SNA NEWS: New Navy Office Charts Path to Rapidly Upgrade Destroyers

By Stew Magnuson
USS Pinckney (DDG 91)

Navy photo

ARLINGTON, Virginia — A new Navy program office is already making progress learning how to quickly swap upgraded subsystems into older destroyers.

The Navy established PMS 451 — Guided Missile Destroyer Modernization 2.0 — in May 2023, and the office was stood up in September.

“The Navy has been doing [DDG 51] modernization since 2010 and has been doing it well … This DDG [modernization] effort takes that and moves it to the next level,” Capt. Tim Moore, the new office’s program manager, said during a briefing Jan. 10 at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference in Arlington, Virginia.

PMS 421 — which has traditionally carried out DDG modernization programs — still exists and is doing its work. The new office is complementing its efforts, not replacing it, Moore said.

Its overarching goal is to find new, efficient ways to upgrade the destroyers, which will take less time and thus save money for the Navy and taxpayers, he said.

The Government Accountability Office in several recent reports has pointed out that the Navy’s sustainment costs are continuing to rise as the amount of “steaming time” has decreased.

The Navy has given the new office four new subsystems to integrate and four destroyers to learn from, Moore said.

The subsystems are the SLQ 32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block III; the SPY-6(V)4 air and missile defense radar; the AEGIS BL 10M and BMD 6M combat system; and a high efficiency super-capacity chiller to keep the other systems cool.

“What I am doing is providing expanded capability by modernizing two sensors [and] providing an upgraded combat system baseline to support those sensors. And then upgrading the cooling to take care of all the new capacity for those sensors,” Moore said.

The systems are “vital to the fight that we’re doing now — what you’re seeing going on out there in the Red Sea and beyond,” he said.

The office is taking a “crawl, walk, run” approach, which it is calling “smart start” by taking one of the four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — the USS Pinckney — which is already in port to carry scheduled upgrades.

The office is testing its methodology with the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block III, he said.

It has already installed one system on the Pinckney, which is coming up to the end of its maintenance and upgrade availability and will engage in sea trials at the end of January, he said. It will repeat this on three other destroyers.

The office will send those ships back out to the fleet, let them deploy, use the equipment and then bring them back for a second depot maintenance availability when they will receive the other three upgrades, he said.

The office is experimenting with new digital engineering methodologies to find efficiencies, he said. Those include 3D computer modeling, 3D scale models and pre-fabrication in advance of installation.

For example, the office created a 1/6th scaled model of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block III to see how it could improve accessibility and how sailors could perform maintenance on the new system. Using the model drove changes to the design drawings that are being implemented now, he said.

It is doing something similar with a scale model of the mounting plate for the SPY-6 radar, which has already identified flaws in the initial design. By the time the other three ships are ready for their upgrades, those flaws will be remedied, he said.

The next two ships that the office can try out its new techniques on are on their way, with one coming in for scheduled upgrades in January and the third in February, he said.

After the “smart start” plan is implemented with the other three ships — split between the East Coast and West Coast — the Navy will designate a new batch of ships that will receive all four subsystems, he said.

Moore didn’t know exactly how long it would take to carry out the upgrades with all four subsystems. The office has some idea, but he didn’t want to say publicly. It wouldn’t be as long as a full depot maintenance availability, which is about two years, he said. The office “will try to bring that to the left as best we can,” he added.

“My whole goal is to figure out how to do this better, how to do this faster with the help of our partners and bring these capabilities to the left and get these ships back out into the fleet on time,” Moore said.


Topics: Maritime Security

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