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Ship Self Defense System [SSDS]

Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) is a new combat system intended to integrate and coordinate all of the existing sensors and weapons systems aboard a ship. They system will eventually be installed aboard most classes of non-Aegis ships. SSDS makes it possible to automate the detect through engage sequence through the use of identification and engagement doctrine statements. The entire combat system, including the sensors and weapons, is known as Quick Reaction Combat Capability (QRCC). SSDS is the integrating element of QRCC. SSDS is not intended to improve the performance of any sensor or weapon beyond the performance of the stand-alone version. The primary advantage SSDS brings to the combat systems suite is the ability to coordinate both hard kill and soft kill systems and employ them to their optimum tactical advantage.

Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) MK I consists of a computer network, special software, microprocessors, and operator displays and workstations. The SSDS MK I is designed to integrate both individual sensors and weapon systems and automate the tracking, assessment, prioritization, and engagement of threat anti-ship cruise missiles to enhance ship survivability. The SSDS MK I completed development testing in May 1997 and operational testing in June 1997 onboard U.S.S. Ashland (LSD 48). During operational testing, every one of more than 200 targets presented to the ship were detected and tracked by the system. In September 1997, the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, declared the system to be operationally effective and suitable, and he recommended fleet introduction. As a result, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition approved the SSDS program for full-rate production in March 1998. As of mid-2000, SSDS MK I installations have been completed on five LSD 41 and two LSD 49 class ships. The Navy planned to complete installation of the SSDS MK I on the remaining LSD 41/49 class ships by December 2001.

SSDS MK II is the evolutionary development of the SSDS MK I expanded to include the integration of sensors and weapons. SSDS MK II is planned for installation on CV/CVN, LHD, and LPD 17 ship classes. The Navy issued a letter contract for three SSDS MK II hardware sets in December 1998 and awarded a software development contract in April 1999. Developmental testing was scheduled to begin in March 2002.

The SSDS system aboard LSD 48 includes interfaces for the following systems:

  • AN/SPS-49 Air Search Radar
  • AN/SPS-67 Surface Search Radar
  • ANSLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System
  • Centralized Identification Friend or Foe (CIFF)
  • Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM)
  • Phalanx Close-in Weapon System (CIWS)
  • Mk 36 Decoy Launching System (DLS)

The Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) is the first integration and control element of existing shipboard sensors and weapons to provide Quick Reaction Combat Capability (QRCC) to protect non-Aegis ships. SSDS provides a Local Area Network (LAN), LAN Access Units (LAUs), computer programs, and operator stations to provide an automated, quick response, multi-target engagement capability against anti-ship cruise missiles.

The principal air threat to US naval surface ships is a variety of highly capable anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). These include subsonic (Mach 0.9) and supersonic (Mach 2+), low altitude ASCMs. Detection, tracking, assessment, and engagement decisions must be accomplished to defend against these threats, with the duration from initial detection of an ASCM to its engagement with weapons typically on the order of a minute or less. SSDS is designed to accomplish these defensive actions.

With radars and anti-air weapons for self defense of today's amphibious ships and aircraft carriers installed as stand-alone systems, considerable manual intervention is required to complete the detect to engage sequence against ASCMs. SSDS is designed to expedite that process. SSDS, consisting of software and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, integrates radar systems with anti-air weapons, both hardkill (missile systems and rapid fire gun systems) and softkill (decoys). SSDS includes embedded doctrine to provide an integrated detect-through-engage capability with options ranging from use as a tactical decision aid (up to the point of recommending when to engage with specific systems), to use as an automatic weapon system to respond with hardkill and softkill systems as targets become engageable. Although SSDS will not improve capability of individual sensors, it enhances target tracking by integrating the inputs from the several different sensors to form a composite track. For example, SSDS will correlate target detections from individual radars, the electronic support measures (ESM) system (radar warning receiver), and the identification-friend or foe (IFF) system, combining these to build composite tracks on targets while identifying and prioritizing threats. Similarly, SSDS will not improve capability of individual weapons, but should expedite the assignment of weapons for threat engagement, and will provide a "recommend engage" display for operators or, if in automatic mode, will initiate weapons firing, ECM transmission, chaff or, decoy deployment, or some combination of these.

SSDS consists of primarily commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, including a fiber optic local area network (LAN) and distributed processors called LAN access units (LAU). The LAUs perform all of the processing chores as well as connect the various sensors and weapons to the LAN. The operator interface consists of a three position command table, which provides displays and input devices for the Sensor Supervisor (SSUP), the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) and Weapons Supervisor (WSUP). The LAUs are contained in two types of enclosures. The multiple LAU cabinet holds three different LAUs. The single LAU cabinet holds one. Each LAU is based on a TAC-4 cabinet with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and a VME card cage. Most of the processor cards are identical and interchangeable, making stocking of spares a simple matter.

SSDS integrates previously "stand-alone" sensor and engagement systems for aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships, thereby supporting the JV 2010 concept of full-dimensional protection, by providing a final layer of self protection against air threat "leakers" for individual ships. By ensuring such protection, SSDS contributes indirectly to the operational concept of precision engagement, in that strike operations against targets are executed from several of the platforms receiving SSDS.

A successful at-sea demonstration was conducted with an amphibious ship (LSD-41) in June 1993 as a proof-of-concept exercise, at the direction of the Congress. An operational assessment (OT-IIA) was conducted at the SSDS land-based engineering facility (LBEF) at Wallops Island, VA in July and August 1996. During that time simulated engagements were conducted against 67 targets. Targets included Lear jets and F/A-18s equipped with Tracking Seeker Simulators (TSS), as well as BQM-74E target drones. All targets approached the LBEF from over water, with a few runs that included a land background. Both single and dual target scenarios were evaluated. At the completion of testing Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force determined SSDS to be potentially operationally effective and potentially operationally suitable.

Milestone II was conducted in May 1995. Total procurement consists of 58 units, with 48 slated for amphibious ships and aircraft carriers and 10 to support training and engineering development. LRIP consists of four units. The LRIP decision in late FY96 was supported by an operational assessment OA conducted by COMOPTEVFOR. Milestone III was achieved in early 1998.

OPEVAL was conducted with an amphibious warfare ship, USS ASHLAND (LSD 48), in the Virginia Capes Operating Area off of Wallops Island during June 1997. OT was conducted in accordance with a DOT&E-approved plan and TEMP, to support the BLRIP decision for procurement of SSDS. Testing consisted of aircraft and reduced radar cross section drone targets flown on profiles to simulate anti-ship missile attacks on the ship. Neither missile nor CIWS firings were conducted for OT because if flown on realistic profiles, targets engaged by missiles or guns could become disabled with loss of control, and endanger the ship. A CIWS firing was conducted during this period to complete DT, but this was not a realistic profile. Both RAM and CIWS firings conducted during the DT before this OT were observed by OPTEVFOR and DOT&E staff.

The OPEVAL testing included simulated defense by the ship against 171 ASCM targets, as well as other targets. Although there were limitations imposed by targets and safety concerns, testing was adequate to provide the information necessary to determine SSDS operational effectiveness and suitability against subsonic, non-maneuvering anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

Based on overall OT-IIB results, SSDS is operationally effective against subsonic, low altitude ASCMs. This conclusion alone marks a major improvement in the self defense capability of amphibious warfare ships against air threats.

SSDS is reliable, maintainable, and operationally available, notwithstanding the mixed results regarding software reliability and hardware mean-time-to-repair. It is logistically supportable, compatible with its operating environment, and interoperable with other systems. With planned software modification to demand operator acknowledgement of identification discrepancies, it is suitable with regard to human factors. Documentation is satisfactory, with the interactive electronic technical manual being validated before fleet introduction. SSDS is considered safe to operate and maintain, although there are specified areas that require continued attention. Overall, SSDS is operationally suitable.

FOT&E planned with the Self Defense Test Ship should investigate SSDS capability with live firings against ASCM targets. SSDS interoperability with RAM Block I should be demonstrated with actual engagement of such targets.








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