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The cost of modem nuclear submarines has increased in recent years to a point where the Submarine Force and its advocates in Washington are receiving enormous pressure from Congress to design a new, less costly submarine as a complement to SEA WOLF. One important part of a submarine is its combat system, the electronic heart of the ship. We need to put the cost of the combat equipment into proper perspective: How we build military electronics today and how we might better build combat systems in the future at a lower cost. Two issues exist with building a less costly submarine. The first is tied to what we want the ship to do for missions; the second is involved with how we build the ship to perform the mission.

The Navy is responsible for stating what the new submarine should do for its missions. The product of this effort is called the operations requirement. The idea of building a submarine or any naval ship that fails to meet stated operational requirements cannot be supported. Jerry Holland in his articles, “Who says Smaller is Better,” Submarine Review, January 1991, and “SSN: The Queen of the Seas,” Naval War Colle~e Review, Spring 1991, addresses the issue head on. Although some of his premises are challenged in the Naval War Colleee Review by two other submariners, the basic tenet that a modem submarine should meet its operational requirements is firm and is not challenged here.

The second issue is that our modem submarines are being built to exacting military standards and to specified acquisition policies that have a large cost attached. The issue at hand is whether we (the Navy and industry) can build modem submarines that meet a stated mission requirement at a lower cost than we do today. The answer is “yes” but first we need to dissect the submarine costs to identify the cost drivers.

A recent paper by John Johnston, Doreen O’Colman, and Cathy Mathia of the Naval Sea Systems Command Cost Estimating and Analysis Division, dated April 11, 1991 and submitted to the Association of Scientists and Engineers 28th Annual Technical Symposium details the cost drivers for both the SSN 688 classes and the SEA WOLF SSN-21 class of submarines. The paper breaks the costs of the SSN-21 into two parts – the platform costs and the payload costs. Propulsion and auxiliary systems make up 43 percent of the platform cost or 35 percent of the end cost of the submarine. The AN/BSY-2 combat system makes up 80 percent of the cost of the payload or 15 percent of the end cost of the submarine.

There are also informative comparisons in the paper relating to cost trends for both the SSN-688 and the SSN-21. The trend we should be concerned with is the total cost of the platform and the cost growth in the combat system payload.

What we should challenge is how we build the ships and how we design and build the equipment we put in them.

For the combat equipment, this challenge is divided here into four broad objectives:

To Design and Build Combat Equipment:

1. that reduce the impact on the ship’s displacement by reducing the number of people needed to operate the equipment, and by using modem sensor array arrangements;
2 that use advances of modem commercial hardware and software, and will be flexible enough to upgrade in the future without major redesign costs;
3. under a set of acquisition rules and standards that reduces the associated overhead cost; and
4. that reduce the cost of long term support at sea and ashore.

The overall objective might be to design combat equipment that use 50% less people to maintain and operate, cost 50% less to build and cost 50% less to support. These objectives should be met while increasing operational performance against all projected threats. This can only be accomplished by modifying our expectations and requirements.


The acoustic sensors aboard the LOS ANGELES {SSN-688) class have evolved from the earlier attack submarine classes. They consist of a large spherical array in the bow area of the ship providing active and passive sonars and a towed passive array deployed from the stern sector. One ship, the USS AUGUSTA (SSN-710), was modified for the wide aperture array sensors. The wide aperture array suite consists of large rectangular passive receiving arrays located in sets of three down each side of the submarine — one array forward, one array amidship, and one aft. The wide aperture array is used for rapid passive localization which allows the ship to shoot a torpedo on a solution that is electronically processed much faster and more accurately than the older manual methods like Ekelund Ranging.

Other submarine sensing equipment, like the periscopes, result in large hull penetrations which are expensive but, more importantly, restrict the location of the combat center to the upper part of the hull below the sail area, thus limiting the marine designer’s flexibility in equipment arrangements.

The size of the crew is first determined by the required maintenance load and then by the required watchstanders. The fact is that most of the maintenance can only be performed in port. Furthermore, we still put an operator in front of every sensor display while at the same time providing him with significantly greater processing power in the form of workstation electronics, RISC (reduced instruction set computers), and very powerful signal processors.

The time has arrived to examine every combat system convention and set goals to upgrade the sensor arrays and reduce the size of the crew.

SUGGESTION 1 – Add a detection capability to the wide aperture array, fill in between the wide aperture arrays with medium frequency passive receiving flank arrays and eliminate the spherical array. The towed arrays and a wider frequency hull receiving array will perform more efficiently against the modem threats. Add a much smaller passive receiving array and active transmitting array to provide coverage in the forward area.

The displacement difference is considerable and we can put the torpedo tubes back in the bow section of the ship and perhaps increase the weapon load.

SUGGFSTION 2 – Provide a more efficient layout of the combat functions by using non-penetrating sail sensors (do we even need so much sail?). Place the combat space at the middle level where the maximum beam of the ship can be used to advantage.

SUGGESTION 3 – Reduce the size of the crew by manning the submarine with operators and watchstanders only and leave the maintenance crew ashore like we did in World War n. Design the systems to be fault and casualty tolerant.

SUGGESTION 4- Reduce the crew even more by combining combat watch stations with sensor watch stations. We may not be able to afford the communication time lag in a melee and, “Jonesy” will have to learn a couple more skills. This must be qualified however. Much more progress will have to be made in automating the signal analysis functions.


In the past, defense electronics led the commercial world in technology but today defense products are no longer leaders in certain fields. Commercial electronic technology is progressing so fast, for example, that we see obsolescence in personal computers every eighteen to thirty-six months, as compared to a modem sonar/combat system which is expected to last twenty years and probably took ten to twelve years to develop and test.

Recent studies have shown that the hardware/software composition of systems developed in the last ten years is comprised of fewer electronic module types with often as few as ten to fifteen module types comprising an entire system. The amount of effort to design, code and test a computer software has grown dramatically. The cost of software now dominates system development cost.

Modern sonar/combat systems are designed and bought as cabinets complete with military standard electronic modules, cable connectors, and cooling water-connectors already tested for shock and vibration.

SUGGESTION S – Rather than imposing building block standards, like the UYK-44, UYK–43, or the UYS-1 and UYS-2 {EMSP) signal processors on contractors; it makes more sense to standardize on architectures and interfaces like the commercial world bas done with the IEEE standards. The way the Navy is envisioning new systems is changing. The Navy’s Next Generation Computer Resources (NGCR) program will have the benefit of absorbing new devices or electronic modules which must only observe interface standards to be quickly applied.

SUGGESTION 6 – The concept of reusable software as a technique for lowering cost becomes more appealing as the software costs grow as a percentage of total development cost. New systems like the Combat Control System MK-2 are designed for rapid reconfiguration which means that an update can be entered quickly and simply. The MK-2 system is also evolving toward an open architecture with much of the processing power residing in militarized commercial workstations.

The reuse of algorithms from the existing combat systems can make the combat system development of the future simpler and less costly.

SUGGESTION 7-Focus on doing the tradeoffs involved with designing our submarines with equipment compartments and housings for electronic equipment as an integral unit, fully tested for shock and vibration. As an alternative, focus on militarized electronics at the box-level, thus reducing cost and time associated with mil-component requirements. A unified structural approach appears to have advantages in terms of cabling and structural simplification for installation as well as introducing the possibility of more commercial-like electronic modules which could provide large cost savings by encouraging multiple sources of supply.

The suggestion needs to be qualified, however. The issue is one of volume. The major problem will be putting commercial electronics in the available equipment volume with consideration to heat removal.


The acquisition management of government and industry imposes a financial burden on our products of at least 30 percent according to Malcolm Currie, the Chief Executive of Hughes Aircraft, in a recent Defense News article. This burden occurs without proportionately contributing to the quality of the product. Additionally, the full spectrum of military specifications and standards has caused the technology of our equipment to be obsolete before they are even deployed because of the many steps required in the mandated test programs. A recent check of a RFP (Request for Proposal) showed 6 Mil Specs, 27 Mil Standards, 3 handbooks, and 10 other regulations relating to cost control and other subjects peripheral to the warfare capabilities of the equipment.

Commonality among platfonns is another issue. Four separate organizations in the Navy are developing the next generation anti-submarine warfare equipment for submarines, surface ships, patrol aircraft and surveillance at a large price. Yet there is little commonality among the software parts of these projects, even though it is accepted that software is the biggest part of the cost of development, and has become a large cost driver in the maintenance cost over the lives of the systems.

A third area pertains to the cost of development. We now do research and development to meet a future calendar date instead of a milestone schedule. This leads to “no risk” research and development, an oxymoron. For some reason, we have abandoned prototyping as being too costly.

SUGGESTION 8 – Reexamine our contractor oversight process. To quote Malcolm Currie from the recent Defense News article, “‘The acquisition system spends entirely too much time and money protecting itself.,.

SUGGESTION 9 – Coordinate the activities of similar system developments at a reasonable management level to ensure commonality across the software and equipment lines. We used to have a Manager of ASW Projects (MASWPS) that did just that for the ASW community but that office was thrown out with the Navy Material Command bath water.

SUGGESTION 10 – Return to conscientious prototyping and development based on milestone achievements. Let us not be fooled by false cost savings of skipping a prototype phase.


The submarine force in the future will be at sea for shorter periods to save operating funds. The cost of maintaining a large training establishment may not be affordable to the Navy.

SUGGESTION 11 – Rethink our training policies with a goal of reducing the long term support costs. Modern communications systems, including satellite links coupled with sophisticated on-board training equipment, should allow realistic training for the individual sailors up through the entire combat team on board the ships, whether at sea or dockside. The shore training establishments should exist to train new sailors and ship crews.

The Navy and industry need to examine these four objectives with a goal of reducing cost while improving performance. At least 30 percent of the program costs tied to acquisition policies could be eliminated without affecting the warfare fighting capability of the equipment. We need to act smarter in designing our new equipment and computer software. The ship manning and training philosophies should be examined to achieve further cost reductions. The time to start is now.


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Recipients of the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation grants are selected on the basis of scholastic proficiency, non-scholastic activities, all-around ability, and financial need. The selections are made solely on the qualifications of the individual as stated in their application. Scholarships are renewed annually if the student meets the requirements of his or her college.

The applicant must be a graduate of an accredited high school and intend to work, or be working, toward a BA or BS degree. The college chosen by the student must be properly accredited. Candidates eligible to apply can request further information and applications from the address listed above.

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