Technologists from the Dam Neck, Virginia, detachment of the Naval Surface Warfare Center's (NSWC) Port Hueneme Division are seeking allies among fleet operators in a campaign to extend the Navy's automated maintenance control system from the ship-machinery domain to the combat systems world.
The effort emerges from a nearly two-year-long demonstration at Dam Neck of the performance of the Navy's integrated condition assessment system (ICAS), in providing automated maintenance support for the surface ship SPS-49 air-defense radar. The Combat Systems ICAS (CS-ICAS) demonstration was designed to show the capability of the system—which supports hull, mechanical, and electrical systems on about 30 ships-to support combat systems. IDAX, Inc., developed the system for the Navy in the early 1990s; NSWC Carderock Division's Ship Systems Engineering Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, manages it.
The system provides automated performance analysis and recommendations for maintenance actions for many ship-machinery systems. It runs on a Windows NT-based workstation, integrates a range of system process measurements, and develops and monitors system-performance curves, automatically triggering a software inference engine, called the Expert, when it recognizes certain signals of impending failures. The Expert then provides input to system operators and maintenance personnel concerning corrective actions.
Dam Neck started running the CS-ICAS in October 1997. The SPS-49, program officials say, was selected as the representative combat system because it has been high on the list of fleet technical management actions and troubled systems in recent years.
For the demonstration, the CS-ICAS monitored the SPS-49 elements that have caused about 80% of the radar's failures: the transmitter klystron (a high-powered microwave cathode tube, the main element of the transmitter), the cooling system, and the antenna array. For each, the ICAS records system performance parameters in a database and, when automatically cued by alarms, provides prioritized recommendations on corrective action for system outages.
Dam Neck officials note that ICAS was developed solely to provide automated condition-based maintenance for hull, machinery, and electrical systems and that no comparable system exists to support combat systems. The Aegis program has developed and deployed an operational readiness test system (ORTS) that provides status-board-type information, but does not provide the same degree of capability as ICAS.
The CS-ICAS demonstration, according to Mark Hodges, a system programmer, has shown that the ICAS can support combat systems. "It would be a real shame . . . . " Hodges says, if the combat systems community spent the time and money developing a new system rather than adapting ICAS capabilities. The Navy paid for the ICAS development and owns the software rights, yet, Hodges adds, it is not easy to find the right program officer, at the right level, to sell the concept and generate the funds to transition the system from prototype to acquisition because the CS-ICAS does not have a specific combat-system constituency. A similar system originally was scheduled to go on board the USS Yorktown (CG-48) for the Smart Ship demonstration, but funding problems canceled it.
Hodges and other Navy and industry officials point out that combat systems depend on an infrastructure—power, water for cooling—that now is supported by ICAS. Extending the ICAS functions to combat systems, they add, is less a problem of systems integration than of generating support among combat-systems program officials for the approach. They also point out that the use of a single condition-based maintenance system for hull, machinery, electrical systems, and combat systems complies with the Navy's Information Technology 21 (IT-21) vision of integrating information-management systems for a total-ship architecture of systems.
The approach for now, they say, is to keep the system running at Dam Neck. By showing its value as a tool for total-ship condition-based maintenance, they hope to persuade key program officials to find new ship-construction dollars for the systems-integration work needed to extend the concept to the combat-systems world.