U.S. Naval Aircraft and Weapon Developments

By Floyd D. Kennedy Jr.

Commander, Second Fleet, conducted Fleet Battle Experiment Charlie as an overlay on Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 98-2 from 28 April through 10 May 1998, in which the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) Battle Group was certified for deployment. The experiment evaluated the utility of an Area Air Defense Commander (AADC) command-and-planning module, the prototype of which is located at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, and the ability of such a geographically-separated entity to plan and execute the Joint Force Commander's air defense plan for theater air and missile defense. AADC modules are programmed additions to several Aegis cruisers, and the experiment assessed the prototype's integration with both joint command structures, including the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC), the Airspace Command Authority (ACA), and the Navy Force Commander—all of whom were afloat. The experiment also addressed the evolving Ring of Fire concept examined in both FBE-Alpha and Bravo, in which calls for supporting fire are computer-assisted to respond, ideally, within seconds. The experiment concluded that both the AADC module and the Ring of Fire concept are ready for more complex testing.

Commander, Seventh Fleet, executed FBE-Delta from 26 October through 2 November 1998 in conjunction with an annual joint and combined exercise sponsored by Combined Forces Command, Korea: Foal Eagle 98. The experiment focused on a land-sea engagement network that linked 22 stations at sea to 80 automated deep operations coordination stations ashore. The resulting network facilitated engagement of land and sea targets using a variety of joint platforms. This network-centric engagement focused on two missions: counter-fire against enemy land-based artillery and missile systems, and counter-special operations forces. Results of the experiment were positive; although still in its infancy, the land-sea engagement network facilitates dramatic gains in shortening the observe-orient-decide-act cycle (OODA Loop).

Commander, Third Fleet, had operational sponsorship of FBE-Echo, which was phase one of the three-phase Third Fleet/I MEF exercise, Kernal Blitz 99: phase one, stability operations [and FBE-E], was conducted 10 through 25 March 1999 in the Northern California operating area and the cities of Monterey, Oakland, Alameda, and San Francisco. Phase two, advanced force operations, was conducted 12-16 April off Southern California, and phase three, amphibious assault operations, was conducted 19 through 30 April, also in the Southern California operating area. Using as assessment categories the five joint concept areas advanced by "Joint Vision 2010"—dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full dimension protection, focused logistics, and information superiority—FBE-Echo evaluated the contribution various new operational concepts and technologies could make in each category.

FBE-Foxtrot will be the first with significant input from the Navy Warfare Development Command's new Concept Development Division. FBEs-Golf and -Hotel will continue that process; FBE-Hotel may run concurrently with the Air Force's Expeditionary Force Experiment 00, an Army Advanced Warfighting Experiment, and the Marines' Year 2000 Urban Warrior experiment under an umbrella Joint Experiment sponsored by the Joint Experimentation Directorate of U.S. Atlantic Command. U.S. Atlantic Command becomes U.S. Joint Forces Command on 1 October this year, a name reflecting its growing responsibilities in all aspects of joint force integration, including experimentation.

Aviation Systems

Tables 1 and 2 address the latest developments in the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet program. Its Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase completes this month as operational evaluation begins. The first production aircraft was delivered on 18 December 1998; VF-II is scheduled to transition to the F/A-18E and achieve an initial operational capability in September 2000. The two-seat F/A-18F will get the Super Hornet Advanced Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) and will enter service in 2003.

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) continues in its concept development phase. A Milestone II decision for the start of engineering and manufacturing development is scheduled for 2001. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is no longer contributing to the project; as a result, the Navy and Air Force are contributing approximately equal shares, with assistance from the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, and Norway (see Table 1).

The fifth and last additional EA-6B Prowler squadron, VAQ-128, last June made its first operational deployment to Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia. This is the last squadron established to compensate for the withdrawal from service last July of the Air Force's only dedicated radar jamming aircraft, the EF-111. Only 123 EA-6B airframes remain in existence; 85 are flying with the fleet, training squadrons, and reserves. With a requirement for 104 active aircraft to fulfill joint and naval missions, the remaining 38 stored aircraft are now undergoing repair, modification, and re-winging.

The latest upgrade to the EA-6B's electronic suite, Block 89A, completed developmental testing last year, and is scheduled to complete operational testing this month. Updated aircraft will enter operational service next fiscal year. Development of the next-generation EA-6B upgrade is under way. The Navy last year awarded Northrop-Grumman the contract for the EA-6B improved capabilities (ICAP) III upgrade, projected to enter service in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004. All EA-6Bs are scheduled for conversion to the ICAP III configuration.

Numerous F-14 upgrades continue. Forty aircraft have gotten the F-14B upgrade: a new digital architecture featuring an enhanced mission computer, a programmable tactical information display and multiple display indicator group, an enhanced AWG-IS fire control system, and an ALR-67 radar warning receiver. Though once envisioned for 197 F-14As and -Bs, only 69 are scheduled for the upgrade (up from 67 last year).

The F-14 precision strike upgrade—installation of a capability to carry the Air Force-developed low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) system on all 70 remaining F-14As, 69 F-14Bs, and 50 F-14Ds—has been completed on all the F-14As; 40 F-14Bs; and 32 F-14Ds. As of January, 38 of the planned 75 LANTIRN pods had been delivered. The LANTIRN-equipped F-14 made its combat debut during Operation Desert Fox last December.

The first F-14B upgrade with the F-14 Global Positioning System (GPS) modification was delivered in January 1999. Twenty-one modified F-14Ds already have been delivered. All 69 F-14Bs and 50 F-14Ds will receive GPS, allowing them to deliver GPS-guided munitions. That capability will be demonstrated by the end of this calendar year.

The F-14 structural modification program, designed to extend the structural life of all three variants of the F-14, has major structural time compliance requirement upgrades at 5,000; 7,000; and 9,000 hours. As of January this year, 161 of 207 5,000-hour upgrades and 59 of 69 7,000hour upgrades had been completed on all F-14 variants. Revised estimates of fatigue life over the projected remainder of the F-14 service careers have negated the requirement for the 9,000 hour upgrades.

Finally, 60 of 75 F-14As, 33 of 69 F-14Bs, and 22 of 50 F-14Ds have been equipped with the digital flight control system designed to eliminate the uncontrollable flat spins that have claimed many F-14s over the aircraft's service life. The first squadron equipped with modified aircraft deployed last March.

The Navy dropped several GBU-24B/B 2,000-pound penetrator bombs with BLU-109 bomb bodies during Desert Fox. The Navy also is acquiring a more effective 2,000-pound penetrator—the GBU-24D/B (BLU-116)—which will have more than twice the penetration capability of the BLU-109. Versions of the bomb have been test-dropped by an F/A- 18.

The Navy is working two separate but related efforts in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The first is the VTOL UAV demonstration program. Initiated with a congressional budget plus-up in fiscal year 1997, the demonstration was designed to evaluate the maturity of VTOL UAV technologies and performance, and minimize development risks for the maritime environment. Naval Air Systems Command (NavAir) selected three contractors to participate in the demonstration: Bell Helicopter Textron, Bombardier Services, and Science Applications International Corporation. Land-based testing of the three firms' rotary-wing UAVs was done from April through June of last year at the Army's Yuma Proving Ground. At the conclusion of these land-based tests, NavAir selected the Bell Eagle Eye and Bombardier CL-327 to receive the UAV Common Automated Recovery System for further testing. (See "The Battle Fleet Must Have Eyes," Proceedings , September 1998, pages 8990.) This demonstration program will conclude in fiscal year 2000, and will inform the second effort, the VTOL Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) system.

VTUAV is an acquisition program to supply both the Navy and the Marine Corps with a system to provide real-time or near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data without the need for manned aircraft or reliance on theater-level joint assets or national assets. Its operational requirements document was approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council last December. Missions to be supported by the VTUAV system include over-the-horizon classification and targeting, mine countermeasures, battle management, chemical/biological agent detection, reconnaissance, and signals intelligence. The Navy will design the system to be compatible with standard Department of Defense command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence (C41) architectures and protocols. This year the Program Executive Officer is developing the VTUAV system acquisition strategy, looking toward a second quarter fiscal year 2000 Engineering and Manufacturing Development (Milestone II) decision. Plans call for an initial operational capability during fourth quarter of fiscal year 2003, building to a total of 23 production systems (12 Navy and 11 Marine Corps). A VTUAV system will be comprised of air vehicles, ground control stations, modular mission payloads, remote data terminals, spares and support equipment.

Last year's feature reported on the Marine Corps' Dragon Drone mini-UAV. Since that time, the Dragon Drone deployed with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and operated from USS Duluth (LPD-6) from June through December 1998. The Marines' assessment of the Dragon Drone, based on 20 missions and 29 flight hours, was that it was effective at ranges of seven to ten miles and constituted a viable MEU asset. It effectively down linked video data back to the Duluth and to the command ship, the USS Essex (LHD-2) Pilot proficiency proved to be a problem because there was insufficient flight time to maintain those skills among a group of pilots. The Marine Corps plans to deploy a Dragon Drone system during UNITAS 99 to collect additional operational data, and then decide whether to make it an operational asset.

Land-Attack Systems

Two surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missile systems are vying for adoption by the Navy for employment from Aegis ships, the new DD-21 land-attack destroyer, and potentially submarines: a Navy version of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) Block IA called NTACMS, and an adaptation of the Navy's surface-to-air Standard Missile called the Land-Attack Standard Missile (LASM). On 16 April 1998, the Chief of Naval Operations selected the LASM for use from Aegis platforms and deferred a decision on a next-generation land-attack missile for DD-21 and submarines. The Navy assessed that NTACMS and LASM possess comparable capability in terms of range, responsiveness, and lethality, but LASM came in at less than half the cost of NTACMS. Since neither missile could achieve the desired 200-nauticalmile range (both having ranges of approximately 150 nautical miles), the Chief of Naval Operations chose the lower-cost option for the near term requirement on Aegis ships.

In the Fiscal Year 1999 Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed that the CNO's choice be reexamined. Consequently, the Office of the Secretary of Defense ordered a supplemental analysis to focus on target set, target location error, warhead lethality, and cost of the guidance package. The analysis was completed by 1 December addressing specific congressional concerns on the near-term selection of LASM and initiating a long-term assessment of alternatives for tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) on the DD-21 and new nuclear-powered submarines (NSSNs).

The LASM will be the initial land-attack missile for Aegis ships. Research-and-development funding begins in fiscal year 2000 with procurement scheduled for fiscal year 2003. Total procurement objective is 800 missiles, which will fill vertical launch cells on Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class guided-missile destroyers, Bunker Hill (CG-52)-class Aegis cruisers and later ships, and serve as the initial loadout for new DD-21s.

Congressional interest has been piqued by the prospect of converting some or all of the four Trident nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to be withdrawn from service pursuant to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) to guided-missile submarines (SSGNs). As yet only a concept with no formal Navy backing, the SSGN would cram seven Tomahawk missiles into each of 22 ballistic-missile tubes and reserve two tubes for deploying Special Operations Forces, their gear, and underwater vehicles. The 154 Tomahawk missiles the SSGN could carry would relieve multimission Aegis ships of many Tomahawk missions, allowing them to assume a larger role in Theater Air and Missile Defense with Navy Area and Navy Theater Wide Theater Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities, and in joint fire support with LASM. Supporters assert that the SSGN could operate forward without air cover until such time as it received a launch order. Since much of the Navy's present day operational tempo problem is driven by geographic Commanders-in-Chiefs' requirements for Tomahawk presence in their areas of responsibility, a dedicated Tomahawk platform like the SSGN could relieve the pressure on other Navy units and crews, especially multipurpose platforms with other things to do.

Congress ordered the Secretary of Defense to study the SSGN and report back this past March. As this issue went to press, the results of the study had not yet been made public.

Programmed for installation on new build Arleigh Burke -class ships, starting with DDG-81, is the Mark 45, Mod 4, 5-inch/62 caliber gun. Based on the current 5-inch/54 caliber gun, the Mod 4 incorporates digital control and a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver/processor, increases barrel length by more than three feet, increases maximum internal pressure by almost 20%, and strengthens virtually all aspects of the gun to permit the dramatically increased performance of the Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM). ERGM reaches out to 63 nautical miles through a combination of increased muzzle energy from the Mod 4 gun system, an on-board rocket motor, and aerodynamic performance of the ERGM airframe. It has terminal GPS guidance, and is scheduled to enter fleet service, along with the 5-inch/62 gun, in fiscal year 2001.

Cooperative Engagement Capability

In its rush to put this new capability to sea, the Navy has run headlong into interoperability problems (probably brought on by insufficient testing). The Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) has demonstrated such potential to expand a battle group's sensor and weapon engagement capability by sharing raw sensor data among all CEC equipped ships that everyone from the weapons officer on the waterfront to the senator on Capitol Hill has been pushing for its accelerated deployment. When overlaid on early Aegis computer programs, CEC functioned reliably, demonstrating in FBE-Charlie the ability to provide a single, integrated air picture over the entire East Coast of the United States. As the lines of code increased with each new upgrade, and new information systems were overlaid on old, interoperability among systems degraded catastrophically, as highlighted by recent test events. The systems involved include CEC; Aegis baseline 5, phase 3; baseline 6 phase 1; and Link 16 Joint Tactical Information Data System model 4 (11 bit messages) versus model 5 (19-bit messages).

In practical terms, this degradation has meant that two frontline Aegis cruisers had to be sidelined while their electronic systems were sorted out, and battle group assignments had to be realigned to make the most of remaining capability. In the meantime, Aegis baseline 6, phase 3 computer programs will be delayed 18 months while interoperability problems are corrected and thoroughly tested. CEC operational evaluation has slipped from fiscal year 1998 to 2000. Approximately $78 million is being applied against the problem in fiscal year 1999.

Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea) has learned from its mistakes. It has implemented several organization changes to eliminate stove-piped system development efforts and to integrate the Aegis management team. Further, it has established a new interoperability organization, NavSea 05, to certify the interoperability of systems prior to their delivery to the fleet. Also, a new land-based network that links various program and test facilities is under construction to facilitate interoperability testing ashore at various stages of the development effort. The Navy approach to this system interoperability problem could well serve as a model for solving the ever-frustrating inter-service system interoperability problems that plague training and operations in the joint world.

Mine Countermeasures

The appropriate mix between dedicated mine countermeasure assets, such as the mine countermeasure (MCM) ships and airborne mine countermeasure squadrons, and mine countermeasure capability deployed on multipurpose combatants as organic assets is being analyzed in the Navy's MCM Force 21 Study. Whether the results of that study will change the Navy's two-pronged approach to the problem, i.e., dedicated and organic assets, is unknown. Within the current budget, the Navy will retain and upgrade the capabilities of its dedicated MCM force: 14 Avenger (MCM-1)-class oceangoing minsweeper/minehunters, 12 Osprey (MHC-51)-class coastal minehunters, and MH-53E helicopters. During 1997 and 1998, the Navy Surface Weapons Center's Coastal Systems Station in Panama City, Florida, analyzed the optimum configuration of mine countermeasure assets organic to a carrier battle group; the systems resulting from their analysis are under development and will be incorporated into a deploying carrier battle group in fiscal year 2005.

The Airborne Mine Neutralization System, a laser-based sensor designed to detect, classify, and localize floating and near-surface moored sea mines for mine avoidance rather than mine-sweeping, is a principal element of the organic MCM capability. The sensor uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology and automatic target recognition algorithms to identify and classify mine-like objects. Two systems are competing for a Milestone II decision to enter EMD: Magic Lantern and the ATD-I I 1. In a competitive evaluation field test in early fiscal year 1998, neither system met all the requirements of the operational requirements document. Nevertheless, the Navy determined that as the technologies matured, either system could fulfill the requirements, and the Milestone II decision is scheduled for this summer. Plans call for whichever system is selected to achieve initial operational capability on an H-60 helicopter in fiscal year 2005.

In the meantime, three prototype Magic Lantern systems are available for use on five SH-2 helicopters of HSL-94, a reserve light antisubmarine warfare helicopter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The squadron developed operational concepts and tactics that will translate into a starting point for the new H-60 based airborne mine neutralization system.

Non-Lethal Weapons

The Marine Corps is the Department of Defense's Executive Agent for the development of non-lethal weapons. See Table 3 for the principal non-lethal developments, including the acquisition programs.

In addition to those listed in the table, efforts are under way to adapt a variety of non-lethal payloads to a VTOL UAV platform, pending determination platform characteristics (see above). Possible payloads include tear gas, malodorants, and pyrotechnics. Also under way is an acoustics program that is demonstrating the biological effects produced from sound energies. During fiscal year 1998, the program office conducted numerous target-effects studies and evaluations of a variety of combustion and electrically driven acoustic sources. Target effects demonstrations are scheduled this summer.

Major Milestones

The Battle Group Passive Horizon Extension System (BGPHES) and its airborne component, the ES-3A, will be withdrawn from service this fiscal year. According to the Navy, connectivity with joint tactical and national signals intelligence sources has improved the tactical picture for the battle group and reduced the need for a dedicated organic sensor. That, coupled with pending requirements to upgrade the ES-3A aircraft made it unaffordable. Various national assets, including the RC-135 and EP-3, will fulfill the ES-3A's mission. The ES-3A detachments' mother squadrons, VQ-5 and VQ-6, are scheduled to be decommissioned this summer.

The P-3C Orion Antisurface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP) achieved initial operational capability in May 1998. The modification provides commanders with enhanced antisurface warfare capabilities, plus capabilities for surveillance, reconnaissance, and over-the-horizon targeting of both maritime and land targets.

Floyd D. Kennedy, Jr. , a member of the Center for Naval Analyses research staff, is presently CAN representative to Commander, Submarine Forces U.S. Atlantic Fleet. He is a Captain in the Naval Reserve.

 

 
 

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