Intended to accommodate emerging weapons such as lasers, rail guns and advanced radar able to detect attacking anti-ship cruise missiles from more than twice the distance, service officials said.
Navy officials with Naval Sea Systems Command tell Scout Warrior that design work is almost completed for the services’ Flight III DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyers – warships slated to enter service in the 2020s.
The new destroyers are engineered with advanced sensors, weapons, ship-defenses and radar technologies to keep pace with emerging threats and help the Navy maintain technological superiority over potential adversaries, Navy developers said.
“The DDG 51 Flight III design is currently 91% complete and on track to be 100% complete by the start of fabrication,” Colleen O’Rourke, NAVSEA spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
A new, super-sensitive radar emerges as a distinguishing characteristic of Flight III destroyers, representing a technological advance beyond an existing fleet of DDG 51 Flight IIA destroyers.
The Navy has now placed it first three unit orders for a Raytheon-built AN/SPY-6(V) radar, a system reported by developers to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar systems; the technology is widely regarded as being able to detect objects twice as far away at one-half the size of current tracking radar.
“Preliminary design efforts are in progress and the development is on schedule for initial multi-element testing in summer of 2018,” O’Rourke added.
The AN/SPY-6 radar, also called Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), is engineered to simultaneously locate and discriminate multiple tracks. O’Rourke said the system has completed a System Functional Review for integration with Aegis Baseline 10 radar and software systems.
“Concurrent with SFR, prototyping efforts integrating Baseline 9 and an AMDR tactical backend successfully simulated weapon engagement loops,” O’Rourke added.
Simulated weapons engagements enable the new radar to close what’s called the “track loop” for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense simulations. The process involves data signal processing of raw radar data to close a track loop and pinpoint targets.
The radar works by sending a series of electro-magnetic signals or “pings” which bounce off an object or threat and send back return-signal information identifying the shape, size, speed or distance of the object encountered.
The development of the radar system is hastened by the re-use of software technology from existing Navy dual-band and AN/TPY-2 radar programs, Raytheon developers added.
Software development for AMDR is being done through what Raytheon describes as an “agile” process, meaning it is built incrementally in order to keep pace with rapid technological advances and integrate effectively with existing and future systems, Dickenson explained.
AN/SPY-6 technology, which recently completed a Critical Design Review, is designed to be scalable. Therefore, it is entirely plausible that AMDR or a comparable technology will be engineered onto amphibious assault ships, cruisers, carriers and other platforms as well.
Raytheon statements say AN/SPY-6 is the first truly scalable radar, built with radar building blocks - Radar Modular Assemblies - that can be grouped to form any size radar aperture, either smaller or larger than currently fielded radars.
“All cooling, power, command logic and software are scalable. This scalability could allow for new instantiations, such as back-fit on existing DDG 51 destroyers and installation on aircraft carriers, amphibious warfare ships, frigates, or the Littoral Combat Ship and DDG 1000 classes, without significant radar development costs,” a Raytheon written statement said.
The new radar uses a chemical compound semi-conductor technology called Gallium Nitride which can amplify high-power signals at microwave frequencies; it enables better detection of objects at greater distances when compared with existing commonly used materials such as Gallium Arsenide, Raytheon officials explained.
Raytheon engineers say Gallium Nitride is designed to be extremely efficient and use a powerful aperture in a smaller size to fit on a DDG 51 destroyer with reduced weight and reduced power consumption. Gallium Nitride has a much higher break down voltage so it is capable of much higher power densities, developers said.
The AN/SPY-6 platform will enable next-generation Flight III DDG 51s to defend much larger areas compared with the AN/SPY-1D radar on existing destroyers.In total, the Navy plans as many as 22 Flight III DDG 51 destroyers, according to a previously completed Navy capabilities development document.
The AN/SPY-6 is being engineered to be easily reparable with replaceable parts, fewer circuit boards and cheaper components than previous radars; the AMDR is also designed to rely heavily on software innovations, something which reduces the need for different spare parts. The Navy has finished much of the planned software builds for the AMDR system.
However, special technological adaptations will be necessary to ensure the new, larger radar system can be sufficiently cooled and powered up with enough electricity, Navy developers added.
Regarding electricity, the Navy previously awarded a competitive contract to DRS technologies to build power conditioning modules – systems designed to turn the ship’s on-board electrical power into 1000-volt DC power for the AMDR.
The DDG Flight III’s will also be built with the same Rolls Royce power turbine engineered for the DDG 1000, yet designed with some special fuel-efficiency enhancements.
The AMDR is equipped with specially configured cooling technology. The Navy has been developing a new 300-ton AC cooling plant slated to replace the existing 200-ton AC plant, Navy developers have explained.
Before becoming operational, the new cooling plant will need to have completed environmental testing which will assess how the unit is able to tolerate vibration, noise and shocks such as those generated by an underwater explosion, service officials said.
DDG 51 Flight III destroyers are expected to expand upon a promising new ship-based weapons system technology fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA.
The technology, which has already been deployed, enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.
Navy developers say NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of attack missiles and extend the reach of sensors by netting different sensors from different platforms -- both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system.
NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships using Aegis Baseline 9.
The system hinges ship-based Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles.