Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


[Editor’s Note: Mr. Dadd graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and was commissioned in 1966. He left active duty after 10 years as a Naval Aviator and since then has been involved in work on various submarine issues. He is presently with American Systems Corporation in the Washington area.]

When an SSN was sawed in half to add a missile section  and create the first SSBN, true combat system commonality was a reality.  Although attempts have been made to achieve commonality among the systems installed in attack and

strategic submarines, things have been going downhill ever since. With crystal clear hindsight, the decision to develop the SSN 688 BQQ-5/Mk 117 and the SSBN 726 BQQ~/Mk 118 systems was a mistake.  Few (at least now) disagree that commonality is a good thing.  It ranks near motherhood and apple pie.  How to achieve it is what causes disagreement.

The latest commonality effort is the AN/BQQ-5E sonar and combat control system (CCS) Mk 2 fire control, known as QE2. QE2 was to be installed in all SSN 688, SSN 6881 and SSBN 726 class submarines. Due to new fiscal constraints, QE2 may only be installed in four SSBN 726 class and 12 SSN 688 class subma-rines. This would represent a regression vice an improvement by increasing the number of submarine combat weapon system (CWS) baselines. The problem is illustrated by the diagram on the following page.

Absent a complete QE2 program, an obsolete equipment replacement (OER) program will be required for the sonar and fire control subsystems in the remaining SSN 688, SSN 6881 and SSBN 726 class submarines. AN OER program is presently needed for the antenna, periscope, monitoring, data processing, navigation, etc. , subsystems in these classes.

The submarine community is currently faced with several financially competing efforts. These include:

  • Finishing the development of the AN/BSY-2 system
  • Conducting the limited QE2 installations
  • Developing a system for the new SSN (NSSN)
  • Upgrading AN/BSY-1 with QE2 functionality (AN/BSY-1 ECP 1000)
  • Supporting approximately 50 submarines filled with equip-ment whose technology is entering its third decade
  • Conducting an OER program for the sonar, fire control and other CWS subsystems for the SSN 688, SSN 6881 and SSBN 726 classes.

View full article for table data

Since revolutionary attempts at achieving commonality have been counter-productive, it is time to try something different. Fleet support, the baseline explosion and today’s budgets all call for small, affordable, mini-solutions. Achieving incremental, evolutionary progress towards commonality from the bottom up, one piece of equipment at a time, deserves a chance. It is affordable. It supports the fleet by replacing diverse, obsolete equipment with common modernizations. It will not replace entire baselines, but it will create a convergence of existing baselines vice spawning additional baselines to support.

One step toward affordability is to combine and consolidate as many of the above listed six efforts as possible. Commonality is virtually synonymous with the consolidation of equivalent and/or overlapping development, upgrade and modernization efforts. True commonality covers all equipment, subsystems, systems and classes to offer the only affordable solution in today’s budgetary climate. The incremental implementation of commonality avoids excessive funding requirements in any period.

It is also important to take advantage of inexpensively available non-development items (NDI). Neither the Navy nor the subma-rine community can afford to develop items which already exist and are available from other sources. These other sources (NDI) include commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), ruggedized off-the-shelf (ROTS) and government off-the-shelf (GOTS), including full Mil-Qual GOTS.

To successfully implement the necessary efforts in an afford-able manner, excess militarization will have to be avoided and certain proprietary attitudes abandoned. There are several policies which are recommended:

  • Designate NDI as the preferred source for all products
  • Maximize the use of COTS or modified COTS where acceptable and cost effective
  • Maximize commonality across all classes, systems, subsystems and equipment for all future developments, modernizations and/or obsolete equipment replacements
  • Minimize standalone development, modernization or obsolete equipment replacement efforts for any equipment if equivalent equipment exists elsewhere.

To affordably implement the required efforts, the Navy should complete the major, ongoing efforts. The BQQ-SE/CCS Mk2 shipsets that have been acquired should be installed and development of the SEA WOLF CWS should be completed.

An integrated approach, based on obsolete equipment replace-ment, can be used to implement the remaining efforts which are currently in financial competition. First, the detailed OER requirements for all classes have to be determined. That is not an insignificant task because it requires matching of the reliability, maintainability and availability data with individual equipments in the various systems to determine the consumption rate for specific piece parts. From that, the correlation between individual class OER requirements can be determined. Once the CWS for the NSSN is defined, and its development, based on the use of NDI, is started, the OER requirements for the other classes can be defined in terms of migration toward the NSSN system.

This approach has the benefit of providing the modernization and obsolete equipment replacement items for the existing classes as part of the effort required for the NSSN. In that way the holes can be filled that are left by the curtailment of the QE2 program and upgrade the AN/BSY-1 systems. Such an integrated program will reduce overall development costs by eliminating the need for parallel development efforts for each class, and allow those costs to be amortized over all existing submarines as well as the NSSN. In addition, incrementally increasing total commonality across all classes, systems, and equipments will reduce life cycle costs by eliminating and/or difficult to support equipment. Over time, the number of unique configuration items requiring support will be reduced.

In attempting to ensure that NSSN equipment can be common with OHIO and LOS ANGELES Class submarines, the new design features of DC power distribution, modular integrated deck structures, and maximized use of COTS equipment, will have to accommodated. Each of those can cause compatibility problems, but none of them are insurmountable or provide reason not to strive for cross-class comrnonality.

In order to use COTS or other AC powered equipment, NSSN will have to convert the distributed DC power to AC before it is fed to the equipment. This approach is in consonance with existing classes.

Existing standard circuit card and chassis dimensions should be used for any new equipment and for the NSSN modular structures. This will allow the new equipment racks and chassis to be installed in the modular structures for NSSN and mounted in the cabinets of the equipment which they replace in existing classes .

Because the missions of the NSSN and the existing classes are quite similar, the approach to mission criticality being pursued for the NSSN would not need to be modified significantly to address the other classes. Cross-class decisions could be developed for mission criticality, militarization requirements and equipment testing requirements. This would support the introduction of COTS into existing classes for the same functions that will be implemented with COTS for the NSSN.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League