Navy to Modernize Aging Aegis Cruisers
By Edward Lundquist
National Defense Magazine
The U.S. Navy will upgrade 22 of its 27 Aegis cruisers (CG-52 through CG-73), in an effort to keep these ships combat-relevant until a new generation of surface warships can be designed and built.
The cruiser conversion program will extend the service life of each ship to 35 years through major combat systems upgrades and selective service life modernization, according to Cmdr. Jerry Hamel, a requirements officer on the Navy staff.
The conversion effort will enable the CG-47 class to participate in land attack, littoral undersea warfare, force protection and anti-air defense missions, including ballistic missile defense.
“We have to add new capabilities,” said Hamel. “At the same time, we have to reduce crew size and maintenance requirements.”
Cruiser conversion will affect CG-47 Baseline 2, 3 and 4 ships. The first five ships in the class, known as Baseline 1, will not receive the conversion. USS Ticonderoga, the lead ship of the class, is now 20 years old and will be decommissioned next year. USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51) was commissioned in 1987. The first five ships of the class did not receive the vertical-launch system upgrade. The Navy plans to retire Baseline 1 in fiscal year 2006.
The first ship scheduled to undergo cruiser conversion is the USS Cape St. George (CG-71), with the work commencing in fiscal year 2006. The final ship will begin conversion in 2014.
The various upgrades to the cruisers are designed to enhance the combat capabilities gradually throughout their service lives. “Our analysis was modeled to pace the threat through 2025,” said Cmdr. Dave Matawitz, branch head for current ships in the Navy’s Surface Warfare directorate.
Cruiser conversion will provide both a computing technology and force structure bridge to future ships, Matawitz said.
There are varying capabilities between Baselines 2, 3 and 4. The cruiser conversion program will result in all 22 ships having a common baseline.
The core components of the combat systems cruiser conversion include:
The Aegis Baseline 7 Phase 1C computer program.
The Q-70 console installation for enhanced radar and computer displays.
The Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).
Vertical Launch System (VLS) design modifications to support current and future missile capabilities including Standard missile SM-2 variants.
Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) for improved capability against low altitude supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.
Vertical launch antisubmarine rocket (VLA) and Tomahawk.
The Mark 34 gun weapons system, including the Mark 160 Mod 11 gun computer system and the 5-inch/62-caliber gun with Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM).
The SPQ-9B radar.
The close-in weapon system (CIWS) Block 1B.
SQQ-89A(V)15 sonar suite (baselines 3 and 4 only) for enhanced littoral water performance.
The Shipboard Advanced Radar Target ID System (SARTIS).
These modifications will enhance the ship’s relevance in the areas of air dominance, land attack and anti-submarine warfare, and will improve force protection in the littoral warfare mission, said program officials.
Cruiser conversion will enhance survivability and decrease maintenance costs by incorporating a number of hull, mechanical and electrical ship alterations, based on commanders’ proposals.
The “all-electric modification” will eliminate waste heat boilers and associated equipment, replace steam-operated equipment with electric equipment—including laundry washers and dryers, galley kettles, dishwashers, lubrication and fuel oil heaters and potable water heaters with equivalent electrical equipment. It will replace flash type distilling plants with reverse osmosis units capable of treating potable water. The reverse osmosis units are easier to maintain, more reliable and do not create high temperatures in the work spaces, which reduces heat stress and improves shipboard quality of life, officials said.
“There will be significant weight reduction to improve ship stability and to enable growth for the ships’ additional service life,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Weilenman, a requirements officer in the current ships branch. “Hull and deckhouse strengthening modifications will address emerging problems associated with cracks caused by metal fatigue.”
In all, the program will help to sustain the Navy’s surface combatant force structure and will provide a bridge to the introduction of a future family of ships—such as the CG(X), scheduled for 2018. Conversion of the 22 ships will be completed by 2015.
A key component in the conversion effort will be the adoption of commercial-off-the-shelf computer systems. “With the introduction of a COTS based computing environment, we are moving away from baseline legacy systems and toward open architecture,” Matawitz said.
To incorporate advances in systems technology and reduce manpower requirements, the program will include so-called “SmartShip” enhancements, such as a wireless internal communications system, an integrated bridge system for automated piloting and a fiber-optic ship-wide local area network.
The Integrated Condition Assessment System will be used for the automated recording of maintenance data relating to the main propulsion, electric and auxiliary equipment. The Damage Control Quarters will provide real-time damage control information throughout the ship, the Fuel Control System will perform automated control of the ship’s fuel fill and transfer, and the Machinery Control System will automate the main propulsion and electrical plant control.
“These upgrades will enable the crew to work smarter and will provide a more efficient use of the crew’s time,” said Weilenman.
The Navy has a long history of executing ship improvement and conversion programs, said Weilenman. “Modernization programs are cost-effective alternatives to new construction during periods of budgetary constraints.”
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Navy converted multiple World War II era cruisers to incorporate the emerging Talos, Tartar and Terrier missile systems and serve as modern flagships. The Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program, which extended the useful life of World War II era ships, was initiated in 1960 to avoid what would otherwise have been the “block obsolescence” of the Navy’s destroyer fleet at the height of the Cold War. The New Threat Upgrade program enhanced the capabilities of the Navy’s guided missile cruiser and destroyer fleet during the 1980s.
Navy officials stress that cruiser conversion is needed to maintain the force structure until the CG(X) is introduced. Navy policy currently sets the effective service life of cruisers at 35 years for force structure planning purposes and ship design specifications.
The actual or historical service life of cruisers tends to be shorter, however, as enemy technology advances and hull, mechanical and electrical systems degrade. Consequently, the cost to operate and maintain the ship grows, as its ability to meet the future threat decreases.
“The decision to extend or accelerate the decommissioning of a ship class is thus based on the affordability of the platform in relation to the war-fighting capabilities that platform brings to the fleet,” Weilenman said. Without cruiser conversion, the Navy would likely be forced to decommission the class before it could introduce sufficient numbers of new ships to meet national security requirements.
The Navy’s future fleet of surface combatants will be a family of ships that will include the multi-mission DD(X) destroyer and the follow-on CG(X) cruiser, as well as the focused-mission Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
The DDG-51 Aegis destroyers also are preparing for a mid-life upgrade.
“Cruiser conversion will extend the life of the remaining cruisers well into the 21st century, and provide the capability bridge to our future family of surface combatants,” said Capt. Ray Spicer, director of surface ships for the surface warfare branch of the Navy staff.
Edward H. Lundquist is the communications director of the Center for Security Strategies and Operations at Anteon Corporation. The company provides information systems and engineering services to the Defense Department and other government agencies.