The U.S. Navy is engaged in a far-reaching transformation based on the exploitation of information technologies. At the heart of this transformation is the concept of networking the force. This involves, first, connecting all the platforms and major systems deployed by the U.S. Sea Services — ships, submarines, aircraft, unmanned vehicles and Marine Corps units — as well as joint forces so they can share information, establish maritime domain awareness and create a common operating picture (COP). The establishment of a COP is critical to the operation of joint and combined forces. Once interconnected, commanders can exploit the power inherent in a large pool of distributed platforms and systems through innovative operational approaches.
One program that seeks to exploit the revolution in networking as well as new possibilities in the design of naval ships is the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). It is designed to address critical capability gaps resulting from the rise of asymmetric threats such as quiet diesel submarines, small boats and shallow water mines. It will be a low cost, highly flexible, fully networked ship.
A key feature of the LCS is its modular design. Like a set of children’s building blocks, a modular ship consists of one of two basic hulls or sea frames and common ship systems, a range of mission modules and a common information system with standard interfaces. In principle, modules are interchangeable in a “plug-and-play” format. Modularity, once demonstrated by the LCS, could be the basis for major changes in the design of warships. Modularity also will help address the possibility of rapid mission evolution from Phase I to IV and even beyond. Most important of all, the LCS will help to enable a netted, distributed warfighting architecture that, in turn, will revolutionize naval, joint and coalition operations.
The LCS reflects the ongoing revolutions in technology, systems integration, knowledge development, organizational structures and management. It is a system-ofsystems at multiple levels. Most simply, each of the planned mission modules will bring a self-contained, mission-specific capability to the LCS. These modules will be integrated with the basic LCS hull and its common systems. In order to achieve mission effectiveness, LCS platforms will be connected with one another, other fleet units and joint assets through a robust network.
The LCS program has made tremendous progress in a few short years. It has demonstrated innovation in the design and construction of two very different sea frames. It is completing the construction of the first three mission modules. When successfully completed, the LCS program will prove the value of standard interfaces, open architectures and an open business process. It is beginning already to change how the Navy mans its ships, trains its personnel and sustains its forces.
Representative Ander Crenshaw
Member, House Appropriations Committee
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