General Dynamics Electric Boat delivered the latest Virginia class submarine to the U.S. Navy, ahead of schedule on December 22, 2006. Hawaii (SSN-776) is the third ship of the Virginia Class, the US Navy’s first major class of combatant ships designed for operation in both littorals and the open oceans.
In December 2006 General Dynamics’ Electric Boat corp. was awarded $1.274 Billion modification to a multi-year contract supporting for Fiscal Year 2007 construction of Virginia Class Submarine (SSN 782) and Advance Procurement funding for the forthcoming sub, submarine (SSN 783) scheduled for FY08.
The Virginia class submarine has one of the most advanced torpedo delivery systems in the fleet. In addition to torpedoes, the Virginia-class will be armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and has been designed to host the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) and Dry-Deck Shelter to support various missions.
Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Newport News have received contracts to build the first 10 submarines of a planned 30-ship Virginia Class under a teaming agreement that splits the construction workload between the two shipyards. Three submarines completed construction and are undergoing sea trials – SSN-774 Virginia, SSN-775 Texas and most recently, SSN-776 Hawaii. SSN-777 North Carolina is currently under construction at Newport News.
Lockheed Martin is developing a Low Profile Mast sensor system for the submarine. The new sensor mast is designed for open sea and littoral operations, decreasing counter detection probability. The mast has a sensor package including an electro-optical system which integrates a compact periscope mast, an electronic support measures system and an advanced imaging system. All packed in removable assembly which can be installed on a submarine when required to support operations and removed at the completion of the mission. The system will be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2008. The total contract value with all options exercised could be $70 million dollars. Lockheed Martin facility in Syracuse, NY will develop the system with other industry teammates including Kollmorgen a specialist in periscope systems; ArgonST specializing in electronic warfare components; and Optics 1, which will provide advanced image sensor engineering.
Kollmorgen Corporation, Electro-Optical Division has been awarded US$17.5 million to exercise an option for the production of nine Integrated Submarine Imaging Systems (ISIS). ISIS provides an all-weather, visual and electronic search capabilities for SSN 688, SSN 21, and SSGN Class submarines.
Digital System Resources, Inc., a subcontractor of General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems was also awarded $6.6 million for the production of three Photonics Mast Workstations (PMW). These workstations will be installed on Virginia Class Submarines. This order follows the original ten PWM systems ordered in 2005. Photonics Mast Workstations are integrated into the Photonics Mast System, a non-hull-penetrating imaging system replacing conventional periscopes in modern submarines. (More on th Photonics Mast: Defenseindustrydaily and Howtuffworks.)
The Royal Danish Navy will receive three Anti Air Warfare (AAW) suites for the new frigates planned for the Danish Navy. Each system consists of the APAR Multifunction Radar, a SMART-L Volume Search Radar and a Fire Control Cluster. Similar systems are already operational with German and Dutch navy frigates. The new frigates, each displacing about 6,000 tons, will be built by the Odense Steel Shipyard Ltd. in Denmark. The vessel will be 138.7 meter in length, and beam of 19.8 meters. The three ships are scheduled to be handed over to the Royal Danish Navy and replace the Niels Juel class corvettes between 2011 and 2013.
APAR multifunction radar is configured as an active phased array radar, operating in the I band, performing various tasks simultaneously, including automatic detection and tracking of low altitude targets (e.g. sea-skimmers), detection and tracking of air targets and the support and guidance of a wide range of missiles. The complete APAR multifunction radar consists of 4 faces covering 360 degrees of possible threat. 3,424 Transmit/Receive elements are installed in each of the four arrays, providing a powerful and redundant system architecture. Interrupted Continuous Wave (CW) illumination (ICWI) is a built-in feature of the APAR system, designed to cope with the terminal guidance requirements of SM-2 and ESSM missiles. APAR is the result of a tri-national development, led by Thales Netherlands, involving governments and industries from the Netherlands, Germany and Canada.
SMART-L is a long range 3D volume search multibeam radar system operating in the D band, capable of automatic detection, track initiation and tracking of up to 1,000 air targets, up to a range of 400 km. Its performance has already been tested and proven to be capable of detecting stealth targets in land clutter environment. The AAW suite will have growth potential to offer Tactical Ballistic Missile Defense. Such capabilities, particularly those of the SMART-L radar have already been demonstrated with Royal Netherlands Navy frigate participating in recent US Navy TBMD tests near Hawaii in November and December 2006.
The design of the new frigates began in 2004. Construction of the first ship will commence in 2008 at Odense Steel Shipyard. The construction of the three ships is expected to be completed in 2010-2012.
The B-1B Lancer is emerging as a transformational weapon system, not because of its nuclear attack capability but due to its ability to strike time-sensitive targets anywhere in the world, and engage several targets simultaneously with conventional, highly accurate weapons. The Lancer can patrol over a target area for several hours, waiting to respond to targets of opportunity, as they are spotted by intelligence sensors. The employment of stand-off weapons, such as JASSM stealth cruise missiles enables these bombers to operate beyond the reach of conventional air defenses.
By 2008 the USAF plans to equip the B-1B with up to 24 JASSM-Extended Range stealth cruise missiles, further extending its standoff strike range beyond 500mn. When tasked with time-sensitive target engagement missions, individual bombers can be “stacked” over a specific area, for rapid response to emerging opportunities. The Lancer can carry a total load of 24 GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) or JASSM missiles. The bomber’s new avionics upgrade suit provides tight integration between the GPS and the SAR radar and Ground Moving Target Indicator radar to improve the situation awareness inside the airplane.
The development and procurement of JASSM-ER is a key element of the B-1B reinvestment strategy. The additional range provided by the JASSM-ER missile benefits the B-1B with responsive, precision-engagement capability while remaining clear of highly defended airspace and beyond the range of long-range, surface-to-air missiles. A primary JASSM-ER program objective is to provide the warfighter with a significant operational capability benefit of greater than 2.5 times the increase in missile range, while maintaining the same outer mold line, reliability, survivability and lethality of the baseline JASSM missile.
As part of the Conventional Mission Upgrade Program (CMUP), the B-1B is undergoing avionics upgrades in several phases. The most recent phase, concluded in September 2006, was Block E modifications, which comprised the replacement of six computers with four, providing a 25-fold increase in throughput, memory and input/output margins required to add flexible targeting for the use of multiple conventional weapons in a single sortie. The new package supports the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (10 per bay or 30 per aircraft), the Joint Standoff Weapon (four per bay, 12 per aircraft) and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (24 per aircraft). Other improvements included integration of advanced communications “Connecting the airplane into the Global Information Grid will provide combat commanders with a potent long-range strike capability for decades to come.” said Greg Burton, Boeing director for B-1 and B-2 programs.
The installation concluded the third phase of the Conventional Mission Upgrade Program (CMUP) undertaken in 1993 to convert the B-1 from a nuclear to a conventional role. A small number of CMUP-equipped Lancers delivered more tonnage of ordnance while flying fewer sorties than any other aircraft during Operation Iraqi Freedom. CMUP also added 1760 smart weapons bus to the B-1B arsenal, improving the flexibility of loading and launching multiple types of weapons against a wider target set. In 2007 Boeing was awarded $45 million to continue avionics upgrades on the B-1B bomber fleet.
Following is a brief introduction of recent and future upgrades planned for introduction in current B-1Bs, as part of the USAF plan to maintain its ‘Shooters’ effective for years to come.
Other upgrades are sometime based on ‘non-traditional’ approaches. For example, air force units engaged in combat which are requested to wait for video datalinks for their targeting pods, opt for makeshift upgrades, strapping a datalink from a Raven mini UAV to the pod. The result may be less than optimal but nevertheless do the job. A similar, yet more ordinary approach was implemented with the B-1B Bomber, which also received a Sniper targeting pod. To accelerate the pod introduction, the pod bypassed the central avionics, and is controlled directly from a laptop. Other improvements to this bomber include avionics systems considered baseline in today’s fighters, such as a data transfer system (DTS), Fully Integrated Datalink (FDL).
Since the early 2002s a growing share of the B-1B missions are conventional attack missions, following the CMUP undertaken by Boeing in 2002. As an active participant in all major US military operations since the Gulf War, B-1B bombers have delivered more tonnage of ordnance while flying fewer sorties than any other aircraft during Operation Iraqi Freedom.