Northrop Grumman Corporation has refined the design of Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Polar (NGP) satellites by leveraging digital technology called Highly Immersive Virtual Environment (HIVE). The satellites are being built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC).
Northrop Grumman’s HIVE technology allows engineers to design, build, maintain and service satellites in virtual reality before any hardware is manufactured or procured. Real-time modeling, simulation, visualization and human interaction reduce technical costs and risks early in the development phases.
«With digital engineering, we can move through the design, testing and manufacturing phases quickly and with agility, saving money and significantly reducing development timelines for large systems», said Carol Erikson, vice president, systems engineering and digital transformation, Northrop Grumman.
As part of the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared System (Next-Gen OPIR), two NGP satellites will provide precise, timely sensor coverage over the northern hemisphere to help deter and defend against ballistic and hypersonic missiles. NGP combines Northrop Grumman’s proven experience in missile warning and defense with a commitment to delivering NGP at an accelerated pace.
During a recent HIVE demonstration, conducted at the company’s facility in Redondo Beach, California, Northrop Grumman engineers donned virtual-reality goggles and motion-capture suits to simulate the integration and assembly of the satellites’ key components. Engineers validated the NGP design and will continue to use digital technology in the next stages of the satellites’ development.
In March 2022, Northrop Grumman announced its partnership with Ball Aerospace to design and develop the two NGP satellite infrared payloads in the first phase of a $1.89 billion SSC contract.
The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the next generation landing craft, Ship to Shore Connector (SSC), Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) 104, June 9.
LCAC 104’s delivery follows the completion of Acceptance Trials with the U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) to test the readiness and capability of the craft and to validate requirements.
«These next generation craft provide our Navy and Marine Corps team with essential agility and speed to complete their missions», said Captain Jason Grabelle, program manager, Amphibious Assault and Connectors Programs, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. «The reliability and flexibility of the LCAC make them an essential asset to the fleet – protecting the maritime domain now and in the future».
LCACs are built with similar configurations, dimensions, and clearances to the legacy LCAC, ensuring the compatibility of this next-generation air cushion vehicle with existing well deck-equipped amphibious ships.
The LCAC program is currently in serial production on LCACs 105-116 at Textron Systems.
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, boats and craft.
The U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) and Boeing recently completed a critical design review for the Protected Tactical SATCOM Prototype (PTS-P), validating Boeing’s technical maturity on the rapid-prototyping program.
«We’re making great progress on this pacesetter program», said Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Rose, SSC’s Tactical SATCOM Division deputy chief. «We’ve asked all industry partners to move fast – to build, iterate, demonstrate, and improve performance, so we can deploy much faster than we typically would. This design review demonstrates we’re on track to deliver new communication capabilities to the warfighter».
Boeing’s PTS-P features an on-board processor of the U.S. military’s jam-resistant Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW), providing users in-theater anti-jam capability with network routing that exceeds objective requirements.
Scheduled for on-orbit demonstration after a 2024 launch, the prototype payload showcases PTS-P’s improved stand-off distance performance, reduced latency, and other mission-enabling capabilities that enable the warfighter in a modern battlefield. Host vehicle integration and testing will begin next year.
Boeing is leveraging its expertise in model-based systems engineering and digital engineering to design an agile, scalable and flexible solution to meet the warfighter’s ever-emerging needs. Millennium Space Systems strengthens the team with rapid prototyping and demonstrations in a fully-integrated and streamlined execution approach.
«The Space Force’s incremental demonstration approach is allowing us to bring capabilities rapidly to the warfighter while mitigating risk for future technology developments», said Troy Dawson, Government Satellite Systems vice president at Boeing. «We’re investing across our satellite portfolio to deliver the most advanced solutions to our customers. Our scalable software-defined payload will be able to accommodate and grow to meet the needs of any mission, and it can be hosted on commercial or government platforms».
To date, the Boeing team has completed several capability demonstrations and design reviews, including validating interoperability with government-furnished Protected Anti-Jam Tactical SATCOM (PATS) hardware and software components.
«Something is rotten in the state of Denmark» (Hamlet 1.4). The U.S. Navy again restructures Littoral Combat Ship’s programme. The LCS is known as «the WARship that can’t go to WAR» because of its high vulnerability. «The Navy needs a Small Surface Combatant», Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has directed the Navy «to move forward with a multi-mission Small Surface Combatant (SSC) based on modified Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) hull designs. The new SSC will offer improvements in ship lethality and survivability, delivering enhanced naval combat performance at an affordable price».
Consistent with the Fleet’s views on the most valued capabilities delivered by a Small Surface Combatant, the modified LCS ship will provide multi-mission anti-surface warfare (SUW) and anti-submarine warfare capabilities (ASW), as well as continuous and effective air, surface and underwater self-defense. Adding to current LCS Flight 0+ baseline configurations, which include the 57 mm gun and SeaRAM Anti-Ship Missile Defense System, this ship will be equipped with:
over-the-horizon Surface-to-Surface Missiles;
air defense upgrades (sensors and weapons);
an advanced electronic warfare system;
a towed array system for submarine detection and torpedo defense;
two 25 mm guns;
an armed helicopter (MH-60R Seahawk) capable of engaging with either Hellfire missiles or Mark-54 torpedoes;
and an unmanned Fire Scout helicopter for surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting.
Modularity design features will also be retained to augment SUW and ASW capabilities as directed by the Fleet Commanders. Available mission modules include Longbow Surface-to-Surface Missiles (Hellfire), two Mark-46 30 mm guns, and two 11M RHIBs for Surface Warfare, or a variable depth sonar for submarine warfare which, when added to the ship’s organic multi-function towed array and embarked helicopter, make this an extremely effective anti-submarine warfare platform.
In addition to the improved weapon systems capabilities for this ship, which reduce its susceptibility to being hit by a threat weapon, the Small Surface Combatant will also include improved passive measures – measures that will reduce the ship’s signature against mine threats, and measures that will harden certain vital spaces and systems against potential damage caused by weapon impact – to further enhance its overall survivability.
From an operational perspective, the sum of these improvements will increase the ship’s capability and availability to participate in SUW Surface Action Groups, ASW Search and Attack Units; escort of High Value Units, and support of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) SUW and ASW operations.
With increased lethality and survivability, the modified LCS will provide the flexibility to operate both independently and as a part of an aggregated force. This decision allows the Navy to add organic multi-mission capabilities to the Small Surface Combatant force while leveraging the benefits and affordability of the LCS program.
The modified LCS ships will complement the planned 32 LCS ships, resulting in a 52 ship Small Surface Combatant Fleet in keeping with the Navy’s Force Structure Analysis. The 32 LCS ships, with their full modular capability, will allow the Navy to deploy assets to meet the Navy’s mine warfare, SUW, and ASW demands.
According to Chuck Hagel, «production of the new SSC will begin no later than fiscal year 2019, and there will be no gap between production of the last LCS and the first SSC. A significant advantage to this approach is the ability to enhance naval combat performance by back-fitting select SSC improvements to the LCS fleet. By avoiding a new class of ships and new system design costs, it also represents the most responsible use of our industrial base investment while expanding the commonality of the Navy’s fleet».
«The new SSC ships will cost about $60 to 75 million more than the current versions of LCS. Over the life of each class, both have come in at less than $500 million a hull, not including the mission packages», Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA) told reporters.
However, and this new concept was heavily criticized by some experts. For example, the editor of the defense-aerospace.com says, «the idea that the LCS’ numerous flaws – unworkable modular design, cost overruns, inability to take battle damage, faulty design and construction, unworkable operational concept with interchangeable mission packages and crews (3-2-1) – can be fixed by resigning an improved version called SSC seems unlikely to result in an operationally effective ship, but will certainly add additional cost to the LCS’ already unconscionably high price tag. The LCS was designed, as its name implies, for coastal work in shallow and constrained waters where it could be supported by other larger and better-armed ships. However, it cannot be expected to operate effectively in theaters like the Pacific, and especially not anywhere within hundreds of miles of the Chinese coast, where it would be operationally useless, yet still a sitting duck».
Another example, Clark, the naval analyst, in his report, spells out exactly why the ship’s ASCM (Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles) vulnerability is a fatal one, especially in circumstances where an LCS is tasked with defending a larger ship.
«Given the LCS’s short-range missiles, a defended ship would have to operate too close to the LCS to permit effective maneuvering and the LCS would have to be positioned between the incoming missile and the escorted ship or directly in front of or behind the escorted ship. To ensure the incoming ASCM is intercepted, two RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) would likely be shot at each incoming ASCM. This would result in the LCS’s magazine of RAMs being exhausted after ten ASCM attacks. In the LCS’s envisioned littoral operating environment, more ASCM attacks would likely occur before the ship could reload its RAM magazine».
The avoidance of detection, the LCS’s only real survival capability, will become more difficult thanks to improvements in ship locating technologies. Frank Hoffman, a former deputy director of the Navy’s Office of Program Appraisal, told Defense One that enhancements to Chinese ship detection capabilities would render the LCS a very, very targetable ship.
The Independence Variant of the LCS Class
Construction: Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall: 127.1 m
Beam overall: 31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum): 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 packages: ASW, SUW, MIW
Main engines: 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets: 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster: Retractable azimuthing
Speed: 40 knots (46 mph, 74 km/h)
Range: 3,500 NM (6,482 km)
Operational limitation: Survival in Sea State 8
Deck area: >2000 m2
Launch and recovery: Twin boom extending crane
Loading: Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Flight deck and hanger
Flight deck dimensions: 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53
Hanger: Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60