind of capability would of course, increase the frigate’s price, perhaps dramatically, which is why the original Small Surface Combatant Task Force from 2014 decided against it.

“The SSCTF said the knee in the curve, from the cost perspective, is when you add area air defense, (i.e.) when you’re defending someone else. For that, you need a different weapon, you need different sensors,” a retired Naval officer told me. “You’re adding hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Instead, the task force proposed a host of other, more affordable improvements to the existing LCS designs. 

By giving up minesweeping capability, the 11-meter rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs), and associated equipment, the task force managed to fit a lot of new equipment into the LCS hull. “The last frigate design had 30 mm guns, surface-to-surface missiles — the Hellfires — over the horizon missiles, the 76 mm gun, anti-submarine torpedoes, a helicopter,” the naval officer said. “That’s a very capable ship.”

So does the Navy want an upgraded version of the current LCS, or a new, larger frigate with the weapons and sensors for area air defense? The current Request For Information carefully leaves that crucial question open, for now.

Austal’s proposal for an LCS frigate with Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes.

Missile Sponges & Network Nodes

Whatever the final shape of the frigates, Littoral Combat Ships can play important supporting roles alongside them in major wars, and a leading role in low-threat theaters. In what passes for peacetime conditions in our troubled world, LCS will hunt pirates and drug-runners, exercise with friendly navies, and patrol waters too shallow for other ships. They will also be the Navy’s only minesweepers once the aging and much more vulnerable Avenger class retires, and mines are favorite weapons of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

Of the two LCS variants, the broad-decked trimaran Independence and the sleeker Freedom, said retired Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix, “I see the Independence class focusing on mine warfare and Freedom class doing littoral (coastal) surface warfare. The new frigate will do ASW/ASUW (anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare) in blue water as well as carrier strike group and alliance convoy escort duty.”

In high-tech conflict, LCS lacks the anti-missile defenses and damage-resistant hull of larger vessels like destroyers – and possibly the frigate, depending on the Navy’s final choice – but it can operate under the Aegis (literally) of larger ships. With that protection, LCS can serve the fleet as extra eyes, ears, and missile launchers.

A Perry-class frigate, USS Vandegrift

Adding the upgunned LCS to the battle line complicates the enemy’s problem by multiplying both threats and targets, a concept the the Navy calls distributed lethality. True, as Littoral Combat Ships take hits, they may well sink or retreat to port for repairs while a larger ship could keep on fighting, but better a LCS eat a missile than a larger and more valuable vessel.

That sounds cold-blooded, but it’s an honorable Navy tradition.

The practice dates back at least to World War II, when over-enthusiastic kamikaze pilots often dove at the first picket ship they saw rather than waiting until they reached the aircraft carriers. The Cold War’s Perry-class frigates, only retired in 2015, were known with grim humor as “missile sponges.”

“The whole idea of distributed lethality is not to put all your eggs in one basket and distribute your firepower over multiple platforms, so in case you lose one, you don’t lose your whole capability,” said Steven Wills, a retired Navy officer who served on Perry frigates, as well as other often-neglected smaller vessels like minesweepers and coastal patrol craft.

What modern technology adds to the old missile sponge idea is networking. Instead of just sending a radio warning of an incoming attack, the picket ships can share detailed targeting data. An LCS or frigate that’s fired all its own missiles can still tell other ships where to shoot. A ship whose own sensors can’t pick up a particular target can still fire based on data from another vessel that’s better placed or better equipped.

The LCS Coronado test-fires a new anti-ship missile from Norway’s Kongsberg.

Networking this way empowers large numbers of small ships in new ways. The old axiom is “quantity has a quality all its own,” but you have to update that for the information age, when Metcalfe’s Law states a network’s power grows exponentially as it adds more nodes. At least in theory every ship, small or large, that’s added to a networked fleet increases the combat effectiveness of every other ship. Conversely, any node in the network can call on the full sensor- and firepower of the entire fleet, making even a small ship like LCS a big potential threat.

In fact, Bryan Clark and his CSBA colleagues argue the LCS’s flaw is it’s too large. (Ironically, the original concept for LCS, called Streetfighter, was much smaller). They call LCS an unhappy compromise between a smaller, more agile, and more affordable coastal patrol craft like the Cyclones and a larger, more capable, and more expensive guided-missile frigate (FFG).

“It tried to do the patrol ship job and the FFG job,” Clark told me. “The problem was LCS was not inexpensive enough to be affordable in large numbers … and lacked the organic capabilities to fight and survive in contested operating environments.” That said, Clark continued, LCS can fill the gap until we build sufficient numbers of both smaller patrol ships – his model here is Sweden’s 600-ton Visby corvettes – and larger frigates.

Lockheed has proposed larger variants of the LCS, including ones with VLS, for foreign markets.

The LCS Legacy

In many ways, the frigate plan is a return to traditional naval virtues. It will likely be larger than LCS, which lets it both carry more equipment and take more damage. It will be capable of conducting multiple missions at once: defending against surface ships, submarines, and possibly air attack. By contrast, LCS can do one mission at a time, depending on which plug-and-play mission module is installed – a concept the Navy always struggled with.

“There’s a bit of a collective sigh, ‘oh good we don’t have to have swap-in swap-out modules,'” a DC-based naval analyst told me. “The frigate’s a multi-mission small ship; it’s a traditional way of doing business. We’re comfortable with things called frigates. We didn’t know what to do with this LCS.”

“We changed so many things at the same time,” said the naval officer. “The entire surface enterprise — the budgeting people, the manning people, the training people — all had to make significant changes to the way they did business.” Like other other weapons programs of the “transformation” era in the early 2000s — the Army’s Future Combat System, the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Project — LCS tried to revolutionize too many aspects of warfare at once.

That said, a lot of LCS lives on in the frigate. Counting the bullet points in a Navy briefing to industry on the frigate, four of five top-priority characteristics are similar to LCS:
- conduct both anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare;
- extend the fleets’ sensor network;
- operate as a mothership for unmanned craft; and
- take on less demanding missions to free up destroyers.

Unlike LCS, however, the frigate must operate independently in high-threat environments – the fifth required characteristic – rather than depending on an Aegis destroyer escort for air and missile defense.

The frigate will also use the same manning scheme eventually adopted on LCS. Unlike traditional vessels, each frigate will have two crews, operating it in alternation, to allow it to spend more time deployed and less in port. On the other hand, the frigate will have a larger crew than LCS and use standard Navy systems wherever possible, both measures to avoid LCS’s chronic problems with maintenance. And the frigate won’t have to match the 40-plus-knot speed of LCS, a requirement that drove the LCS program to costly, oversized propulsion plants and exotic hull designs.

Perhaps the most basic thing LCS and the frigate have in common is the simple fact they’re both small ships – a category the Navy has often neglected. Focused on aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers, traditionalists often disparaged LCS as the “little f****ing ship” for its fragility and lack of firepower.

When the Navy brainstormed the “Surface Combatant 21” family of ships in the 1990s, Wills recalled, “some of the Navy did not even want to include a small surface combatant” to replace the aging Perry frigates. If LCS has done just one good deed for the Navy, it’s been to cement small warships’ place in the fleet – and in the budget.
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[*] posted on 10-8-2017 at 01:11 PM

It seems everyone's working as hard as they can to avoid saying the LCS is a dog. Too bad it is.

Roll on a real warship.

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the lips acquire stains,
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[*] posted on 11-8-2017 at 12:09 AM

It's astonishing that Denmark was able to make it work on stanflex modules on a meagre budget, and the USN module development have been plagued with issues for years.


The Fifth Generation/Air Dominance in the 21st Century
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[*] posted on 14-8-2017 at 08:47 PM

Modified X-47B Breaks Cover As Testbed For MQ-25 Bid

Aug 12, 2017

Guy Norris | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

LOS ANGELES—Northrop Grumman is using an X-47B unmanned air vehicle (UAV) as a flying testbed for air refueling systems in support of its proposal for the U.S. Navy’s upcoming MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tanker contest.

First details of Northrop Grumman’s preparations for the MQ-25A bid have emerged in photographs obtained by Aviation Week of a modified X-47B at the U.S. Air Force’s Plant 42 facility in Palmdale, Calif. The photos appear to show the UAV configured with a wing air refueling pod (WARP) under the left wing and a drop fuel tank under the right wing.

The aircraft also displays an aerial refueling probe over the right wing, which indicates this particular vehicle is likely AV-2/502, the second of two X-47Bs that flew in the Navy’s unmanned carrier air system demonstration (UCAS-D) program that wrapped up in 2015.

Though details are difficult to discern through the heat haze, the WARP appears similar to the Cobham 34” (inch) series which operates over an air speed range of 200 to 325 knots. The power for the system, which can transfer fuel at 400 US gal/min, is provided by a ram-air turbine, which is clearly visible on the nose of the WARP.

The pod under the right wing is thought to be a standard auxiliary fuel tank similar to the 330-gallon FPU-8 or 480-gallon FPU-11 drop tanks used by the F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet respectively. One photo also shows what appears to be an open access panel or possible housing for an electro-optical/IR sensor set in the upper fuselage above the centrally located engine inlet.

Little has been seen or heard about the X-47Bs—dubbed "Salty Dogs" by the Navy—since their departure from Naval Air Systems Command’s Patuxent Rover, Md., facility back to Palmdale in January and February this year. The aircraft had been in storage since the end of the UCAS-D program, facing an uncertain future when Northrop took them back with the intention of using the assets as flying testbeds for future development programs.

The appearance of the modified X-47B comes as the Navy prepares to issue a formal request for proposals (RFP) later this year for the MQ-25A, the service’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle. The call for proposals follows a draft RFP issued in June for a planned engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract award in 2018. The request, which is targeting the ability of UAV tankers to extend the range of carrier air wings from as early as 2019-2020, was sent directly to Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman was contacted for a response to the emergence of these images but declined to comment.
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[*] posted on 15-8-2017 at 11:22 AM

Navy quickens pace for ship systems overhauls

By: Adam Stone   6 hours ago

Technicians Diana Burnside and Arnel Franswells perform acceptance testing on Consolidated Afloat Ships Network Enterprise Services racks in SPAWAR’s Network Integration and Engineering Facility. (Rick Naystatt/Navy)

Modernization effort involves balancing efficiency with cybersecurity

Three years into the Navy’s effort to modernize fleet tactical networks, the service says it has cut down by more than half the time it takes to install the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services on aircraft carriers and other vessels.
A systems overhaul that once took a year and a half can now be completed in seven months.

“We’re still looking to do more,” said Capt. Kurt Rothenhaus, program manager for the Tactical Networks Program Office within Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence, or PEO C4I. “We are always looking to reduce the installation times. We are looking at ways to do more automatic testing, to do more of the install in an automated fashion.”

The network has been deployed at more than 50 units out of a planned 190 ships, submarines and maritime operations centers. The Navy is eager to streamline the network upgrades, which can cut into a vessel’s operating time. It has taken a range of measures to speed up the deployment of Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services, or CANES, which aims to consolidate existing, separately managed networks including the Integrated Shipboard Network System, the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System Maritime, sensitive compartmented information networks and the Submarine Local Area Network.

The enhanced deployment timeline “has been a collaborative effort with the fleet, the maintenance community and our industry partners,” Rothenhaus said.

Some of the time savings come from close coordination. By organizing the deployment of new network resources in a shared workflow alongside other maintenance activities, it is possible to sequence efforts more efficiently. Upgrades do require network outages, “but it is very sequenced, very planned in terms of the evolution of taking down the existing LAN, migrating those users to a temporary LAN and then migrating them back up onto the new network,” he said, using an acronym for local area network.

Project leaders also have worked to make the new systems easier to install, for example by preloading programs into the system before taking the new equipment down to the dock. “We have been able to install more of the software before we get on board the platform, doing more inside our production facilities,” Rothenhaus said.

Project leaders also have tweaked the processes by which new applications are loaded onto CANES. “It’s a more efficient organization of the application load. We’re sequencing that better to make a more efficient flow,” Rothenhaus added.

Navy leaders have promised CANES will deliver significant enhancements in the afloat compute environment. “The operating systems that exist today on some of those legacy networks are not sustainable. CANES allows us to deploy current operating systems and then upgrade or stay current with future changes to those operating systems in a more cost-effective and timely way,” Rear Adm. Christian Becker said at the time of the program’s launch. Then the Navy’s program executive officer for C4I, he’s now the head of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, or SPAWAR.

The cyber factor

In August 2014, SPAWAR awarded full-production contracts, with an estimated cumulative value of $2.5 billion, to five vendors. The program has evolved in the subsequent years. In addition to streamlining the installation, program managers are putting an increased emphasis on cybersecurity aspects of the system.

“We recognize the Navy’s systems afloat are prime targets to potential cyber adversaries, so it is first and foremost in our engineering and planning,” Rothenhaus said. “We have continued to make investments to improve the cyber resiliency of the system.”

One specific evolution on the cyber front involves the means by which news of a potential vulnerability is communicated across the Navy to CANES-upgraded vessels. “One of the things we do focus on is speed — getting a mitigation to a cyberthreat or a new piece of software as rapidly as possible from the engineering team out to the fleet,” he said. “We have made investments to automate and more quickly release updates to support better cyber resiliency.”

CANES leaders say they are looking beyond cyber as well, watching the evolving tech landscape for changes that could impact the network, especially in fast-growth areas such as data analytics and machine learning. “As the demand for those types of emerging technologies progresses, we envision CANES as a platform for delivering that capacity,” Rothenhaus said.
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[*] posted on 16-8-2017 at 07:04 PM

US Navy manufactures fire-proof, self-extinguishing polymers

Geoff Fein - IHS Jane's International Defence Review

16 August 2017

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has manufactured a new class of resins, which when injected into a composite and cured, enable the material to withstand very high temperatures, maintain structural integrity even in a fire, and self-extinguish.

The new class of polyetheretherketone (PEEK)-like phthalonitriles is vastly different from the first generation of phthalonitriles, which showed promise for the fireproofing capability, but were very difficult to make, Dr Holly Ricks-Laskoski, research chemist at NRL's technology transfer office, told Jane’s .

NRL invented phthalonitriles, which Ricks-Laskoski refers to as a type of plastic, or polymer. But such material was beyond the ability of the industry to manufacture 20 years ago, she said.

(111 of 614 words)
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[*] posted on 17-8-2017 at 12:00 PM

Navy to Commission Middle East-based Expeditionary Sea Base Lewis B. Puller as a Warship

By: Megan Eckstein

August 16, 2017 4:16 PM

The Military Sealift Command expeditionary mobile base USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) departs Naval Station Norfolk to begin its first operational deployment on July 10, 2017. Puller is deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. Navy and allied military efforts in the region. US Navy photo.

The Navy will re-designate its first Expeditionary Landing Base ship a warship this week, converting the Military Sealift Command ship USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3) into USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) so it can better meet operational needs abroad, USNI News has learned.

Chesty Puller has already departed Naval Station Norfolk for its maiden deployment and will have a commissioning ceremony in U.S. 5th Fleet tomorrow to formally bring the ship into the Navy’s warship fleet.

“Converting ESB-3 to a commissioned warship (USS) will allow U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet the flexibility needed to meet challenges in the region,” Navy spokesman Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News.

“Potential missions, such as mine-countermeasure operations and special operations forces staging, must be conducted by a warship under the law of armed conflict. In order to provide combatant commanders the maximum amount of flexibility, the Navy decided to commission ESB-3 as a U.S. warship once she arrived in [Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command]/U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.”

Clarke said the ship’s capabilities development document back in 2012 noted that the ship could temporarily commission as a warship if needed for emergent operational requirements. But, he added, “instead of being a temporary change, USNS Lewis B. Puller will be commissioned permanently as a listed warship (USS). Because of the nature of the evolving threats in the region, permanent conversion to USS reduces any ambiguity of ESB-3’s status and eliminates the administrative distraction that a temporary conversion creates while streamlining the command and control process. In 2016, the Navy began the necessary steps to commission the ship as a warship. All echelons, including the Fleet, [Military Sealift Command], the Type Commander, the Combatant Commander, and [chief of naval operations], agreed that permanently commissioning ESB as a warship was the best way forward.”

Additionally, the Navy is studying making the ship a part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Bahrain.

USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3). NASSCO photo.

“ESB-3 is scheduled to return to the United States at least every five years for maintenance availability. The Navy is currently conducting a cost-benefit analysis for making ESB-3 a forward-deployed naval force [ship], which would allow depot-level maintenance beyond voyage repairs to be conducted overseas,” Clarke added.

Puller will join the Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in 5th Fleet. The two will operate together for now, Clarke said, with Ponce eventually leaving theater for a 2018 planned decommissioning in Norfolk. Puller was designed and built to be the permanent replacement for the temporary Ponce – which was converted from an amphibious transport dock (LPD) to an AFSB in 2012 to meet an urgent need in the Middle East.

In addition to supporting mine countermeasures helicopters and special operators in the Middle East, Ponce has gained attention for hosting the Laser Weapon System (LaWS). Though Puller will ultimately replace Ponce as the staging base in theater, the LaWS will not be moved to the new ship.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf on November 17, 2014. US Navy photo.

“While LaWS on Ponce provided the Navy some initial learning in an operational environment, including how to maintain such a system in the stressing maritime environment, there are no plans to incorporate LaWS on Lewis B. Puller at this time. The Navy will continue to explore options for incorporating directed energy (DE) weapons aboard Navy assets. DE has the potential to offer game-changing capabilities for our sailors and Marines, which include: rapid engagement, low cost per engagement, deep magazines, and the ability to tailor effects to specific targets and missions,” Clarke said.

“LaWS was deployed aboard Ponce to verify and further develop laser weapons in an austere, operationally relevant environment. The results of the LaWS deployment will inform and inspire future laser weapon development.”

With Ponce already being a USS warship, though manned by a hybrid crew of Navy sailors and civilian mariners, it was able to conduct whatever mission was asked of it by theater commanders. Clarke told USNI News that for missions like mine-countermeasures and special operations forces staging – Puller’s two primary missions, for now – “under the legal mandate, the commanding officer must be a commissioned naval officer who is able and ready to execute a full-range of missions, and who is trained and experienced in rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict. … Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations. Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”

Puller will retain the hybrid crew it was built to host, and that Ponce used. The ship has a large flight deck in the center of the ship that separates uniformed and civilian mariner berthing spaces. Clarke said the conversion to a USS warship requires the addition of an O-6 commanding officer billet, which will be added through a redistribution of existing billets. The ship already had a stateroom for a commanding officer and therefore needs no physical modifications as a result of the new designation. The crew for USS Lewis B. Puller will now include five naval officers, 96 enlisted sailors to operate the flight deck and support operational detachments, and 44 civilian mariners from MSC to operate and maintain the flight deck and engineering spaces.

USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in 2015. USS Navy Photo

Clarke noted this hybrid crew concept is also used on submarine tenders USS Frank Cable (AS-40) and USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LLC-20), along with Ponce.

The change to a USS warship creates no additional work for the engineers supporting the ship at Naval Sea Systems Command or the requirements officers at the Pentagon, he said, and creates to changes in training or equipping the ship for operations.

Additionally, Puller’s new designation does not necessarily mean follow-on ESBs would be designated a USS warship either.

Clarke said that “the Navy will assess each ship on an individual basis, weighing combatant commander mission requirements and the projected area of operation for each ship.” And the Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs), from which the ESB design was derived, are not set for USS designation either.

“The intent is not to set a precedent for other classes of ships, but to maximize the capabilities that ESB has, and provide combatant commanders with assets that enable them to meet all operational requirements,” Clarke told USNI News.
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