Establishing common baseline hardware and software architectures across the Navy’s surface fleet will be key in maintaining dominance of the world’s oceans over the next 30 years, said Rear Adm. Jon Hill, program executive officer for integrated warfare systems.

Ship and weapon modernization is not a static, one-time process, Hill said Jan. 12 at the Surface Navy Association annual symposium outside Washington, D.C. Maintaining an edge over adversaries and dominance of the sea will require nearly constant software upgrade between periodic hardware technological refresh, he added.

The USS Fort Worth (LCS-3). Photo: Defense Daily.
The USS Fort Worth (LCS-3). Photo: Defense Daily.

“We have to figure out how we are going to install things quicker, how we are going to certify things faster, how we build it faster, how we’re going to do it more efficiently,” Hill said.

 “A few years ago, my predecessors would have been standing here and talking about open architecture and modularity within software and separating the software from the hardware,” Hill said. “We have matured to the point now where we’re using common code bases.”

This allows the Navy to move capabilities like Aegis Ashore missile defense systems and install them on an in-service cruisers and new-build ships, Hill said. The various modernized Aegis cruiser variants largely use the same base software code drawn from the Navy’s “common source library,” so capabilities developed for and installed on a new ship can readily be retrofitted onto legacy platforms as well.

Modernized air defense cruisers share 99 percent of their software code with the Aegis Ashore system. At least 97 percent of that base code was reused for the integrated air and missiles defense (IAMD) destroyers like the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53).

When the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program transitions to the Future Frigate configuration and is boiled down to one hull design from the current two, future ships and those in service will eventually operate with common combat management systems. The effort will mirror the trend toward commonality in base software in combat management systems aboard Aegis cruisers, Hill said.

Common display systems installed in the Future Frigate and existing LCS ships will be the same as those already installed on the Zumwalt destroyer, Aegis ships and aircraft carriers, which will allow for swift transition of sailors between them.

“Sailors can walk from one ship to the next and it cuts down on their training,” he said. “It cuts down on things looking new. It’s just better for the fleet to have that kind of commonality. There’s a lot of goodness in going common. There’s a lot of goodness in being common across the fleet,” he said. “We’re sort of in the middle of the movie right now.”

The Navy is August chose Lockheed Martin [LMT] Mission Systems and Training to build the common combat system for the Future Frigate. The current LCS fleet is split between Lockheed’s monohull design and the Austal trimaran hull.