Naval Systems

By Edward J. Walsh

Bob LaPlume, the Navy’s systems-acquisition division head for the Aegis technical representative and contracting-officer representative for CSEDS, said that the Cole antenna’s return to service at CSEDS is like a “phoenix rising from the ashes,” performing a vital role in ongoing Aegis testing.

He noted that the Cole’s SPY-1B/D had been delivered to Moorestown in 2000 following the ship’s return to the United States after the attack. Initial testing found some damage, including scorching from the bomb blast, which also blew out some ceramic array windows. But most of the internal electronics remained intact, and with reseating of some circuit cards, the system probably could have been operated at low power, said LaPlume. Instead, it was placed in storage.

Since then, the SPY-1B/D engineering development model (EDM) used for the CSEDS has experienced increasing performance problems due to obsolescence of circuit cards and circuit-card housings, called nests. Because the EDM is a one-of-a-kind prototype, replacement cards are not available, so the EDM cards must be repaired. Moreover, testing for fault-detection and fault-isolation functions that the EDM does not provide required sending components to the Navy’s Surface Combat Systems Center at Wallops Island, Virginia, at additional cost.

In early 2009 the Navy determined that refurbishment of the mothballed Cole antenna could be a cost-effective alternative to building a new SPY-1B/D for CSEDS, since it was not a production spare and would never again be used as an operational system.

LaPlume said the refurbishment looked promising because the basic DDG antenna design has not changed. “An array is a conduit for radio frequency energy,” he added.

The pace of CSEDS testing forced the delay until this past summer. Work got under way in late July, when a gap in the test schedule occurred prior to the start of testing for the USS William S. Sims (DDG-113), the first ship of a planned extension of the Burke class.

The refurbishment of the Cole’s radar consisted of stripping the radar face, removing the columns that contain the electronics, and replacing a number of circuit cards and 144 of the 4,500 Aegis phase-shifters that, built into the radar face, target the electronic beam. LaPlume said that since every ship installation is different, some firmware updates also were needed to address the alignment of the array with the ship’s deckhouse.

The work was completed on 8 August, ten days early. The refurbished Cole SPY-1B/D now is up and running at CSEDS, testing the newest Aegis combat system’s functionality. The CSEDS no longer needs a new SPY-1B/D array, and now has eliminated the cost and delay of sending EDM components to Wallops for testing. “It’s a good-news story,” said LaPlume.


Mr. Walsh is a veteran reporter of Navy and Marine Corps news and former editor of Naval Systems Update.

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