Naval Systems: Another Common Combat System

By Ed Walsh

Rear Admiral Kathleen Paige, former commander, Naval Surface Warfare Center, who was assigned during this spring's reorganization of the Navy's PEO structure to a newly created slot as deputy PEO TAD/SC with responsibility for the TAD programs, is considering options for proceeding with the common CDS development. Teams already have been set up at Lockheed Martin Government Electronics Systems and Raytheon's E-Systems and Naval and Maritime Systems business units for the Athena effort. Lockheed Martin is the systems integrator for the Aegis combat system. E-Systems is prime on CEC, while Naval and Maritime Systems developed SSDS and ACDS block 1. The ICDS program is aimed at developing a new combat systems architecture consisting of commercial-off-the-shelf computer hardware which, coupled with the common CDS software, would be usable on board all surface combatants, eventually including the Ticonderoga (CG-47)-class Aegis cruisers and Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class Aegis destroyers.

The surface combatant fleet now uses a dissimilar mix of combat direction systems, few of which are interoperable. Fleet and joint-service exercises have shown repeatedly, for example, that target tracks identified by one system may be missed or identified at a different range or bearing by another system. The Aegis combat system, which provides a high degree of integration among weapons and sensors on Aegis cruisers and destroyers, is not interoperable with the naval tactical data system (NTDS) still in use on board older non-Aegis ships.

The current SSDS, already in service on board the USS Ashland (LSD-48), integrates weapons and sensors across a fiber-optic local area network. The SSDS is based largely on newer commercial-off-the-shelf technology; ACDS block 1, in development since the mid-1980s, is hosted on older Navy-unique UYK-43 computers.

Elimination of the overlap among SSDS, CEC, and ACDS by maximizing reliance on the newer commercially based SSDS network-and-processing technology introduced is a critical goal of the retooled ICDS. The Navy-unique hardware and software still used in ACDS will be phased out, and the role of track identification will be shifted from ACDS to CEC. Command and control and data-link management now handled by ACDS will be shifted to an adjunct processor as a first step toward the eliminating of the UYK-43s. The effort will require extensive recoding and repartitioning of the ACDS combat systems software programs—written in the obsolescent CMS-2Y programming language—to enable them to run on a single architecture of commercially based computer systems.

The SSDS already has received Milestone 3 approval and is headed for production for carriers and amphibs. But Navy officials, starting with Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Acquisition and Development John Douglass, were incensed when the ACDS block I experienced reliability problems during its operational evaluation on board the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) in February. Douglass directed Rear Admiral John Nanos, then direct reporting program manager for strategic systems and now Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, to head a program management advisory group to evaluate both CEC and ACDS block 1.

Program officials say that the ACDS reliability problems have been resolved. Nanos's group, however, determined that the schedules for both CEC and ACDS represented a high degree of concurrency—meaning a higher degree of risk. The ICDS restructuring is aimed at stabilizing and maturing the program, to minimize development risk. The program appears to be less ambitious; for example, the goal of consolidating the separate composite trackers in CEC and SSDS for CEC baseline 3 will be dropped; the baseline 3 effort will not be pursued; and both systems will retain separate composite trackers. 

 

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