US Navy is seeking modular weapons and radar systems for increased firepower in 2030 Future Surface Combatant ships

The US Navy (USN) is assessing how best to recapitalise its fleet of Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers (CGs) and eventually Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDGs), the naval staff’s surface warfare head told IHS Jane’s on 7 January that he is seeking modular weapons and radar systems to provide long-range offensive punch, as well as multilayered defensive capability.

Rear Admiral Peter J Fanta, director of surface warfare (N96), said that the USN’s future surface combatant effort must glean lessons from ongoing warship programmes, and build upon new concepts and technologies being introduced on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Zumwalt-class (DDG 1000) destroyer.

The US Navy is preparing to build Flight III destroyers, the latest version of the Arleigh Burke class that has been under construction since the 1980s, and just began at-sea tests of the first of the Zumwalt class stealth destroyer, a design conceived in the late 1990s. The US Navy is also planning for next generation surface warship designs, dubbed the Future Surface Combatant, currently scheduled to begin procurement in 2030.

Open Architecture and Modularity defined

Open architecture (as defined by Admiral Fanta) means the Navy owns the data rights and can hire somebody to go build a new system using those data rights. They know the interface points, they know how those machines talk to each other. They say “This is your spec, go write these specs” or go write this software into your code so it plugs into mine and they don’t have to spend a billion dollars changing your code every time they want to upgrade the ship.

Modularity (as defined by Admiral Fanta) means not necessarily plug-and-play modules but being able to upgrade when technology allows me to upgrade at a reasonable rate. They can describe the next set of weapons, sensors, engineering components, hull designs that all allow them to go build that next ship. That’s more what they are going for than a particular hull design. They are looking for a family of ships that can do more than one thing, because every time they build a single-mission ship it tends to get decommissioned before its life expectancy. That’s really what this capabilities-based assessment and analysis of alternatives and everything else the Navy doing is driving us to.

Fanta wants an air defense commander ship with a radar capable of handling threats with enough missile capacity — and what those missiles are will be developed over the next 10-15 years, it doesn’t have to be the current ones — to allow me to defend the sea base, whether that’s with a carrier or an expeditionary strike group or group of oilers or whatever. To defend the sea base and conduct counter-ballistic missile, anti-shoot cruise missile and provide an offensive strike for that carrier or by itself. But everything in that sentence is completely within the capability of a slightly larger DDG 51, or destroyer-cruiser-size hull.

It’s the number of cells, the number of weapons. Not just hard-kill systems but also directed-energy weapons, whatever is coming down the road. Whether that’s lasers, particle beams, rail guns, whatever comes down the road 15 to 20 years from now is really what we’re going to have to satisfy. That means a power system that can handle it. It will have to be a hard kill, soft kill, directed-energy plus kinetic weapons blend. Enough power so when the power density gets there I can have directed energy for defensive purposes as well as the offensive long-range punch they’ll probably get off kinetics. As well as enough reserve power to handle jamming and electromagnetic warfare and everything else they do.

Fanta is not designing something that looks like a ship. He is designing something that looks like a box in the water and he is adding capability. Frankly whatever the naval and architects tell me that that hull shape should look like is what he is willing to go with. He is not stuck to a particular hull shape or tumblehome or traditional hull, square, round, fat, thin. He wants to know what it’s supposed to do, how much it should carry and what capabilities should it have in there. And then the naval architects will design around it.

Fanta wants a family of surface-to-surface missiles. He want them on everything he can bolt them onto. He wants a missile that goes over 100 miles a missile that goes over 200 miles, a missile that goes over 400 miles, a missile that goes over 700 miles. That’s his ultimate goal. They can be dual-purpose missiles, can attack surface targets and land targets.

SOURCES – Janes, Defense News