Professional Notes

As part of the new maritime strategy, single ships are stationed in often-remote littoral areas for months at a time. The Navy has thus “operationalized” the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower by emphasizing maritime stability operations and humanitarian/disaster relief. The Aegis cruisers and destroyers assigned to the stations must have the capability to defend themselves against air, surface, and subsurface threats.

Another important, independent mission that some of these ships undertake is ballistic-missile defense. The 18 BMD-capable Aegis ships will, like their global fleet station counterparts, be on station for potentially extended periods. They too must have the most modern defensive capabilities. When the Aegis system first entered service in 1983, it featured state-of-art computer processing to track and engage targets. Today, computers and the threat have both progressed.

The primary components of the “Aegis Mod” program are:

• Combat systems upgrades for air dominance, maritime force protection, and undersea warfare

• Hull, mechanical, and electrical (HM&E) upgrades and mission upgrades to meet expected 35-year service life

• Optimized manpower and maintenance reductions as well as improved crew quality-of-life services

Build More Upgrades into the Plan

Some improvements are visible, such as replacing the pair of 5-inch/54-caliber gun mounts with the new 5-inch/62-caliber gun on the cruisers, and replacing SPQ-9A radar with SPQ-9B. But most of what is new is on the inside or below the waterline.

One of the most important features of this modernization effort is the CG/DDG Aegis Open Architecture (OA) effort, which includes redesigned computer programs for the entire Aegis fleet. As the Navy moves to a services-oriented computing environment, cruiser and destroyer OA positions Aegis warships for maximum improvements and life-cycle support. Future software upgrades to the Aegis fleet will be far easier and less costly, with hardware and software “disassociated” and on independent cycles for upgrades. This will allow the Navy to capitalize on innovative technology development such as that used routinely in industry.

While future steps in a 20-year plan are often difficult to visualize, the lead ship in this effort, the USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), has just completed this program. A closer look at the components of this modernization leads to an understanding of the entire project.

In the Lead

The Bunker Hill sailed out of BAE Systems Shipyard, San Diego, in February 2009. Following Aegis cruisers will be upgraded in two maintenance periods: one for combat systems and another for HM&E upgrades. The elements of the Bunker Hill ’s modernization are:

Better missile launchers: Vertical-launch system modifications support current and future capabilities of the standard missile (SM-2/SM-3/SM-6) variants.

Improved naval surface fires support: Mk34 Mod 4 gun weapon system includes a pair of 5-inch/62-caliber Mk45 Mod 4 guns and the associated Mk 160 Mod 11 fire-control system. As well, optical sights deliver better accuracy and range.

Better self-defense capability against air and surface threats: The high-resolution, X-band narrow beam AN/SPQ-9B radar detects small, fast targets like sea-skimming missiles to the horizon, even in heavy clutter. The Evolved Sea Sparrow missile can be fired from quad-packs in the ship’s vertical-launch system, providing another layer of self-defense against incoming threats from the air. The close-in weapon system is replaced with the newer Block 1B version, which has an antisurface capability.

Improved undersea-warfare capabilities in the littorals: In the case of the Bunker Hill (and the remainder of the Baseline 2 cruisers), the undersea-warfare fire-control system was upgraded to MK-116 Mod 7, improving maintainability and paving the way for the use of future torpedo types. The Baseline 2 and 3 cruisers will receive much more substantial upgrades to improve their ability to detect and engage submarines, with the introduction of the SQQ-89A(V)15 system with multi-function towed array.

Upgraded command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems: Cooperative engagement capability, a common data-link management system, and Mode 5 identification friend or foe allow for better strike-group interoperability and data sharing.

More processing capability and reliability in less space: The Aegis weapon system, upgraded to Advanced Capability Build 2008 computer program and associated displays, offers improved littoral situational awareness and hard-kill capabilities against low-flying aircraft, cruise missiles, and fast in-shore attack craft.

Integrated ship controls: A fully integrated bridge with electronic navigation, digital surveillance, and wireless communications, as well as engineering controls, result in better performance with reduced space, maintenance, and manpower.

When the Bunker Hill sailed this past spring, her crew was manning a ship with the world’s most modern technology, capable of dealing with the multidimensional threats that all navies face today.

Setting the Standard

On 25 August 2008, the Aegis Open Architecture Weapon System “came to life” on schedule and as planned on board the Bunker Hill . The Navy-industry team developed the configuration using commonly available, commercial-off-the-shelf computing hardware and open-system software.

Aside from the weapon system, cooperative engagement capability, and SPQ-9B radar upgrades, the HM&E upgrade was also substantial. The Bunker Hill has a new SmartShip control console and engineering-plant status displays. Electronic-navigation capability and an integrated-bridge system allow paperless charting and require fewer watch-standers. The tactical picture, radar displays, and communications can be viewed on the integrated video data distribution system.

While in drydock, the Bunker Hill received a stern flap to improve fuel efficiency. This reduced drag on the ship and will save money as well as providing environmental benefits. By maintaining ship speed using less power and a lower shaft speed, the life of the propulsion-plant machinery is extended. Other benefits to using stern flaps include reductions in propeller load, cavitation, vibration, and noise.

The Bunker Hill ’s waste-heat boilers, flash-type steam evaporators, and all steam piping have been removed. Evaporators were replaced with reverse-osmosis distilling units, and the steam galley and laundry equipment are now all-electric. Space- and weight-saving efforts also had substantial impact on the quality of life and work for the ship’s crew, who can now make use of a new classroom and fitness center in spaces previously occupied by legacy equipment.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead captured the essence—and the importance—of this program in his remarks at the 2008 Engineering the Total Ship Symposium: “Cruiser modernization is key to us because we need those ships not just for their capability, but for the capacity that we are going to need [for] the types of defense and offense that we are going to have to deal with in the future.” This is indeed a cost-effective way to deal with tomorrow’s multi-axis threats.


Admiral McManamon is the deputy commander for Surface Warfare (SEA 21) at the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Captain Eckerle is the program manager for Cruisers, Destroyers and Frigates (PMS400F), Surface Warfare Directorate in the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Railgun: A Revolutionary Surface Advancement

By Lieutenant Kristofer Womack, U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy is interested in railgun technology as a potential replacement and upgrade for deck guns. Railguns provide a way of accelerating projectiles with electromagnetic forces rather than chemical propellants or expanding gasses. Deck guns were once a ship’s main weapon against other surface forces and shore emplacements, but missile technology has eliminated the sole reliance on them for these missions. Missiles add the advantage of a greater range but come at an increased cost.

This is easily justifiable when the target is an enemy ship that one or two missiles can destroy. However, the cost is much harder to justify when the target is shore emplacements that may require hours of bombardment. For example, on 20 August 1998, the Navy launched about 75 Tomahawk cruise missiles at land-based al Qaeda targets, at a total cost of about $75 million. The ships launching the missiles were completing a mission known as naval surface fire support, the most common use of which is continuous bombardment of an enemy beachhead before and during an amphibious assault. It can involve hundreds of expended rounds. For this reason, missile technology is not an economical option for this mission capability.

New Weapon for a Traditional Mission

Naval surface fire support is an increasingly critical capability. In “Sea Power 21: Projecting Decisive Joint Capabilities” ( Proceedings , October 2002, pp. 32-41), then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark wrote of two fundamental concepts guiding his vision for this century; both underscore the importance of gunfire support.

The Navy must use sea basing, he said, to forward-deploy both offensive and defensive assets, because availability of overseas bases has been declining in recent years. During the Cold War, many capitalistic countries welcomed U.S. bases knowing that we would provide security from communist countries. They now no longer see the need for our protection and, furthermore, want to distance themselves from a nation that has become involved in controversial wars.

Our inability to acquire and maintain overseas bases in strategic locations leads to the need for sea basing and, consequently, sea strike. This allows us to take sea-based assets and either project power ashore or gain entry to strategic locations in which we have no existing bases. Naval surface fire support is an essential element of sea strike; therefore, technologies that enhance the capability are invaluable.

Throughout history, the naval surface fire-support mission has been carried out using ship-based deck guns, and technology has remained relatively unchanged since World War II. Formerly, explosive payload and range were dictated mostly by barrel diameter. A 16-inch gun had a range of 21 nautical miles, while a 5-inch gun had a range of 13 nautical miles.

Since the last Iowa -class battleship was decommissioned in the 1990s, the Navy has 5-inch guns only on forward-deployed vessels. The limited 13-nautical-mile range makes a ship engaged in naval surface fire support extremely vulnerable to shore-based weapons. It also places advancing U.S. Marines at a tactical disadvantage, because they lack adequate fire support.

Therefore, the Navy has pursued technologies to extend the range of deck guns in the near term, and has worked to replace them with railguns in the future. The near-term solution was the development of the extended-range guided munition. The ERGM is fired from a conventional 5-inch deck gun but has an extended range of 50 nautical miles through rocket assistance. Accuracy is maintained with a global positioning system and an inertial navigation system. The Navy hopes to employ railgun technology in the future to reach ranges of 250 nautical miles accurately.

Railgun Bonus Points

Railgun technology also has several peripheral benefits that make the concept attractive. It would have a much greater range than the current primary ship-to-ship missile, the BGM-84 Harpoon, increasing from 60 to 250 nautical miles. Additionally, railgun ammunition destroys targets by releasing the projectile’s kinetic energy, which eliminates the need for dangerous explosive warheads while maintaining lethality.

Since the projectile is launched with electrical energy rather than chemical propellants, a round stored in the magazine has no explosive components. This increases the safety and survivability of the ship by reducing the risk during onboard fires and mitigating the consequences of enemy weapons hitting the magazine, as Ian R. McNab, Scott Fish, and Francis Stefani detail in “Parameters for an Electromagnetic Naval Railgun” ( IEEE Transactions on Magnetics , vol. 37, no. 1, January 2001, pp. 223-28).

Finally, the electrical-pulse power system required for launch will create synergy with the Navy’s efforts to develop an all-electric-drive ship. Logistical costs such as those of production, transportation, and storage of ammunition will be reduced, since these rounds will not require special care for explosive materials. The reduced costs, increased technological synergy, and capability make railgun technology very attractive to the Navy. It is in our best interest to develop this critical future technology.


Lieutenant Womack, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2006, serves on board the USS West Virginia (SSBN-736). He holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin; this article is a condensed version of the “Naval Applications” chapter of his thesis, “On the Nature of Thermal Energy Sources in Electromagnetic Launcher Rails.”

Plan Communications for Relief Operations

By Captain Danelle Barrett, U.S. Navy

On 12 January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, causing severe human suffering. U.S. Southern Command promptly established Joint Task Force-Haiti (JTF-H) on the grounds of the U.S. embassy to direct military relief efforts during Operation Unified Response. The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), en route to her new homeport, was diverted and provided immediate humanitarian aid and airlift. She was quickly augmented by other Navy and Marine units, including the USNS Comfort (T-AH 20).

Thousands of Navy personnel participated in relief operations alongside joint and coalition partners from more than 100 nations, the government of Haiti, other U.S. government agencies, and 500 nongovernmental organizations. Coordination and synchronization depended on these disparate groups collaborating. For Navy communications planners, this posed significant organizational and technical challenges.

Who Is Where? How Are They Communicating?

The first task was to understand the mission, command-and-control (C 2 ) structure, and alignment of Navy communications with higher-level JTF-H plans. Initial analysis identified operational tasking, potential participants, their communications capabilities, and the means to execute plans to ensure continuous C 2 of naval forces afloat and ashore. The outcome was the Operational Tasking Communications (OPTASK COMM), providing circuits for Navy and Marine commanders.

Unknowns included the magnitude of overall damage, extent of existing relief efforts, frequency-spectrum management to ensure deconfliction among all the relief entities, the exact location of Navy assets ashore, and how they would be supported by tactical ground communications. The initial operational scenario was to provide immediate humanitarian assistance, but security issues were uncertain as Haitians went without food, water, or shelter. The situation could become even more dire if it led to a mass migration of people fleeing by sea. Communications planners needed to include circuits to cover those potential scenarios.

In developing the OPTASK COMM, planning communications even with long-term allies posed challenges. Many coalition partners share common cryptographic equipment for secure voice and data circuits, but most Central and South American navies do not, so all voice communications with them were unencrypted. At the beginning, it was even unclear which foreign navies would be operating with the United States, so planners assumed that commanders needed covered and uncovered circuits for many potential scenarios. Both classified and unclassified versions of the OPTASK COMM were maintained.

Bandwidth to afloat units was a limiting factor, a situation not unique to disaster-relief operations. Communications planners coordinated early to ensure the maximum for all units, but the imagery-heavy environment further taxed bandwidth utilization. Joint partners and NGOs are often unaware of shipboard limitations in this area, and this operation was no exception. A constant education campaign ensured that constraints remained at the forefront for operators and non-military personnel.

The importance of personnel ashore cannot be overstated. Until Navy communications planners arrived at JTF-H headquarters and discerned where forces ashore would operate, it was difficult to ascertain capabilities needed. Joint communications planners, unaware of all locations where the Navy needed support, had been aggressively engaged in providing support to the JTF-H headquarters and the mostly Army units in Haiti. Some naval units went ashore without prior communications coordination, expecting services to be provided by JTF-H—which exacerbated the problem. In the rush to provide relief, some units went ashore bringing communications assets unbeknownst to JTF-H J6—which could have resulted in frequency confliction issues. Other naval ground communications units were located alongside other services’ communications units, unaware of their capabilities until Navy planners discovered these disconnects and course-corrected to ensure collaboration.

Valuable Social Networks and Imagery

Within one hour of the earthquake, naval planners were using Twitter, the Web-based social networking tool that allows users to send short bursts of information in 140 characters or less. While Twitter can often devolve into self-indulgent navel gazing, during a crisis it can be used to determine whether commercial telecommunications and cellular infrastructure are still operating. If Haitians were tweeting, they had communications.

Planners monitored Twitter feeds originating from Port-au-Prince and identified areas that still had coverage, a useful data point for planning communications for forces going ashore. Where assets from local providers could be used, fewer military tactical assets might be needed, and relief organizations would have better access to communications coverage. Social networks can provide much-needed situational awareness in areas without military presence; operational planners should actively use them as an additional tool.

As Haiti operations progressed, Facebook was used to identify areas without military units or NGOs that needed assistance. Overhead imagery from national sources was used, as was streaming video provided by military aircraft. The military and NGOs also used Google Earth. Receipt of streaming video is problematic afloat without Global Broadcast Satellite coverage and receivers, but this coverage improved several days after operations began, when GBS spot beams were moved to support units around Haiti.

However, not all ships have GBS equipment, so it remains a limiting factor for shared situational awareness. Organic carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicles, also needed as an alternative to space-based telecommunications, should be used with an imagery payload to provide immediate, focused, timely imagery over specific areas.

Ground Mobile Communications

During ground operations, the Navy is challenged to sustain C 2 where organic communications connectivity and assets are limited or nonexistent. The JTF-H headquarters was serviced by SOUTHCOM’s Deployable Joint Command and Control System (DJC 2 ), but outside of this, Navy units required additional assets.

Planners anticipated the problem and, with the help of Naval Network Warfare Command, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, and Navy Region Southeast brought forward all available Iridium satellite phones, portable satellite terminals, and tactical radios for anticipated use in Haiti. Portable satellite terminals, called Broadband Global Area Network, provided basic telephone and Internet connectivity—but at $7,000 weekly per unit, they not a cost-effective long-term solution. Additionally, some units reported saturation of the Broadband Global Area Network, which also serviced NGOs and other nations.

JTF-H planners assisted the Navy in securing access to commercial wireless connectivity via the local Haitian provider. Maximizing the use of local infrastructure is important to alleviate overreliance on military communications systems, and to provide alternate connectivity in case of outages. Often local telecommunications and cellular service providers provide much higher data rates for unclassified voice and data than do military satellite systems. They should be engaged early.

The Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) ensured exceptional communications to JTF-H. Four teams with two communicators each were assigned specifically for Navy use ashore. They provided classified and unclassified data, telephones, video teleconferencing, and tactical radios. The teams were agile, responsive, and their technicians highly trained to operate in austere environments.

Navy communications planners engaged JCSE early to support Comfort patient-transfer landing zones, the interim medical facility, and the Navy element at JTF-H headquarters. JCSE and Navy communications planners remained in lockstep throughout the crisis response and quickly repositioned JCSE units as operational requirements shifted.

The Hastily Formed Networks (HFN) research group, sponsored by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, and the Naval Postgraduate School assisted both the Comfort and port-reconstruction efforts. HFN research explores the use of unclassified wireless service and coordinates between NGOs and military responders.

Military forces are not agile enough to be on the ground immediately following a disaster where HFN desires to operate. In Haiti, the military was clearing internal lines of communication, running the airport, and coordinating distribution of supplies. Should violence erupt, it was unknown whether operations would morph into a peacekeeping mission. Due to force protection and sustainment issues, HFN was used in various capacities to support military ground-communications shortfalls.

JCSE Is the Link

Other tactical naval communications were Joint Mobile Ashore Support Terminal (JMAST) for the joint logistics hub in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; one port facility in Haiti; and the Deployable Joint Command and Control System Maritime Variant (DJC 2 MV) unit on board the USS Bataan (LHD-5). The JMAST, in existence for about 15 years, provides capability similar to that of the JCSE along with some applications. However, JMAST is less flexible, with a larger footprint of personnel and older equipment, and is inadequately funded for modernization.

These units should be scrapped and an agreement reached for JCSE to provide the Navy with mobile communications transport in times of crisis. The Navy should have two-person deployable teams for systems and applications that would use JCSE connectivity. The DJC 2 MV provided communications support to embarked media. By segregating video and imagery traffic ship tactical networks did not have to compete for bandwidth, making media and operational-information transfer more efficient. For DJC 2 MV to be most effective, it should have its own antenna and transceiver systems and be connected to the ship’s networks when necessary.

Train Communications Planners

Improvements in technology alone will not prepare the Navy for future disaster relief: we must train operational communications planners. Currently there is no formal Navy communications planning instruction or doctrine, including the unique aspects of relief communications. Frequency-spectrum management is taught to senior information-systems technicians, but only in small numbers.

Information Dominance Corps officers, particularly information professionals, should have comprehensive communications-planning instruction after learning the fundamentals of communications theory, systems, capabilities, and limitations. Senior officers on their way to communications jobs on operational staffs should attend refresher courses.

The Navy responds during disasters with myriad other organizations. Thus, close collaboration is necessary. Trained planners must have the right technology and anticipate many scenarios. They are critical nodes in international efforts to ensure security, provide logistics capability, restore order, minimize suffering, and save lives.


Captain Barrett is an Information Dominance Corps Officer with 21 years’ experience in Navy and joint communications. She was the lead naval-communications planner during Operation Unified Response in Haiti.


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