Cruiser Modernization: Much more than a mid-life make-over

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Published on: 05/23/2010
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Cruiser Modernization: Much more than a mid-life make-over

Maritime Executive


Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
Edward H. Lundquist explains – how and why – From the mess decks to the masthead, from the stem to the stern flap, USS Bunker Hill is receiving a capability-enhancing and life-extending “modernization” availability at BAE Systems Shipyard in San Diego.

The U.S. Navy currently has 22 Aegis guided missile cruisers (CGs) in the fleet. Commissioned in 1986, Bunker Hill is the oldest and has the honor of being the first to receive the full hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E), and combat systems “cruiser modernization” overhaul.

Originally a class of 27 ships, the first five Ticonderoga-class CGs were retired prematurely because the cost of bringing them up to current standards was prohibitive. The first Aegis surface combatant, USS Ticonderoga, was commissioned in 1983, and decommissioned in 2004. The Cruiser Modernization program, however, will systematically upgrade the remaining ships to a better-than-new status, with state-of-the-art combat systems to meet and pace the emerging threat.

Think of how far computers have evolved in 22 years. The threats against own ship, the strike group being protected and other missions have also progressed. The new combat system benefits from “open architecture” which distinguishes the Advanced Capability Build 2008 (ACB08) software package. The ACB-08 software that will support the Bunker Hill’s Aegis system is “disassociated” from the hardware, and can refreshed and kept current more efficiently and rapidly.

“Modernization delivers this improved war fighting capability to the current fleet in order to pace the evolving and potential threats to international sea lanes and in support of the Joint Force,” says Rear Adm. Vic Guillory, USN, director for surface warfare on the Chief of Naval Operations staff.

The cruisers will receive a $220 million (per ship in FY 08 dollars) package, far less than the cost of a new combatant. “Modernizing our Aegis ships,” says Guillory, “is a cost effective and efficient path that supports a surface combatant force structure our Navy and this nation need for maritime security. Keeping these ships combat-relevant until the end of their 35-year service lives is critical to the Navy’s force structure requirements,” Guillory says. “This program is a key enabler in achieving our Navy’s goal of achieving a 313-ship Navy. In fact, 313 is the ‘floor,’ as more ships may be needed.”

Guillory is responsible for requirements and resources for surface warfare on the Chief of Naval Operations staff. He develops the requirements for future ships, but acknowledges that keeping the current ships combat-ready is also of great importance. “From a requirements perspective, the Navy has taken great care in determining the warfighting requirements for our cruisers and destroyers in the years ahead. Our analysis has crossed mission areas, looking at everything from the submarine threat to the latest in anti-ship cruise missile and the ballistic missile threats facing our nation,” Guillory says. “The result is a modernization plan that takes advantage of the promises of Open Architecture and will introduce new capabilities, in an evolutionary fashion, as technology and development brings them to maturity, allowing our Navy to pace the threat facing the Fleet over the extended service life of these ships.”

Later, the Navy’s 62 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers will be modernized. New ships of this class are still being built, but the first was commissioned in 1991, so it is not too early to prepare for their modernization.

The first phase of Bunker Hill’s modernization availability was performed in dry dock. Props and screws were removed and refurbished while the hull was preserved and painted. A stern flap was installed to reduce fuel consumption. Improvements were made to watertight doors and portions of the hull and deckhouse were structurally strengthened. Topside changes include the replacement of the ship’s two gun mounts with the 5-inch/62 caliber gun, the newest in the fleet. The hurricane bow’s bulwark was cut back to trim weight. To better defend itself, Bunker Hill now has the Close-in Weapons System (CIWS) Block 1B, Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) and the AN/SPQ-9B radar. The SPS-49 air search radar was removed, not only reducing topside weight and improving stability, but freeing up the radar equipment room to be used as fitness center for the crew.

The cruisers are having their waste heat boilers removed, and all steam systems are being converted to electric. This includes removal of all maintenance-intensive steam piping and valves. The Bunker Hill now has a reverse osmosis desalination plant, electric galley and laundry.

“There are three different waste heat boilers on the cruisers, heated by the gas turbines that provide hot water for ship services throughout the ship. Removing them eliminates the requirement to maintain proper boiler water and feed water chemistry and maintain of the steam systems,” says Rear Adm Jim McManamon, deputy commander for surface warfare, at Naval Sea Systems Command. “For fresh water, we replaced the steam evaporators with the electric reverse osmosis desalination plant.”

“From a requirements perspective, the Navy has taken great care in determining the warfighting requirements for our cruisers and destroyers in the years ahead. Our analysis has crossed mission areas, looking at everything from the submarine threat to the latest in anti-ship cruise missile and the ballistic missile threats facing our forces, friends and allies,” Guillory says. “The result is a modernization plan that takes advantage of the promises of open architecture and will introduce new capabilities, in an evolutionary fashion, as technology and development brings them to maturity, allowing our Navy to pace the threat facing the Fleet over the extended service life of these ships.”

Now out of dry-dock, the systems are being installed, energized and tested. A key milestone was recently achieved with “Aegis Light Off,” where the elements of the combat systems were successfully started up in sequential order.

Open Architecture

One of the key benefits of the new combat system is open architecture. The ACB-08 software that will support the Bunker Hill’s Aegis system is “disassociated” from the hardware.

“In the old architecture, software was written specific for the hardware that it sat on, so any change in the combat system really required you to do a very extensive and intrusive modification to both software and hardware,” says Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, program executive officer for integrated warfare systems. “To truly get to the open architecture philosophy, the first thing you need to do is break the software from the hardware so that you can put both of them on a cycle for refresh that really allows you to take advantage of the technology improvements that happen naturally in industry, but also allows you to really take full advantage of new innovation within industry.”

Numerous upgrades are being made to the combat systems, including the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), allowing the ship to share track information with other offboard sensors and fire weapons beyond the sensor range of the ship; integrated bridge systems and electronic navigation, a fiber-optic network for the ship, and new commercial-off-the-shelf computers deliver a ten-fold increase in processing power and network bandwidth, and greatly increased system memory, in about half the space.

“The Aegis fleet modernization program is key in our surface combatant vision of the Fleet in the first half of the 21st Century, says Guillory. “We cannot depend upon construction of new ships alone to achieve our fleet force structure. Modernization of our current surface combatants is essential. This is one of the building blocks of the Navy’s force structure in the years ahead. In a manner of speaking, it’s a certain piece of an uncertain future.”

PHOTO: USS Bunker Hill (CG 51), seen here a year ago in drydock in San Diego, is receiving the full cruiser modernization package. The one-year refit brings the oldest Aegis cruiser up to the most modern standard. Bunker Hill is now undergoing sea trials. Photo by Edward Lundquist.

About the author:

Edward Lundquist is a senior science advisor with Alion Science and Technology. He supports the U.S. Navy’s Surface Warfare Directorate.

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