Minesweeping system

An autonomous minesweeper system that can safely clear sea lanes of mines has been handed over to the Royal Navy, Defence Minister Guto Bebb has announced.

An autonomous minesweeper system that can safely clear sea lanes of mines has been handed over to the Royal Navy, Defence Minister Guto Bebb has announced (Crown copyright)
An autonomous minesweeper system that can safely clear sea lanes of mines has been handed over to the Royal Navy, Defence Minister Guto Bebb has announced (Crown copyright)

Following a period of successful trials, the demonstrator system could go on to be used by the Royal Navy in the future to defeat the threat of modern digital mines.

The system has been designed and manufactured by Atlas Elektronik UK in Dorset, under a £13 million contract with the Ministry of Defence which has sustained around 20 jobs and created 15 new jobs with the company.

 

Defence Minister Guto Bebb said:

«This autonomous minesweeper takes us a step closer to taking our crews out of danger and allowing us to safely clear sea lanes of explosives, whether that’s supporting trade in global waters and around the British coastline or protecting our ships and shores. Easily transported by road, sea and air, the high-tech design means a small team could put the system to use within hours of it arriving in theatre. We are investing millions in innovative technology now, to support our military of the future».

Royal Navy gets first unmanned minesweeping system
Royal Navy gets first unmanned minesweeping system

The system’s innovative and modernised technology has the ability to defeat today’s digital sea mines which can detect and target military ships passing overhead. The sweeper system, which features a “sense and avoid” capability, could also work together with other similar autonomous systems for the common goal of making our waters safer.

The project also aims to demonstrate the viability of an unmanned system that can safely and successfully clear mines and which is designed to be operated from a land or ship-based control station and can be deployed from a suitable ship or port.

Over the last four months, the system has been put through its paces by Atlas Elektronik and Defence Equipment and Support team members and the Royal Navy’s Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT).

The system was tested against a number of performance requirements, for example, how well it cleared mines, whether the autonomous system could successfully avoid obstacles and the overall system performance.

Brigadier Jim Morris Royal Marines – Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff in Maritime Capability, and Senior Responsible Officer for the Mine Counter Measures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) programme said:

«The Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability Combined Influence Minesweeping system is the Royal Navy’s first fully autonomous capability demonstrator and paves the way for the introduction of this technology across the full range of maritime capabilities.

Combined Influence Minesweeping is a critical component of the Mine Countermeasures capability. This autonomous system will restore the Royal Navy’s sweep capability, enabling it to tackle modern digital mines that may not otherwise be discovered in challenging minehunting conditions.

This autonomous sweep system represents a fundamental step in the Navy’s transition to autonomous offboard systems to counter the threat posed to international shipping by the sea mine; we look forward to commencing demonstration of the associated minehunting system in 2019».

Royal Navy Autonomous Minesweeper System
Royal Navy Autonomous Minesweeper System

The handover of the system to the Royal Navy is a significant milestone for the Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) programme, which aims to de-risk maritime autonomous systems and introduce these new technologies into the Royal Navy.

Director Ships Support Neal Lawson, of the MOD’s procurement organisation, Defence Equipment and Support, said:

«The autonomous minesweeper offers a commander the ability to defeat mines that cannot be countered by current hunting techniques and significantly reduces the risk to crew members in pressured and time-constrained operations.

The system can offer greater flexibility and upgradability, allowing the Royal Navy to respond better to the sea-mine threat in the long-term and operate more effectively around the world».

The system will now undergo a series of more detailed trials with the Royal Navy.

The Royal Navy has a proud history of minesweeping, dating from World War One when even the likes of fishing trawlers were converted for use, dragging a chain from the vessel to clear German mines. Today, with far more sophisticated equipment, the service is still called upon to clear the waters of ordnance and maintains a world-leading role in minehunting, training alongside allies in the Mediterranean and the Gulf.

The MOD has committed 1.2% of the £36bn defence budget, supported by a dedicated £800m Innovation Fund, to cutting-edge science and technology.

Acceptance Trials

The future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) successfully completed acceptance trials May 3 after spending a day underway off the coast of Maine.

Future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) completes acceptance trials
Future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) completes acceptance trials

The U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), the governing body that recommends the ship be delivered to the Navy, evaluated the ship’s construction and compliance with Navy specifications.

INSURV reviewed the ship and its crew during a series of demonstrations while pier side and underway. Many of the ship’s onboard systems including navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications and propulsion applications that were tested to validate performance met or exceeded Navy specifications.

«The success of the Bath Iron Works (BIW) built future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) during acceptance trials is a testament to the continued quality and high performance of our Navy’s destroyers», said Captain Casey Moton, DDG-51 class program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. «The Thomas Hudner is a very capable warfighter that will be a significant asset to the fleet».

USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) is equipped with the AEGIS Baseline 9 Combat System which includes an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability incorporating Ballistic Missile Defense 5.0 Capability Upgrade and Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air. The ship’s IAMD radar will provide increased computing power and radar upgrades that improve detection and reaction capabilities against modern air warfare threats.

Following delivery, USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) will be the 36th Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyer to be delivered by BIW. The shipyard is currently in production on future destroyers USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) and USS John Basilone (DDG-122), as well as the future Zumwalt class destroyer, USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002).

As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and boats and craft.

 

Ship Characteristics

Length Overall 510 feet/156 m
Beam – Waterline 59 feet/18 m
Draft 30.5 feet/9.3 m
Displacement – Full Load 9,217 tons/9,363 metric tons
Power Plant 4 General electric LM 2500-30 gas turbines; 2 shafts; 2 CRP (Contra-Rotating) propellers; 100,000 shaft horsepower/75,000 kW
Speed in excess of 30 knots/34.5 mph/55.5 km/h
Range 4,400 NM/8,149 km at 20 knots/23 mph/37 km/h
Crew 380 total: 32 Officers, 27 CPO (Chief Petty Officer), 321 OEM
Surveillance SPY-1D Phased Array Radar and Aegis Combat System (Lockheed Martin); SPS-73(V) Navigation; SPS-67(V)3 Surface Search; 3 SPG-62 Illuminator; SQQ-89(V)6 sonar incorporating SQS-53C hull mounted and SQR-19 towed array sonars used with Mark-116 Mod 7 ASW fire control system
Electronics/Countermeasures SLQ-32(V)3; Mark-53 Mod 0 Decoy System; Mark-234 Decoy System; SLQ-25A Torpedo Decoy; SLQ-39 Surface Decoy; URN-25 TACAN; UPX-29 IFF System; Kollmorgen Mark-46 Mod 1 Electro-Optical Director
Aircraft 2 embarked SH-60 helicopters ASW operations; RAST (Recovery Assist, Secure and Traverse)
Armament 2 Mark-41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) with 90 Standard, Vertical Launch ASROC (Anti-Submarine Rocket) & Tomahawk ASM (Air-to-Surface Missile)/LAM (Loitering Attack Missile); 5-in (127-mm)/54 (62) Mark-45 gun; 2 (1) CIWS (Close-In Weapon System); 2 Mark-32 triple 324-mm torpedo tubes for Mark-46 or Mark-50 ASW torpedos

 

Guided Missile Destroyers Lineup

 

Flight IIA: Technology Insertion

Ship Yard Launched Commissioned Homeport
DDG-116 Thomas Hudner GDBIW 04-01-17
DDG-117 Paul Ignatius HIIIS 11-12-16
DDG-118 Daniel Inouye GDBIW
DDG-119 Delbert D. Black HIIIS 09-08-17
DDG-120 Carl M. Levin GDBIW
DDG-121 Frank E. Peterson Jr. HIIIS
DDG-122 John Basilone GDBIW
DDG-123 Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee HIIIS

 

Christening of Cincinnati

The U.S. Navy christened its newest Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20), during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony May 5 in Mobile, Alabama.

The U.S. Navy has christened its newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20)
The U.S. Navy has christened its newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20)

The principal speaker was Cincinnati Councilmember David Mann, also a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio. Former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she christened the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.

«The future USS Cincinnati is a symbol of the strong connection between the people of Cincinnati and the Navy and Marine Corps team», said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. «The ship serves as a testament to our commitment to growing the Fleet and our partnership with industry and the American public».

The future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) is the fifth U.S. Navy ship to honor Ohio’s third largest city. The first was a stern-wheel casemate gunboat that served during the Civil War and was sunk by Confederate fire on two separate occasions. Raised both times and returned to service, she was decommissioned following the war. The second Cincinnati was a cruiser commissioned in 1894. She served extensively in the Caribbean before, during, and after the Spanish-American War before being decommissioned in 1919. The third ship to bear the name was a light cruiser commissioned in 1924 that served around the world and earned a battle star for World War II service that included convoy escort and blockade duty. She was decommissioned in 1945 after the war ended. The fourth Cincinnati was a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine commissioned in 1978. The boat served for 17 years before being decommissioned in 1995.

LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship, designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical areas in multiple theaters.

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS-6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).

 

The Independence Variant of the LCS Class

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Construction Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 421 feet/128.3 m
Beam overall 103 feet/31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum) 14.8 feet/4.5 m
PAYLOAD AND CAPACITIES
Complement Core Crew – 40
Mission crew – 36
Berthing 76 in a mix of single, double & quad berthing compartments
Maximum mission load 210 tonnes
Mission Bay Volume 118,403 feet3/11,000 m3
Mission packages Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Surface Warfare (SUW)
Mine Warfare (MIW)
PROPULSION
Main engines 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster Retractable azimuthing
PERFORMANCE
Speed 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range 3,500 NM/4,028 miles/6,482 km
Operational limitation Survival in Sea State 8
MISSION/LOGISTICS DECK
Deck area >21,527.8 feet2/2,000 m2
Launch and recovery Twin boom extending crane
Loading Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Launch/Recover Watercraft Sea State 4
FLIGHT DECK AND HANGER
Flight deck dimensions 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53 or multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs/VTUAVs)
Hanger Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60
Launch/Recover Aircraft Sea State 5
WEAPONS AND SENSORS
Standard 1 × 57-mm gun
4 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber guns
1 × Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher
3 × weapons modules

 

Independence-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Independence (LCS-2) 01-19-2006 04-26-2008 01-16-2010 San Diego, California
USS Coronado (LCS-4) 12-17-2009 01-14-2012 04-05-2014 San Diego, California
USS Jackson (LCS-6) 08-01-2011 12-14-2013 12-05-2015 San Diego, California
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) 06-25-2013 08-06-2014 09-10-2016 San Diego, California
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) 04-16-2014 02-25-2015 06-10-2017 San Diego, California
USS Omaha (LCS-12) 02-18-2015 11-20-2015 02-03-2018 San Diego, California
USS Manchester (LCS-14) 06-29-2015 05-12-2016 San Diego, California
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) 01-11-2016 San Diego, California
USS Charleston (LCS-18) 06-28-2016
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) 04-10-2017
USS Kansas City (LCS-22) 11-15-2017
USS Oakland (LCS-24)
USS Mobile (LCS-26)
USS Savannah (LCS-28)
USS Canberra (LCS-30)

 

Solar UAV

A new solar electric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which has the potential to fly for up to a year before needing maintenance, has become a step closer to reality following a new agreement between two cutting-edge British companies, BAE Systems and Prismatic.

Solar UAV to be developed with the potential to stay airborne for a year
Solar UAV to be developed with the potential to stay airborne for a year

Engineers from Prismatic and BAE Systems will collaborate on the development of the new solar powered High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) UAV known as PHASA-35, with work already underway to prepare the first aircraft to be ready for flight tests in 2019.

The technology would offer a year-round, low cost persistent service for a wide range of needs including surveillance and vital communications to remote areas, using only the sun to power the aircraft during the day and recharge the batteries for overnight operation.

Solar HALE vehicles offer a significantly cheaper alternative to conventional satellite technology, with PHASA-35 (standing for Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft), being a concept solar electric UAV that uses proven, long life battery technology and ultra-lightweight solar cells to potentially maintain flight for up to 12 months.

The PHASA-35 concept has a 35-metre/115-foot wingspan and weighs just 150 kg/331 lbs. – its lightweight, efficient build allows it to fly at high altitudes for long periods of time.

A quarter scale model (named PHASE-8) completed a successful maiden flight in 2017, with Prismatic Ltd and BAE Systems now looking to take the technology a step further.

BAE Systems will invest in the development and flight testing of the PHASA-35 system as part of its drive to continually develop new technologies to support aircraft of the future, working collaboratively with SMEs and academia.

BAE Systems has a portfolio of patents and patent applications covering approximately 2000 inventions internationally, and under the agreement with Prismatic, it will provide expertise in aerospace technology and project management to progress the PHASA-35 programme through to a marketable offering.

First light

The U.S. Air Force’s fourth Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite transmitted its first images back to Earth. The milestone, known as «first light», occurred in February when the SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, turned on its powerful sensors for the first time during space vehicle checkout.

The U.S. Air Force’s SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite encapsulated within its protective fairings prior to its January 19, 2018 launch
The U.S. Air Force’s SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite encapsulated within its protective fairings prior to its January 19, 2018 launch

SBIRS GEO Flight-4 is the latest satellite to join the Air Force’s orbiting missile warning constellation. Equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, the satellite collects data for use by the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

Launched on January 19, SBIRS GEO Flight-4 began responding to the Air Force’s 460th Space Wing’s commands just 37 minutes after liftoff. Using its liquid apogee engine, the satellite successfully propelled itself to a Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) altitude of about 22,000 miles/35,406 km. There, it deployed its solar arrays and antennas, and began initial check out.

«First light was a tremendous milestone for SBIRS GEO Flight-4 and we are very pleased with the high quality and definition of the images we received back», said Tom McCormick, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) systems mission area. «With the launch of this satellite, SBIRS can now provide global coverage, with better-than-specified sensor pointing accuracy and the ability to detect even more targets than anticipated».

SBIRS GEO Flight-4 completes the baseline SBIRS constellation. It joins SBIRS GEO Flights-1, 2 and 3, which were launched in 2011, 2013 and 2017 respectively.

In 2014, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.86 billion contract for the SBIRS GEO-5 and 6 spacecrafts. Following that award, the company offered the government a no-cost contract modification, transitioning to its modernized LM 2100 satellite bus, to demonstrate how production cycle times and costs could be drastically reduced on future space vehicles. The modification also provides improved resiliency and validates how modernized sensor suites could be incorporated.

SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are currently greater than 50 percent through production and on track for delivery to the Air Force very early in the next decade.

Delivery of Tulsa

The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Tulsa (LCS-16) during a ceremony in Mobile, Alabama, April 30.

The future USS Tulsa (LCS-16) is underway for acceptance trials, which are the last significant milestone before delivery of the Independence-variant littoral combat ship to the Navy. During trials, the U.S. Navy conducted comprehensive tests of the future USS Tulsa (LCS-16), intended to demonstrate the performance of the propulsion plant, ship handling abilities and auxiliary systems (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Austal USA/Released)
The future USS Tulsa (LCS-16) is underway for acceptance trials, which are the last significant milestone before delivery of the Independence-variant littoral combat ship to the Navy. During trials, the U.S. Navy conducted comprehensive tests of the future USS Tulsa (LCS-16), intended to demonstrate the performance of the propulsion plant, ship handling abilities and auxiliary systems (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Austal USA/Released)

Delivery marks the official transfer of LCS-16 from the shipbuilder, an Austal USA-led team, to the U.S. Navy. It is the final milestone prior to commissioning, which is planned for late 2018 in San Francisco.

«Today marks a significant milestone in the life of the future USS Tulsa, as transfer occurs to the Navy and she enters service», said Captain Mike Taylor, LCS program manager. «I look forward to celebrating the commissioning of this fine ship alongside the crew later this year in San Francisco».

Tulsa is the 13th Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to be delivered to the U.S. Navy and the eighth of the Independence variant to join the fleet. The Independence variant is noted for its unique trimaran hull and its large flight deck.

«We look forward to welcoming the future USS Tulsa and crew in San Diego later this year», said Captain Matthew McGonigle, commander, LCS Squadron One (COMLCSRON ONE). «Bringing a ship to life is no small task and I commend the crew for their hard work and dedication to their ship and to the LCS community».

COMLCSRON ONE supports the operational commanders with warships ready for tasking by manning, training, equipping and maintaining littoral combat ships on the west coast.

«To see Tulsa ready for delivery, words almost can’t express the amazing work that Austal, Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Gulf Coast, and Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants, have done to get her to this point», said Commander Drew Borovies, Tulsa’s commanding officer. «Although there is still plenty of hard work ahead, we are at the point where Tulsa is ready for her crew, and I can say without hesitation that her crew is ready for Tulsa. Tulsa and her crew are ‘Tough, Ready and Able!’»

Following commissioning, Tulsa will be homeported in San Diego with her fellow ships USS Freedom (LCS-1), USS Independence (LCS-2), USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), USS Coronado (LCS-4), USS Jackson (LCS-6), USS Montgomery (LCS-8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), USS Omaha (LCS-12) and the future USS Manchester (LCS-14).

LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain, and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical theaters.

Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants is responsible for delivering and sustaining littoral mission capabilities to the fleet.

 

The Independence Variant of the LCS Class

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Construction Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 421 feet/128.3 m
Beam overall 103 feet/31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum) 14.8 feet/4.5 m
PAYLOAD AND CAPACITIES
Complement Core Crew – 40
Mission crew – 36
Berthing 76 in a mix of single, double & quad berthing compartments
Maximum mission load 210 tonnes
Mission Bay Volume 118,403 feet3/11,000 m3
Mission packages Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Surface Warfare (SUW)
Mine Warfare (MIW)
PROPULSION
Main engines 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster Retractable azimuthing
PERFORMANCE
Speed 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range 3,500 NM/4,028 miles/6,482 km
Operational limitation Survival in Sea State 8
MISSION/LOGISTICS DECK
Deck area >21,527.8 feet2/2,000 m2
Launch and recovery Twin boom extending crane
Loading Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Launch/Recover Watercraft Sea State 4
FLIGHT DECK AND HANGER
Flight deck dimensions 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53 or multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs/VTUAVs)
Hanger Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60
Launch/Recover Aircraft Sea State 5
WEAPONS AND SENSORS
Standard 1 × 57-mm gun
4 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber guns
1 × Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher
3 × weapons modules

 

Independence-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Independence (LCS-2) 01-19-2006 04-26-2008 01-16-2010 San Diego, California
USS Coronado (LCS-4) 12-17-2009 01-14-2012 04-05-2014 San Diego, California
USS Jackson (LCS-6) 08-01-2011 12-14-2013 12-05-2015 San Diego, California
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) 06-25-2013 08-06-2014 09-10-2016 San Diego, California
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) 04-16-2014 02-25-2015 06-10-2017 San Diego, California
USS Omaha (LCS-12) 02-18-2015 11-20-2015 02-03-2018 San Diego, California
USS Manchester (LCS-14) 06-29-2015 05-12-2016 San Diego, California
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) 01-11-2016 03-16-2017 San Diego, California
USS Charleston (LCS-18) 06-28-2016
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) 04-10-2017
USS Kansas City (LCS-22) 11-15-2017
USS Oakland (LCS-24)
USS Mobile (LCS-26)
USS Savannah (LCS-28)
USS Canberra (LCS-30)

 

John F. Kennedy

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) announced on April 30, 2018 that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) is 75 percent structurally complete following the recent installation of the forward area of the ship’s main deck.

A forward section of John F. Kennedy’s main deck was recently lifted into place at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division. The carrier is on track to be completed with 447 lifts (Photo by John Whalen/HII)
A forward section of John F. Kennedy’s main deck was recently lifted into place at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division. The carrier is on track to be completed with 447 lifts (Photo by John Whalen/HII)

USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), the second ship in the Gerald R. Ford class of carriers, has been taking shape at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division since the ship’s keel was laid in August 2015. The ship is being built using modular construction, a process where smaller sections of the ship are welded together to form a structural unit, known as a superlift. The superlift is then outfitted with piping, electrical equipment, cable, ventilation and joiner work and is lifted from the assembly area into the dry dock.

The 750-metric ton forward section of the main deck includes the machinery spaces located over the ship’s forward diesel generators. Also installed was the first piece of the aircraft carrier flight deck, which includes command and control, pilot ready rooms and additional support spaces, a jet blast deflector, and components of the advanced arresting gear system.

With the recent superlifts, 341 of the total 447 sections are currently in place. Kennedy stands about 100 feet/30.5 m in height in the dry dock with only the island and main mast remaining to bring the ship to its full height of 252 feet/76.8 m.

A third key milestone also was achieved recently when the first two generators supporting the ElectroMagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) were installed.

«We are very proud of the progress we are making on the Kennedy», said Lucas Hicks, Newport News’ vice president, CVN-79 program. «The ship now is 75 percent structurally erected and more than 40 percent complete. Many of the improvements we have made over the construction of CVN 78, including increased pre-outfitting and performing more complex assemblies in our shops, will allow us to launch the ship three months earlier than planned».

Kennedy is scheduled to be christened in the fourth quarter of 2019 and delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2022.

 

General Characteristics

Builder Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
Propulsion 2 A1B* nuclear reactors, 4 shafts
Length 1,092 feet/333 m
Beam 134 feet/41 m
Flight Deck Width 256 feet/78 m
Flight Deck Square 217,796 feet2/20,234 m2
Displacement approximately 100,000 long tons full load
Speed 30+ knots/34.5+ mph/55.5+ km/h
Crew 4,539 (ship, air wing and staff)
Armament ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System)
Aircraft 75+

* – Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. serves the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program

 

Ships

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) 11-13-2009 11-09-2013 07-22-2017 Norfolk, Virginia
USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) 08-22-2015
USS Enterprise (CVN-80)

 

VFA-147 ‘Argonauts’

The U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-147 ‘Argonauts’ completed its first F-35C Lightning II flight at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California April 18. The inaugural flight supports the squadron’s transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet to the F-35C Lightning II, marking a significant step toward the integration of the F-35C Lightning II weapons system into the U.S. Navy’s arsenal.

Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 147 ‘Argonauts’ Execute First F-35C Flight
Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 147 ‘Argonauts’ Execute First F-35C Flight

«In the back of my mind, I knew this day would happen eventually, but I still can’t believe that we are here, we are doing it and I have the privilege of being a part of this amazing program», said Lieutenant Dave «Strokes» Hinkle, the first U.S. Navy operational squadron pilot to fly the F-35C Lightning II.

«When you realize what this day means, not just in the context of our squadron’s history, but also what it means to the U.S. Navy, it is both simultaneously humbling and empowering to catch a glimpse of what’s in store for our community».

The squadron began the initial transition in December after completing a six-month deployment aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68) as part of Carrier Air Wing 11. Since their return, both pilots and maintainers have undergone extensive training, completing F-35 ground school at Eglin Air Force Base and NAS Lemoore.

The transition, which is set to be complete in late 2018, makes the Argonauts the first operational squadron in the USN to receive and field the aircraft.

 

F-35С Lightning II specifications

Length 51.5 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.7 feet/4.48 m
Wing span 43 feet/13.1 m
Wing area 668 feet2/62.1 m2
Horizontal tail span 26.3 feet/8.02 m
Weight empty 34,800 lbs/15,785 kg
Internal fuel capacity 19,750 lbs/8,960 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound (907 kg) GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-400
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Propulsion Length 220 inch/5.59 m
Propulsion Inlet Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Propulsion Maximum Diameter 51 inch/1.30 m
Propulsion Bypass Ratio 0.57
Propulsion Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6/1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h
Combat radius (internal fuel) >600 NM/683.5 miles/1,100 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Max g-rating 7.5

 

Planned Quantities

U.S. Navy 260
U.S. Marine Corps 80
In total 340

 

H-X program

On 27 April 2018, the Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command sent a Request for Quotation (RFQ) concerning the HX Fighter Programme to the governments of Great Britain, France, Sweden and the United States to be forwarded to the five companies who responded to the requests for information.

Finland has sent invitations to tender to five governments to compete for its H-X program to replace its F-18 Hornet fighters, which calls for 64 new fighters and has a tentative cost of about €10 billion (FAF photo)
Finland has sent invitations to tender to five governments to compete for its H-X program to replace its F-18 Hornet fighters, which calls for 64 new fighters and has a tentative cost of about €10 billion (FAF photo)

They were requested to give a quotation on the following aircraft: Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet (United States), Dassault Rafale (France), Eurofighter Typhoon (Great Britain), Lockheed Martin F-35 (United States) and Saab Gripen (Sweden).

The Finnish Government’s Defence Policy Report and a number of Finnish defence administration plans set out the guidelines for the RFQ. The Government’s Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy endorsed the Programme, and Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö authorised the Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command to submit the RFQ.

 

Scope of procurement

The aim of the HX Fighter Programme is to replace the operational capability of the Finnish Air Force’s Hornet fleet that is to be phased out as from 2025. The Programme is tasked to define, on the basis of the available resources, the best possible military capability and bring the maximum added value to the entire defence system.

The desired capability has been defined and based on this an entire procurement package will be negotiated and built around each multi-role fighter option. The package contains 64 aircraft along with the technical systems, training systems, maintenance tools, testing equipment and spare parts as well as weapons, sensors and other type-specific support functions.

To reduce the risk involved in the integration of different systems, the tenderers are requested to provide comprehensive solutions meeting the operational requirements. Each tenderer is responsible, together with its government, for the complete package including effective weapons, sensors and special systems, system integration and mission support systems.

 

Decision-making considerations

The Decision-making model and Evaluation will be based on the following decision-making areas: Military Capability, Security of Supply, Industrial Participation, Affordability, and Security and Defence policy assessment.

The procurement will have an impact on the Finnish Defence Forces’ operations and on the Finnish Air Force’s combat capability until 2060. The selected system should offer the best capabilities, supporting elements and capacity for further development for the entire life cycle.

The military capability assessment will be made using five scenarios: Counter-Air, Counter-Land, Counter-Sea, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Long-Range Strike. The candidates’ capability to adapt to the Air Force’s agile combat support at different types of operating bases in dispersed locations will also be assessed.

The tenderer shall provide an industrial cooperation and in-country security of supply solution to enable wartime operations. The operating and maintenance costs of the selected system shall be covered with the defence budget.

Military Capability is the only decision-making area where the candidates will be compared. The other areas are assessed as pass/fail.

Defence and security policy will be assessed separately.

 

Procurement procedure and schedule

In the RFQ phase, the tenderers will provide binding information on the solutions, to be assessed by the HX Fighter Programme. The procurement procedure is divided into several phases. The RFQ that was now sent starts the first phase of negotiations, during which the preliminary candidate-specific procurement packages will be determined. The next phase will commence in the second half of 2019. During this phase, the final contents of the procurement packages will be negotiated and determined with each tenderer. The final quotations will be requested in 2020, at the end of the second negotiating phase. The Finnish Government will decide on the procurement in 2021.

The HX Fighter Programme aims to negotiate the best possible solution with each tenderer.

 

Industrial participation

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö has decided on an industrial participation obligation for the HX Fighter Programme: The HX Programme includes an obligation to the tenderers for industrial participation at a minimum of 30 per cent of the total contract value. This will be sufficient to ensure the domestic industry’s significant involvement, ensure sufficient security of supply and reinforce Finland’s defence technological and industrial foundations.

Utility Aircraft

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation Inc. announced the renewal of their exclusive teaming agreement for a next-generation Fixed-Wing Utility Aircraft (FUA) on April 27, 2018.

Sierra Nevada Corporation announces renewal of exclusive teaming agreement with Textron Aviation
Sierra Nevada Corporation announces renewal of exclusive teaming agreement with Textron Aviation

«SNC evaluated the available aircraft manufacturers and was pleased to select and partner with Textron Aviation», said Tim Owings, executive vice president of SNC’s Integrated Mission Systems (IMS) business area. «Textron Aviation is known as an industry leader in building safe, reliable and flexible aircraft. Our exclusive agreement with Textron Aviation will provide our customers with the best value and one of the most capable aircraft on the market today».

SNC, with more than 50 years of experience in systems integration, equipment manufacturing and servicing for both commercial and military aircraft, will lead the effort as the prime contractor, designing and integrating the Mission Equipment Package. As a world leader in aviation and the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for the Beechcraft King Air aircraft, Textron Aviation has a versatile and capable fleet, providing best-of-breed aircraft and OEM support from turbo prop to jet.

«Textron Aviation is happy to be exclusively partnered with Sierra Nevada Corporation», said Bob Gibbs, vice president, Special Mission Sales. «Together we will develop an aircraft that can be manufactured specifically for this FUA effort. Combining Textron Aviation’s 90 years of unrivaled innovation, proven performance and manufacturing capability to build reliable, flexible aircraft and SNC’s track record for integrating military mission equipment will provide the best aircraft for the mission».

SNC’s IMS business area is a trusted provider of high-quality, multi-mission Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) products and services with years of experience supporting the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, commercial and international customers. The IMS team engineers, builds, integrates, modifies, fields and supports low-cost, turn-key air- and ground-based ISR systems and has sustained over 7,300,000 multi-mission/multi-intelligence flight hours worldwide.