The Navy is moving to develop increased commonality between two key ship defense systems as a way to maximize efficiencies, save costs and ease technology upgrades, Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) program executive officer for integrated warfare systems said this week.

Rear Adm. Jim Syring said at the Navy Surface Association (SNA) symposium that introducing shared components between the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built Aegis Combat System and Raytheon [RTN]-built Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) would enhance the ability to upgrade the systems more quickly and reduce costs over time.

"We want to drive the SSDS baselines and the Aegis baselines to common architectures," Syring said, adding that doing so would make them "easily refreshable and affordable."

Aegis is employed by the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyers and Ticonderoga-class (CG-47) cruisers. SSDS operates on Nimitiz-class (CVN-68) aircraft carriers, and Marine Corps LPD-17 transport dock ships (San Antonio-class) and Wasp-class (LHD-1) amphibious assault ships.

Getting the systems to operate off on common hardware, software and data tracking entails developing them independently of the ships "and allow competition and development to continue and not impact the platform’s computing environment," Syring said.

The Navy has been seeking to integrate more common interfaces into its command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems by embracing more open architecture and modular designs to enhance technological innovation and competition, while also reducing costs and facilitating technology insertion and upgrades. The notion is of added importance at a time of constrained budget environments, as the Pentagon must absorb at least $480 billion in reductions over the next decade. 

The Navy believes increasing competition and innovation can also take place by recompeting programs that have long been awarded to defense firms on a sole source basis.

Lockheed Martin has been the sole contractor for Aegis, which has been in service for decades, since it acquired Martin Marietta in 1995. Raytheon has supplied SSDS under sole source contracts since the late 1990s.

The Navy has begun recompeting the next big Aegis contract and accepted bids in December for Advanced Capability Build 16 (ACB 16). Raytheon and Boeing [BA] submitted proposals along with Lockheed Martin.

The Navy is also set to recompte SSDS later this year, Syring said. Lockheed Martin is expected to try to unseat Raytheon on that program. Tom Laliberty, Raytheon’s director of integrated combat systems for seapower, said on the sidelines of SNA that he expects the Navy will continuously ask potential bidders for Aegis and SSDS contracts to show how they can integrate commonality among the two systems.