Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Navy Weighing Options for a Family of Future Surface Ships

The Navy is currently charting its new roadmap for a family of future surface ships it hopes to enter the fleet sometime in the 2030s.
The future surface combatant study – set to complete in the late summer or early fall – is the early work that will lay out in detail a picture of the world and threats the next set of surface combatants will face and what the ships of the future will need to look like to combat them, the Navy’s director of surface warfare, Rear Adm. Peter Fanta (OPNAV N96) told USNI News in an interview last week.
“The future surface combatant study looks at all of the capabilities that we need to get across the board – from replacing [Cyclone-class patrol craft (PC-1)], all the way up through what we do with cruiser follow on and what do we do for the next destroyers,” Fanta said.
“We’re looking at a family of options. I have family of requirements. Now, for the large surface combatant, it’s both capacity and capability that we have to look at.”
The current generation of large surface combatants – Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers (DDG-51) and Ticonderoga-class (CG-47) guided missile cruisers – have been in the fleet for decades and were all part of a surface-wide shift in capabilities across several different sizes of platforms.
The ships – though multi-mission — are optimized for anti-air warfare and built around a large radar array and a battery of vertical launch system (VLS) missile cells that field a variety of weapons. The ships centered on the Aegis combat system were part of a generational shift in thinking that traded boiler power for gas turbines and single purpose ships for multi-mission combatants.
And now, “we’re about at that inflection point again,” Fanta said.
What’s different in this generation of combatants is how Fanta and the Navy will tackle the problem of the next wave of ships. – constrained by budgets but buttressed by new networked weapons and technologies like directed energy and electromagnetic railguns.
“We’ll see a slightly different fleet [in the 2030s] but we’re going about it differently and how do I plug that together,” he said.
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