Naval Forces Changing Course From Blue Water to the Littoral

USS KITTY HAWK, at sea - A U.S. Air Force B-52 leads a formation of Air Force and Navy F-16, F-15, and F-18 aircraft over the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), USS Nimitz, and USS John C. Stennis Strike Groups during Valiant Shield's photo exercise Aug.14 (Guam time). The forces participated in Valiant Shield, the largest joint exercise in the Pacific this year. Held in the Guam operating area, the exercise includes 30 ships, more than 280 aircraft and more than 20,000 service members from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jarod Hodge)
Commanders Compete for Funding to Support Fleet Modernization Initiatives

Evolving Mission Requirements Drives Transformation
The collective naval assets of today’s coalition forces are extended into two primary activity domains; maintaining their traditional capabilities and preparing for new missions posed by the contemporary asymmetrical threat environment.

For example, vessels that were originally purpose built to perform mid-ocean anti-submarine warfare are now often conducting anti-piracy, narcotics, and human trafficking interdiction missions. These commands also face considerable threats from non-state actors in the form of asymmetric maritime terrorism. In addition, the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons technology confronts combatant commanders with the reality that these weapons are as likely to be found aboard a commercial or private vessel as they are to be present in a ballistic missile submarine silo.

While the emerging naval forces seek to extend their mission capability into the traditional blue water domain (India, China, Iran, Pakistan), the major seagoing powers (United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy) have begun to focus their efforts towards the development and deployment of mission systems for the littoral (coastal) and expeditionary roles, including sea-basing (seabasing). This strategic shift will enable new capabilities for conducting prolonged power projection missions without host-nation support, or providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

“Tomorrows Naval Assets Will Become the Most Visible of Ambassadors”

Ensuring the continued growth of economic globalization will require open and protected sea lanes, irrespective of nation state territorial interests (for additional perspective, see my June 2006 post on this site: Maritime Security in the Era of Globalization ). It is evident that given the threat environment for the foreseeable future, naval force transformation, cooperation and deployment will remain at the forefront of international security.

As budgetary pressures continue to build resulting from the on-going prosecution of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the requirements to replenish war-fighting materials consumed, Navy planners are being forced to reevaluate their procurement strategies. In our unauthorized intelligence estimate, we will provide a fresh look at transformation programs and the status of individual vessel development and deployment initiatives undertaken by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

The Programs
Current naval transformation and procurement activities are best described when sub-divided into the following platform and mission categories:

Aircraft Carriers Expeditionary Warfare Surface Combatants Submarines Coast Guard & Coastal Defense

Aircraft Carriers
Northrop Grumman is the nation’s sole industrial designer, builder, and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The U.S. Navy’s newest carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan was delivered to the fleet in May 2004. Construction on the last carrier in the Nimitz class, the George H. W Bush, continues. The Bush christening occurred in the fall of 2006 and delivery to the U.S. Navy is expected in 2008.

Aircraft attached to Carrier Air Wing 3 conduct a flyover Dec. 1, 2007, during a photo exercise with the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group above the Suez Canal. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Kevin T. Murray Jr.

U.S. Navy flight deck personnel perform a scrubbing exercise during a counter measure wash down of aqueous film forming foam on the flight deck of USS Theodore Roosevelt, Dec. 4, 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Snyder.

An aircrew waits to launch from Catapult 3 during night flight operations on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Dec. 2, 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac.

Crew members assigned to the “Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 the stand by on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) waiting for their old and new commanding officers as they return from a change-of-command ceremony held in the air. Truman and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 are underway on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Matthew Bookwalter.

Advanced design and preparation continues for the new generation carrier, CVN 21, which will incorporate transformational technologies that will result in manpower reductions, improved war fighting capability, and a new nuclear power & propulsion design. The construction award for the first ship of the CVN 21 program, the Gerald R. Ford, is expected in early 2008.

DCS04-80-2  Northrop Grumman Newport News  file
A conceptual rendering of CVN 78, the first of a new generation carrier design, CVN 21, for the US Navy, underway at Northrop Grumman Newport News. Construction is slated to begin in 2008. Innovations for the next-generation aircraft carrier include an enhanced flight deck with increased sortie rates, improved weapons movement, a redesigned island, a new nuclear power plant and allowance for future technologies and reduced manning. Illustration courtesy Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding.

Northrop Grumman also provides ongoing maintenance for the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier fleet through overhaul, refueling, and repair work. Northrop Grumman is currently performing the refueling and complex overhaul of the USS Carl Vinson with redelivery to the U.S. Navy anticipated in early 2009. Planning for the USS Theodore Roosevelt refueling and complex overhaul began in the fall of2006. The Roosevelt is expected to arrive at Newport News, Virginia in the fall of 2009.

Expeditionary Warfare

Expeditionary Warfare programs include the design and construction of amphibious assault ships for the U.S. Navy, including the WASP LHD 1 class and the San Antonio LPD 17 class. Again, Northrop Grumman is the sole provider for the LHD class of large-deck, 40,500-ton multipurpose amphibious assault ships, which serve as the centerpiece of an Amphibious Ready Group. Currently, the LHD 8 is under construction and is a significant upgrade from the preceding seven ships of its class. The design and production of the LHD 8 is a $1.8 billion program with delivery scheduled for 2008. In 2006, design & long lead construction funding was awarded for the LHA 6, the first in a new class of enhanced amphibious assault ships.

The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) steams into the sunset during a weapons off-load November 30. Iwo Jima deployed from her home port of Norfolk, Va., and began a regularly scheduled six-month deployment to the U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) areas of responsibility (AOR) to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (SW) Bryant A. Kurowski.

NAVSEA has embarked upon a significant new assault ship procurement effort, the LPD 17 class which function as amphibious transports. The initial two ships were delivered in 2005 and 2006, and five LPD 17 ships are currently under construction. Also, one additional ship is in backlog and long lead funding has been received on the ninth ship.

This view exposes the well-deck of the LPD 17 class. Note the two Assault Hovercraft, three decks forward and expansive landing surface aft. Illustrated is the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor for use by marine and special forces air assault operations.
This early concept rendering illustrates the conventional mast arrays that were abandoned in the final design.



The lead ship in the class, The USS San Antonio underway at sea.

Note the shallow draft enabling rapid on and off loading of water craft from the well deck.

Surface Combatants
Surface Combatants includes the design and construction of the Arleigh Burke DDG 51 class Aegis guided missile destroyers, and the design of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt (previously DD(X), the Navy’s future transformational surface combatant class (for detailed perspective on the fit of the new DDG 1000 Zumwalt, see my July 2006 post on this site: US Navy Developing Surface Fleet of Tomorrow). There are two prime contractors designing and building DDG 51 class destroyers, which provide primary anti-aircraft and anti-missile ship protection for the U.S. Navy fleet. In 2006 General Dynamics delivered the Farragut and the Gridley, the 26th and 27th ships of the class completed by the group. Three Arleigh Burke class destroyers are currently under construction with an additional ship in backlog.

In 2006, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman were awarded Phase IV detail design & long lead construction funding for the initial DDG 1000. The contract calls for an equal split of ship detail design efforts between the prime contractor team and Bath Iron Works, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation. The construction award for the initial ship was determined in the first half of 2007. The advanced technologies developed on DD(X) Phase III are being incorporated into DDG 1000 and are expected to be incorporated into the next generation guided missile cruiser CG(X).

Note the high-performance, wave-piercing hull design below the waterline enabling the vessel to slip quickly and easily through the water with a minimal wake. Above the waterline, a unique new design minimizes the ship’s radar signature to deceive any opponent. Key aspects of this novel design include sloped, low reflectance surfaces and an unobstructed superstructure having no conventional masts.

General Dynamics Electric Boat & Northrop Grumman are the only two U.S. companies capable of designing and building nuclear powered submarines. In February 1997, Northrop Grumman and Electric Boat reached an agreement to cooperatively build Virginia Class nuclear attack submarines. The lead ship, USS Virginia, was delivered by Electric Boat to the U.S. Navy and commissioned into the fleet in October 2004. The USS Texas was delivered in the spring of 2006. The Hawaii was delivered in December 2006, and progress continues on the North Carolina, the final block one ship. Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman were awarded a construction contract in August 2003, which was subsequently modified in January 2004, for the second block of six Virginia Class submarines. Planning and long lead material procurement is underway on all six boats of the second block; construction has begun on the first four.

The Ohio class guided missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) rests pier side at Naval Station Norfolk. Georgia made a brief stop at NS Norfolk while conducting sea trials after leaving Norfolk Naval Shipyards November 29, 2007, following the ship’s conversion from a ballistic missile to a guided missile submarine. Georgia is the last of four submarines to be converted to SSGN. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Dean Lohmeyer.

Coast Guard & Coastal Defense
Northrop Grumman is a joint venture partner along with Lockheed Martin for the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Modernization Program – Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS). The initiative includes design and production for all surface ships, including three new classes of cutters. The program is a 20-year program with the surface ship content having an estimated revenue value of over $8 billion. In 2006, the Northrop Grumman /Lockheed Martin joint venture was selected for a 43-month contract extension for the deepwater program. There persists significant controversy surrounding the design of the National Security Cutter (NCS), the flagship vessel of the 25  year procurement program valued at $24 Billion US. The USCG has informed the ICGS of their concerns that the NCS design may not be sufficient enough to survive the demands of the planned 30-year operational life of the platform. ICGS is presently working on a re-design for the NCS that will add additional strength without changing the center of gravity or weight of the overall vessel design. The USCGC Bertholf, the lead ship NCS, is still undergoing sea trials.

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