LHA(R) A/V (Aviation Variant)
The RDA (Research, Development, and Acquisition) team worked with the Navy and Marine Corps leadership to restructure LHA(R) from a plug-plus to an aviation variant using the proven LHD hull to save over $1.1 billion. The LHA(R) A/V (Aviation Variant) does not have the larger hull of the former LHA(R). The Plug Plus Variant was 77 ft longer & 10 ft wider than the LHD. The Aviation Variant design, the Navy stated, would have enhanced aviation features compared to the basic Wasp-class design, but would lack a well deck, making it the first amphibious ship in decades built without a well deck. With the LHA(R) A/V the Well Deck is gone, the Lower Vehicle Deck is gone, and there are no LCACs. LHA(R) Aviation Variant is a new design same footprint size as the existing LHD class ships. It has an expanded Hangar with 2 High Hat areas. The Cargo/Ammo Magazines are contained within an "Armored Box" similar to CVN design for ships survivability purposes. There is AWSE Work Center & stowage space, OHE stowage, and Upper Vehicle stowage (this was out but came back).
On 15 June 2006 Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS), Pascagoula, Mississippi was awarded a $20,378,352 modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-2221) to exercise a cost-plus-fixed-fee option for special studies and procurement of additional long lead-time material, in support of LHA 6 ship construction. The LHA(R) Flight 0 Ship would be a variant of the LHD 8 amphibious assault ship currently being built by NGSS and would have enhanced aviation capabilities. The Navy began procurement of long lead time material for LHA 6 in Fiscal Year 2005 and the construction of LHA 6 was scheduled to begin in FY07.
According to a March 2007 audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in 2005, DoD and the Navy determined that the LHA 6 program (formerly the LHA(R) program) had no critical development technologies because all of the ship's critical systems and equipment utilized technologies from existing Navy programs. However, the program office had identified six key subsystems needed to achieve the system's full capability, one of which was not mature. Almost 45 percent of LHA 6 was based on the design of the LHD 8 ship then under construction. A design review of LHA 6 was conducted in October 2005, and the Navy determined that LHA 6's preliminary design was stable.
The Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Science and Technology concurred with the DoD and Navy assessments concerning critical technology and the program proceeded without a formal technology readiness assessment. However, the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence suite (C4I), Ship Self Defense System (SSDS), Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), and Evolved NATO Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) were designated as key techonlogies. All were mature technologies used on numerous Navy ships. According to program officials, these technologies would not be modified for LHA 6 and further development would not be required for ship integration. The 500 ton air conditioning (AC) plants modified for LHA 6 were undergoing testing to ensure functionality. Finally, the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS), a new GPS-based aircraft landing system, was not yet mature.
The AC plant was the only machinery/auxiliary technology that would differ from the LHD 8 ship, but according to program officials it would be a minor adaptation of plants used aboard Virginia-class submarines. Program officials stated that first article testing of the plant was in progress by March of 2007 and scheduled to continue through June 2007. According to program officials, the plant met all ship specifications during its initial testing.
JPALS would be used to support the all-weather landings of next-generation Navy aircraft, including the Joint Strike Fighter. The system, however, was not yet mature because its major components have not been tested together. JPALS had not yet started system development, but was expected to be fielded on other ships prior to its integration on LHA 6. Program officials stated that the LHA 6 design had incorporated space for the system based on initial estimates of its specifications. Furthermore, the legacy aviation control system, SPN-41A, would serve as the backup technology in the event that JPALS development was delayed beyond LHA 6 deployment and the introduction of the F-35 JSF. According to the program office, JPALS was not needed to achieve the operational requirements of LHA 6 and SPN-41A was sufficient to land the F-35 JSF if the aircraft was fielded before JPALS.
According to program officials, one area of risk for the ship was the development of new software code for a portion of the machinery control system. LHA 6 would be dependent on LHD 8 to provide 75 percent of its machinery control system software, as well as the automated bridge and diesel generator control systems software. Program officials said that this software had not yet been tested or demonstrated. All other software would be used on other Navy systems prior to LHA 6's delivery. Program officials expected LHA 6's schedule to accommodate this software development.
The Navy finalized a fixed-price incentive contract for detail design and construction with Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in June 2007. According to the program office, design of the ship was about 30 percent complete. On 01 June 2007 the U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) a $2.4 billion fixed-price incentive contract for the detail design and construction of the amphibious assault ship, LHA 6. Work will be performed primarily at the company's shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., and ship delivery is scheduled for 2012. The contract for LHA 6, the first ship of the LHA (R) program, was awarded in June 2007 and delivery is scheduled for the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. at that time delivery of LHA 7 was tentatively planned for FY 2017.
Navy officials noted that a production readiness review that would assess design progress was scheduled for March 2008.
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