The Navy is crafting a specific and carefully considered approach to its DDG(X) next generation destroyer effort intended to build a new, high-tech and extremely lethal warship able to serve well into the 2060s.
The service’s plan, which seeks to deliver paradigm-changing capability in the near term while also positioning the platform to remain dominant surging into future decades, could be described as somewhat of a hybrid approach merging proven, cutting edge non-developmental technologies and a new generation of promising breakthrough systems together.
DDG(X): Size, Weight and Power and Cooling (SWAP-C)
One key way to do this is to optimize the Size, Weight and Power and Cooling (SWAP-C) balance on the new ship so that the hardware footprint is consolidated and made more efficient. This enables the ship to operate with greater power density and the maximum number of high-power generated technologies built into the platform.
An interesting Congressional Research Service Report from March 2022 cites Navy statements related to DDG(X) which entirely mirror this approach
“The DDG(X) would integrate non-developmental systems into a new hull design that incorporates platform flexibility and the space, weight, power and cooling (SWAPC) to meet future combatant force capability/system requirements that are not achievable without the new hull design,” the CRS Report, titled Navy DDG(X) Next-Generation Destroyer Program, states, citing Navy statement budget documents.
These advancements are just the beginning of what maritime warfare may look like decades into the future, which is why Navy weapons developers and shipbuilders are now taking specific steps to engineer emerging technologies with a modular, open architecture approach intended to ensure sustained upgradeability.
As new weapons integration options and software updates evolve, a technical infrastructure designed with common standards and IP Protocol can accommodate new systems without having to rebuild, redesign or fully re-imagine technological applications. This kind of strategy represents the Navy’s approach across a wide range of platforms and also aligns with certain industry efforts.
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Video Above: A next generation destroyer called DDG(X) is designed to sail alongside existing DDG 51 destroyers
Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Power and Energy System, for example, seeks to greatly reduce hardware requirements by integrating a single energy storage and generation system able to efficiently support ship weapons, radar and computing. Northrop Grumman is offering its IPES system, which is reported by developers to be “ready now” and not subject to the extensive risks associated with longer-term developmental programs, to be considered for the Navy’s DDG(X) program.
“We want to take the proven energy storage capability the Navy has and apply it to DDG(X). The Navy will see a cost savings of prime power as much as 30-percent and 20-percent SWAP savings,” Matthew Superczynski, Chief Engineer for Northrop Grumman’s Power/Control Systems, told Warrior in an interview.
Northrop Grumman has engineered their approach to IPES with this operational and developmental concept in mind with plans to progressively upgrade its power management, storage and distribution systems to in effect “grow with” emerging surface-ship technologies. More specifically, an open architecture approach aligns closely with the Navy’s approach to its DDG(X).
“The DDG(X) platform will have the flexibility to rapidly and affordably upgrade to future warfighting systems when they become available as well as have improved range and fuel efficiency for increased operational flexibility and decreased demand on the logistics force,” the CRS report states.
Architects of IPES want to offer the Navy a non-developmental, low-risk system that is extremely upgradeable in order to enable continued, high-speed modernization while simultaneously avoiding risks often associated with a brand-new developmental effort.
“Our solution has the capability they need and is lower risk given its level of maturity. We are not looking to take on too much risk. What we are offering is a more surgical implementation of an energy magazine and setting the architecture for the future," Superczynski added.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization