Navy Combat Information Integration

Trying tying.
      Trying  tying:  the info streams.

The U.S. Navy at a high level has recognized the potential value of the concept of integrating combat information from own-force tactical sensors and sensors external to the force to achieve information superiority and dominance of an adversary. However, there is little evidence of concrete action to implement this vision.

On 26 November, 2012, the Navy Strategy for Achieving Information Dominance 2013-17 was published identifying the “Integration of Combat Information” as one of its four major goals. Joint Pub 1-02 defines Combat Information as “Un-evaluated data, gathered by or provided directly to the tactical commander which, due to its highly perishable nature or the criticality of the situation, cannot be processed into tactical intelligence in time to satisfy the user’s tactical intelligence requirements.” Navy Strategy identifies the specific objective of the “integration of all source information across kill chains with outputs from all sensors in all domains accessible in time to facilitate freedom of action, targeting, and the employment of weapons, both kinetic and non-kinetic.”

In its January 2012 Report on Arleigh Burke Destroyers, (GAO-12-113), GAO reported that Navy planned to leverage offboard sensors such as Performance Tracking Support System (PTSS) to enhance performance of the DDG 51 Block III Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR). Navy envisioned ground and space-based sensor systems providing target cueing for AMDR. This cueing would have meant the shooter ship could be told by the off-board sensors where to look for a target, allowing for earlier detection and increasing the size of the area that could be defended by the shooter. While it is yet unclear why PTSS was cancelled last month, the concept still serves to highlight the potential benefits from integrating off-board sensor data with the ship’s own tactical sensor data and combat system.

Given OPSEC considerations, communications constraints, and especially tactical timelines this integration has to occur at the tactical level, e.g. onboard ship, and will therefore require the staff of Office of the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) and Navy acquisition to bridge some long-standing institutional seams. Within OPNAV, various codes will have to agree on the concept and their roles with respect to requirements and resources. Navy acquisition will have to decide which Program Executive Office (PEO) is responsible for the acquisition of combat information integration solutions for ship classes. The long-standing situation in which PEO Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS) acquires combat systems and PEO C4I acquires C4I systems for ship classes sustains the institutional friction that has precluded implementation of integrating combat information since at least late 1978, when OUTLAW SHARK demonstrated the concept.

Articulating visions, goals, and objectives is valuable but relatively painless. The heavy lifting is in the institutional change that is necessary to solve problems and exploit opportunities. To quote Machiavelli: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Dick Mosier is a recently retired defense contractor systems engineer; Naval Flight Officer; OPNAV N2 civilian analyst; SES 4 responsible for oversight of tactical intelligence systems and leadership of major defense analyses on UAVs, Signals Intelligence, and C4ISR.  His interest is in improving the effectiveness of U.S. Navy tactical operations, with a particular focus on organizational seams, a particularly lucrative venue for the identification of long-standing issues and dramatic improvement. The article represents the author’s views and is not necessarily the position of the Department of Defense or the United States Navy. 

Costs vs. Capabilities: Canada’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

By Andrew Chisholm

The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) is supposed to re-fit Canada’s Navy and Coast Guard fleets and breathe long-term life into Canada’s domestic shipbuilding industry. The program has been widely supported by political, academic, and media players, but now controversy is growing on both the financial and policy fronts. Like all military procurement programs the NSPS is a question of costs vs. capabilities. Perhaps unsurprisingly the initial promise has dimmed somewhat and, as Eric Lerhe recounts most programs have already seen unit and capability reductions and others are likely to.

The Joint Support Ship (JSS) program will produce two ships, not three, with less than half the fuel capacity of Canada’s current supply ships and no room for Army vehicles or landing craft. Plus, a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) report released in February found that due to the complexity of the project and the higher rate of inflation for naval production (7%-11%, not the standard 2.7%), two ships would cost approximately $3.28bn not the $2.6bn budgeted, perhaps squeezing capabilities further. The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (A/OPS) program will almost certainly produce six ships rather than eight and has already seen a reduction in top speed from 20 to 17 knots while the Polar Class Icebreaker program will produce only one ship, not the previously envisioned two.

Presenting the NSPSThe Canadian Surface Combatant program, replacing Canada’s 15 frigates and destroyers, may be in trouble as well. Production is being delayed until the A/OPS are completed to allow shipyard skill development (likely a 2020 start) so no design has been chosen. Nevertheless, Brian Stewart has reported that defence sources believe replacing the 15 ships with “like” vessels will probably cost between $30bn and $40bn. In short, the budgeted $26bn will either have to increase or the number of ships will have to be reduced. Also, the established funding structure does not allow for increases with inflation so purchasing power will be eroded over time, a factor which applies to all programs.

There is controversy beyond the number of ships and their capabilities as well in particular concerning the A/OPS program. Terry Milewski reported last week that Irving Shipbuilding has been awarded a $288 million contract to refine the A/OPS design based on Norway’s Svalbard design, purchased by the Canadian government. Irving responded that its “definition” contract includes advanced modeling, pre-ordering of engines and radar, and $38 million in HST, while noting that Canada’s ships will be larger and house more crew than those of other countries.

It has also been questioned whether the vessels to be acquired, with or without reductions, fit Canada’s needs or if different ships would be better and cheaper. A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) argues that in trying to fit both the Arctic and offshore patrol roles the current A/OPS design falls short on both counts, with range too short and hull too light for full-range operations in the Arctic as well as being too slow to effectively perform an offshore patrol function. The CCPA also argues that the A/OPS program’s Arctic requirements increase costs severely and that an increased (and armed) icebreaker capability combined with non-Arctic patrol ships would better fill both roles at a lower cost.

It is suggested that that lower cost can be achieved through purchasing an “off-the-shelf” design for patrol ships, potentially from the US or Australia, rather than using a based-in-Canada design. In fact, A/OPS design is being partly subcontracted to overseas firms, necessary because Canada is essentially creating a shipbuilding capability from scratch; having to buy these skills offshore is an important contributor to the high-cost according to maritime security analyst Ken Hansen. Outside the A/OPS program the same debate exists. In fact, France’s Fremm-Class frigate was recently showcased to Defence Minister Peter Mackay and pitched as a cost-saving option.

To be sure, the benefits of the NSPS extend beyond the program itself. Some have projected domestic builds to cost only 7% more than foreign options while creating many Canadian jobs and developing design and construction ability within Canada’s shipbuilding industry, hopefully setting Canadian shipyards on the path to prosperity in years to come. Also, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose has disputed the PBO’s estimate and said that if program adjustments need to be made they will be worked out between government, shipyards, the Navy, and the Coast Guard. Nevertheless, with costs in the tens of billions, any adjustments will undoubtedly be significant whether they involve increased investment or further reductions in capability. Only time will tell.

Andrew Chisholm is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada and graduate of the University of King’s College with a B.A., Combined Honours, in Political Science and History. Andrew focuses his writing on contemporary Canadian foreign, defence, and security policy. This article was re-published by permission and appeared in original form at The Atlantic Council of Canada.  

Wrapping Up Alternatives to DDG Flight III

Last month we challenged contributors to take their best shot (or really any shot, so long as it was interesting) at articulating alternatives to the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class DDG Flight III. We originally intended the series to run a week, but never ones to reject late-but-coherent thoughts, we kept it going as long as the submissions kept coming in. The results were quite interesting, challenging force structure/projection assumptions, as well as following the assumptions in the chain of reasoning leading to the Flight III as currently conceived:

  • The U.S. needs to conduct ballistic missile defense (BMD)
  • U.S. BMD needs a sea-based component
  • The sea-based component needs to fit on a surface ship

Most of the hard looks questioned whether the (yet-to-be awarded) Air and Missile Defense Radar is the best way forward for the BMD mission and if so, whether the Flight III DDG is the best platform on which to base it.

Here are some parting shots that focus not on the BMD side of the house, but on ways to generate more of what a Flight III would accomplish with the rest of its mission set toolbox:

LT Patrick Kiefer, USN:

“One thing that we need more of on the destroyers is more helicopters… why we stop at 2 is a little baffling and then only a carrier has more…why not look to put 4 or 6 with simultaneous takeoff and landing? And when you look at everything the MH-60 brings, it is really a force multiplier that brings significant capabilities to the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surface warfare (SUW) missions, especially counter-swarm, and provides some limited support to anti-air warfare (AAW) and STRIKE.”

Sebastian Bruns, Germany:

The selection of the Flight III DDG or an alternative needs to be explained to the American people. Thoroughly. It is a grave irresponsibility to not lead a public discourse about the value of sea power in general, and the value and uses of certain platforms over others in particular.

More than a joke in need of a punchline: How many MH-60Rs can you fit on a DDG?
More than a joke in need of a punchline: How many MH-60Rs can you fit on a DDG?

It follows from this that there must be a coherent policy – means selected to accomplish aims with due respect to timing and costs (“strategy”). This would serve as national security contract underpinning the use of the Navy (and Marine Corps and Coast Guard) for the better of the nation. What do you want from a (probably Aegis-equipped?) ship? FIghting pirates off Somalia or intercepting ICBMs in the Mediterranean? Counter-narco ops in Mexico or deterrence of regional rouge states? This approach is easier said than done, but one needs bold characters and ideas to really make a strategy deserving of its name (as opposed to yet another doctrine, white paper, document, etc. that’s more platitudes than substance). Vague “AirSea Battle” concepts don’t buy public support, and they rarely serve as a 10- or 20-year outlook. 30-year shipbuilding plans, on the other hand, don’t mean much to many people (in fact, as a Hill staffer, I attended a hearing where the value of a three-decade plan was questioned and IMHO misleading arguments were made for a 10- or 20-year shipbuilding plan).

U.S. shipbuilding must get its act together, along with a trimmed procurement bureaucracy at the Pentagon and a coherent Congress that sets its priorities straight. This last item might, above all, be the most “wishful” of all my thinking, as politics will always be politics. But consider for a moment the extensive list of design failures, cost-overruns, ideas scuttled at the drawing board, and procurement problems vs. the “successes” of the past 25 years. There’s quite a negative imbalance, from the perspective of an outside observer. Competitiveness must be improved. Perhaps the U.S. needs to finally look abroad for designs that could be adapted for the U.S. Navy. A joint design, perhaps, with a trusted allied partner nation from Asia or Europe?

I am under the impression that the current pace of events (and, quite frankly, developments not really in favour of a strong defense budget) might well quickly overtake the discussions that naval specialists lead among themselves, rendering these conversations irrelevant. The end state? Pooling and sharing, leading from behind by default and necessity, without the negative political connotations.

LT H.Vic Allen, USN:

The ability to base 2 helos is non-negotiable. Helos expand a great deal – from situational awareness (SA) to the weapons systems envelope to flexibility; you name it. The capabilities of the MH-60R brings a ridiculous amount of SA to the CO/warfare commander.

Rethink the bridge watch team, a la LCS. For the vast majority of the time, there’s no reason why fly-by-wire and autopilots can’t do the work of a bridge team that is probably 200% too big.

Keep VLS. Even a 32-cell install is very useful.

Hybrid power plants that support kinetic and directed energy weapons. GTGs won’t cut it anymore.

Incorporate a wide array of UAVs. Undersea unmanned vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) don’t provide enough bang for the buck – a DDG is very visible, so stealthy insertion of UUVs isn’t going to help, and USVs just don’t have the range/speed necessary to make them competitive with UAVs. I foresee close-in (<10nm), local (10-100nm) and long-range (>100 nm) UAVs as assisting DDGs with their missions.

Note: The views expressed above are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their governments, militaries, or the Center for International Maritime Security.

X-47B Sea Trials – A BFD

                                                                           Taking flight


My twitter feed was abuzz today with statements lauding this morning’s launch of the U.S. Navy’s X-47B unmanned carrier air system from USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77):

“…another great first for naval aviation…History has just been made…Momento histórico…History has just been made…the Next Era of Naval Aviation…Launch Catapults Naval Aviation into the Future…New era in warfare…MOMENTOUS…Watershed…a pivotal milestone in naval aviation…game-changing technology,” etc.

There is a bit of truth in all of these.  Though perhaps the event is best summarized in the words of Vice President Biden.


This article was re-posted by permission from, and appeared in its original form at

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.