Sunday, April 04, 2010

Open Source for Submarine Sonar

I am giving a talk on in Adelaide 19 April, tentatively titled "Engaging with Defence on Open Source: Commons for Collins or GPL for Growlers?". So I found of interest the article
Open season: submarine sonars build on commercial imperatives (Janes, March 2010), about the use of commercial off the shelf equipment by US companies. This discusses the U.S. Navy's ARCI Program for upgrading old sonar systems.

This might be applied under the new Australian defence strategic reform initiative. There is already a Collins Submarine Communication Replacement (SEA1439 Phase 5B2). These could make use of low cost, off the shelf computer equipment and open source software.
Ongoing Innovation: Modernization and Incorporation of Technology

The Submarine Force is making significant, rapid improvements in acoustic sensors and processing by using commercial technology implemented through innovative system design and acquisition processes. In real-world exercises and operations, both the TB-29 towed array and Acoustic Rapid COTs Insertion Sonar system (ARCI) demonstrate the ability to restore a remarkable acoustic advantage to U.S. submarines. Use of COTS in ARCI (and in a modified TB-29 array) results in substantially reduced costs with significantly improved processing capability. For example, each ARCI shipset costs about 20% of the price of its predecessor, yet improves processing power by an order of magnitude. A key advantage of ARCI is the Advanced Processor Build (APB), which uses improved processing capability to provide new tactical capabilities and powerful new algorithms that have resulted in much improved towed array detection ranges in testing and actual fleet operations to date. Additionally, the ARCI program improves the commonality/interface among submarine systems while enabling future upgrades to be installed significantly quicker. An aggressive phased installation plan will provide continuously improved versions of ARCI across the entire submarine force by FY06.

Connectivity with other naval and joint forces is essential to effective decision-making, operations, and warfighting with submarines. Consequently, another major priority for the Submarine Force is the modernization of submarine communications capabilities. The submarine High Data Rate (HDR) antenna is the top C4I initiative and is the Navy's first multi-band dish antenna. The HDR antenna will provide worldwide high data rate satellite communications capability and enable access to a variety of systems including the secure, survivable Joint Milstar Satellite Program in the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) band and the Global Broadcast Service (GBS). All SSNs will have HDR antennas by FY04, thereby greatly enhancing SSN connectivity with the Battlegroup. Another development, the Multi-element Buoyant Cable Antenna (MBCA), will enable UHF transmit and receive capability while submerged at speed and depth. These initiatives are key to providing the data throughput necessary for network-centric operations in the 21st century.

From: Submarine Themes: Submarine Innovation, Submarine innovation, including an aggressive long-term technological development and insertion program, promises to dramatically improve submarine capabilities in the 21st century, Submarine Warfare Division, OPNAV Staff, 2001

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Collins Submarine Communication Replacement

The Defence Materiel Organisation has issued a Request for Expression of Interest for replacement of the COLLINS Class Submarine External Communication Systems.
SEA1439 Phase 5B2 Communications and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program
Agency: Defence Materiel Organisation
Category: 43190000 - Communications Devices and Accessories
Close Date & Time: 23-Apr-2010 12:00 pm (ACT Local time) ...
ATM Type: Expression of Interest

The Commonwealth, as represented by the Submarine Combat System SPO, has a requirement to gather information in relation to Export Controls, ITAR requirements, Defence Security and WGS certification from potential suppliers for the replacement of the COLLINS Class Submarine External Communication Systems. ...

From: SEA1439 Phase 5B2 Communications and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, Defence Materiel Organisation,Department of Defence, 29-Mar-2010

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Simpler Collins class submarine replacement

The Australian Government is considering a Collins class submarine replacement. Twelve larger, longer range vessels are proposed, which can carry special forces and deliver strategic weapons on land. This is overly ambitious, given that currently only one of the six Collins class submarines is operational. The greater complexity of the proposed replacement the project has minimal of success and it is unlikely that any of the twelve submarines would become operational, if they were built.

An alternative approach would be to prioritise what is required and build simpler, smaller vessels. The primary mission of the submarines is surveillance, secondary is to attack shipping. Accommodation of special forces can be done by providing dual purpose space which can be used for storage or people on a particular mission. Strategic attack of land targets using missiles is not a priority.

Assuming the current Collins class submarines could be made reliable, their capacity to carry special forces and their range could be increased by reducing the weapons systems and loads. Halving the number of torpedo tubes and halving the maximum load of weapons would free up about 50m3 of space, for more supplies or special forces. Using precision guided weapons, less should be needed for any mission.

However, problems would remain with the Collins class. A better alternative would be to build a proven design, with the minimum of modifications. As an example, the German Type 214 submarine is built in several countries. It has a crew of half the Collins class. The 214 design could have half its torpedo tubes and half the weapons storage removed to add more room for stores. The submarine could be lengthened by 6m to add more room. The speed would be reduced, but that is acceptable given the primary mission of the submarine is surveillance.

In addition Australian designed and built Joint High Speed Vessels could resupply the submarines in friendly ports or at sea. The US Defence Department has confirmed it will order two more of these vessels. A fleet of twelve type 214 submarines and six JHSVs to support them would cost less and use a smaller crew than twelve improved Collins class vessels, be faster to bring into service and more likely to actually work.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Collins Class Submarine Story

The Collins Class Submarine StoryThe Collins Class Submarine Story: Steel, Spies and Spin by Peter Yule and Derek Woolner ( Cambridge University Press, 2008) provided a detailed look at the development process for a complex defence system. The Australian Defence Force's new submarine project, the selection of the design, the politics of building a submarine in Australia and the issues with design, building and testing. A large proportion of the book is devoted to problems with the software for the combat data system of the submarine. What is surprising is that how even with a carefully documented system involving very detailed negotiations, misunderstanding between the parties as to who was to do what when can remain. This book provides useful insights for anyone involved in the development or acquisition of complex high technology products. The Australian Government is considering a Collins class submarine replacement and this book should be required reading for all involved in the new project.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Smaller crews for Collins class submarine replacement

The Australian Government is considering a Collins class submarine replacement with SEA 1000. This is likely to be made in Australia, for political reasons, and a stretch of the exiting Collins class. for a longer range. One topic not discussed is the crewing for the submarines. While the capital cost and technical complexity of submarines is frequently discussed, the limiting factor currently for the RAN is the availability of trained crews for them. One option which should therefore be given priority is to reduce the current complement from 45 to about 20. As well as reducing costs this would extend the range of the vessel, provide more comfort for the crew and allow more room to carry special forces.

Techniques similar to those discussed in "Operations Analysis Guides LCS Employment" (by Lieutenant Ben Abbott, U.S. Navy, in US Navy Institute Proceedings, February 2009 ) could be used to calculate the optimum crewing and deployment. Replenishment at sea using the Australian designed and built Joint High Speed Vessels could also extend the range of the submarines.

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