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Innovative Hullforms and Systems Eyed for Tomorrow's Fleet

Wavelengths: An Employee's Digest of Events and Issues (NAVSEA Carderock)

June 2002

By Marty Kauchak. Reprinted from Armed Forces Journal International, March 2002

On a March morning in 2020, Ensign James Ky has reported for assignment to the recently commissioned USS Challenger (LCS 1), the initial vessel of the Littoral Combat Ship Class of ships. Ky watches the crew of the 40-knot-plus, 3,000-ton trimaran (triple hull design) ship prepare the Challenger's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) for test operations. A klaxon sounds, warning the 25-person crew to avoid the pop-up missile-bay hatches that are opening on the port side outrigger. A shrill horn off the ship's aft section alerts the crew that a barge is approaching, ready to transfer an unmanned surface vehicle (USV)-and its special operations detachment-to the Challenger.

This futuristic scenario is approaching reality as a result of the frenetic pace of research and development being conducted by the Navy and industry to field revolutionary shipboard systems, technologies, and hullforms for the next generation of ships.

A number of ship classes are at, or are approaching, block obsolescence and will require replacement in the next two decades. Planners inside the Pentagon's E-ring and the Service's ship programs offices are working on projects that include designing the LHA(R) replacement ship for the LHA 1 Tarawa and the LHD 1 Wasp amphibious assault class ships; and the MCM(X), envisioned to replace the MCM 1 Avenger Class mine countermeasures and MHC 51 Osprey Class coastal minehunter ships.

Closer in on the Navy's shipbuilding horizon is the plan to field the DD(X) destroyer, which subsumed the Service's long-gestating DD 21 Zumwalt Class land attack destroyer program. The Sea Service's present plans see DD(X) providing a baseline for spiral development for the new generation destroyer and the next generation cruiser, dubbed CG(X). Advanced technology and networking capabilities from DD(X) and CG(X) will be used to develop the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

The systems and hulls that will comprise the new ship classes of the 2020 era and will be included on latter vessels from classes of ships in today's Fleet, will primarily be built around technologies and capabilities available today. The United Kingdom's RV Triton trimaran project is being eyed by Navy planners for use in several new U.S. ship classes. Lockheed Martin's Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems (NESS) Undersea Systems' AN/WLD-1(V)1 remote minehunting system could serve as a foundation for building future UUVs. Other promising initiatives, including micro-technologies are less mature in their development, but are certain to be on ships at the end of the next decade.

Requirements Drive Design

The Division is developing future technology concepts for all ships-from aircraft carriers to small craft. Dennis Clark (0111), the Division's Director of Strategic Planning, told AFJI that "Ships don't come about from thin air; they come about because there is normally a perceived need or desire." So, what are the Service requirements that are driving the next generation shipboard systems and ship designs?

Clark and Dave Byers (206), who heads the Division's Center of Innovation, expect future shipbuilding programs to be shaped by advances that include network-centric warfare or the shift of warfighting capabilities from an individual ship or other weapons platform to a group of platforms. Some of the other requirements that round out Byers' and Clark's list are countering chemical, biological, and radiological defense threats; transformation; the requirement for reduced crew sizes; the ability to operate with the Service's nascent Cooperative Engagement Capability Initiatives; a distributed capability that would support the network-centric warfare concept; and the ability of the future Fleet to receive logistical support from the United States while forward deployed.

A number of bold and innovative technologies are being eyed to meet this burgeoning requirements list.


The Navy is considering a stable of diverse technologies for its future Fleet. The Service will use integrated electric drive (IED) and integrated power systems (IPS) in its DD(X)-and possibly in other future ship classes-to provide benefits that include "Leap ahead" capabilities and combat survivability. IPSs will generate the electrical power needed to meet the expanding list of future onboard and offboard ship system requirements. The all-electric ships will also enhance combat survivability by offering redundancy of systems and breaking the "tyranny of the shaft"-eliminating the propulsion shafting and related auxiliary systems, which are vulnerable to damage from sea mines and often figure in events when a ship runs aground.

The IPS and IED will support the fielding of electro-chemical and high-energy electromagnetic weapons on electric warships. Byers added, "If you really look far into the future-and we are talking beyond the 2020 timeframe-a directed-energy weapon now becomes technologically feasible. You have unlimited ammunition, dependent on how you derive that electricity. That is another reason that the electric ship has such potential."

Nano- and micro-technologies are also envisioned for use in future ship systems. "We don't know where this is going. We are talking about very unique sensors placed in various parts of a ship that could do just about anything. The militarization of sensor technology is just in its infancy, and I can guarantee you that it's going to be on ships that will be commissioned in the 2020 era," Clark said.

Unmanned Vehicles

Admiral William Fallon, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, challenged his Service at the January Surface Naval Association Symposium in Arlington, Va., to expand its use of UAVs and other unmanned vehicles in tomorrow's Fleet.

Clark noted that his command supports the U.S. Naval War College's Strategic Studies Group, which is focused on challenges in the 2030-2050 period. The group "postulates that thousands of unmanned vehicles-of all kinds-in a future scenario will accomplish surveillance, combat, and other missions," he said. While the Navy has focused much of its efforts in this area on UAVs, it is now turning its attention to UUV and USV development programs. (See related story on page 9.) "My UUV Innovation center did a project last year on USVs that was an internally generated requirement," Byers said. "The USV was craft-sized that could be carried by a fairly large ship; it was 23 metric tons and 14.5 meters long. The project was looking at a mine-countermeasures mission, or an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) mission. The idea was to transit at a relatively high speed and operate in a low-observable manner-unmanned."

Shape of Things to Come

The Navy is looking beyond mono-hull design ships to meet the requirements of 21st century warfare-with faster, more stable, and shallower draft ships- to increasingly operate in the world's littoral regions.

Two of the hull designs being considered are the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH), a production hull form in later vessels of the U.S. Navy's T-AGOS Class ocean surveillance ship program, and the trimaran hull used on the British RV Triton, the world's largest powered trimaran.

NSWCCD is the Service's field office that is providing the instrumentation system to record all of the Triton's data from its sea trials, which included a transit from the United Kingdom to the United States in the summer of 2001. "We have a long-term agreement (with the United Kingdom government) that may lead to some of our electric motor technology being tried out on the Triton as well," Byers said.

"I think that you are going to see a lot of our concepts feature this idea of a trimaran," Clark predicted, adding, "The trimaran allows a small ship to operate in a fairly large ocean, and it gives you a lot of deck area for the weight. The Triton is a 1300-ton ship. You can't get that deck area or that stability on a monohull."

Other hullforms that are being evaluated by the Navy for future use include high-speed vessels, represented by Australia's Austal Ships' Westpac Express, the theatre logistics vessel, with a catamaran hull that has been put through its paces and successfully evaluated by the U.S. Marines' III Marine Expeditionary Force in the Western Pacific.

NAVSEA Perspectives

Mark Bebar, the Director of NAVSEA's Total Ship System Concepts Division, told AFJI that his office is involved, early on, in the ship procurement process. His office conducts studies of technologies that may support future ship classes, develops ship design budgets, and completes other projects that are part of a ship program's pre-systems acquisition phase.

Jeffrey Koleser, senior naval architect in NAVSEA's Total Ship System Concepts Division, and his colleagues use a full range of ideas to support future ship programs, from fielded commercial, high-technology solutions that captivate the naval community to ideas "That no one else is working on to see how they will play out." He provided an example of how his creativity and curiosity supported programs in the latter category: "For the Blue Knight Patrol Boat Study, I took aircraft technology and turned it into a warship. It has aircraft technology onboard-combat systems, sensors, weapons, and so forth."

Koleser forecasted, "The DD(X) will be very similar to what DD 21 was envisioned to be, but smaller, most likely, and it will have a gun or guns." The Navy is launching a renaissance in its future shipbuilding program.

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