19 April 2014

This is an Interesting Concept

When one looks at doing more with less from a naval perspective, repurposing an existing hull for a new mission seems like a good way to get the capabilities that you need.

Case in point, Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard is shown a mockup of an LPD converted to a missile platform:
Among the many striking displays at the recent Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition was this marvel -- an amphibious warfare ship adapted for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), with three times the radar size and missile capacity of current BMD vessels, as well an electromagnetic rail gun that can launch shells to the edge of space.

The concept from Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) is based on the hull of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class, a component of the three-ship “Amphibious Ready Groups” that stage Marines at forward, sea-based positions. In this incarnation, HII has removed the Marine’s berthing, vehicles, helicopters and landing craft, and installed air defense equipment with greater range and capacity than any ship in the fleet.

Atop the superstructure is a massive S-band phased array radar, over 21 feet on each side. Compare that to the 12.5 ft. diameter of the SPY-1 radars aboard Ticonderoga Class Cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers. For radars, larger size means greater range and better resolution and these arrays have three times the area of those which equip current BMD vessels.

Starting behind the superstructure and continuing along the periphery to the stern is a vertical launch system (VLS) with 288 cells to carry surface to air missiles (SAMs), Tomahawk cruise missiles or Vertical-launch Anti-submarine rockets (VLAs). For comparison, Ticos have 122; later Burkes 96 and earlier Burkes 90. So, that’s triple the average missile load to start, with plenty of room to install more. Plus, the ship is taller than the surface combatants, which means it can hold future missiles of greater length and range.

Forward of the superstructure, you see what looks like a standard five inch gun, the kind one finds on the Ticos and Burkes. But an engineer responsible for this design explains that’s not what it represents. In fact, it’s an electromagnetic rail gun.
Certainly, there is a lot of capability there.

The well deck of an LPD has a lot of volume, and assuming that the necessary power and maintainability issues can be resolved, it could be promising.

The potential inclusion of a rail gun is troubling though: It is precisely this sort of "bleeding edge" technology that creates the delay-price increase-quantity reduction death spiral.

Of course, this is just an industry proposal right now.


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