The Navy and its industry partners are into production on most of the computing hardware and nearing the final software release for the components that will operate the Zumwalt-class combat ship, according to a service official.

“We are mostly through the hardware development, in fact we have gone to production on most of the hardware elements not only of the TSCE infrastructure–the blade severs, network switches and so forth–but all the associated weapon system elements, for example the dual band radar, the Mk 57 vertical launch tubes…,” Capt. Timothy Mull. DDG-1000 system integration program manager, recently told sister publication Defense Daily.

“Coupled with that, we are continuing the development of the software, the TSCE core, that will actually run all of these systems as a single entity known as Zumwalt,” he added.

TSCE is Raytheon‘s [RTN] Total Ship Computing Environment.

DDG-1000 is being developed using the company’s computer operating system, known as the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure (TSCEI). The system runs on TSCE.

The Navy and Raytheon have been developing the software through a series of drops, Mull said.

“We are now in the integration and test phase of what we call Release 5. There are a total of six releases planned before we actually go to the ship and that will be in the 2012 time frame,” Mull added. “We are approximately 75 percent through the coding.”

Mull noted building the software is an incremental process. “We’ll build the first release, we’ll test it, make sure that it does certain functionality, then we will add to that for the next release.”

Most of the combat system related software is finished in Release 5, he added. There are some aspects of the combat system that are in Release 6, such as engineering controls, ship controls and some of the other ancillary functions.

“Any software development of this size is not going to be easy and we are having our share of growing pains,” Mull said. “It’s a very challenging undertaking….”

But for as challenging as it is, Mull pointed out the software development is progressing and on cost and on schedule.

Although it will be another two years before the hardware and software make their way onto Zumwalt, Mull noted there are a number of risk reduction activities ongoing.

For example, Raytheon has set up what is called “end-to-end string sets” at its facilities in Portsmouth, R. I., and Tewksbury, Mass., Mull said. The sites test software signals for certain mission areas such as, from the dual band radar, through command and control, all the way up to the missile launcher. “They are working through those strings right now,” he said.

“The next big evolution, and this is actually beginning now, is at (Surface Combat Systems Center) Wallops Island. We will have a land-based test site,” Mull said. “Right now, we are testing the dual band radar, both the multi-function radar, SPY-3, as well as the volume search radar. And we are testing them together as a single unit.”

That testing began earlier this year and will continue through the rest of 2009 and into next year, he added.

“Coupled with that, we are also installing a large subset of the computing architecture out there in the same building, so next year we will couple the dual band radar with the TSCE, particularly in the anti-air warfare string,” Mull said.

That particular string is probably the most stressing just because of the time requirements, he added.

“When you have anti-ship missiles coming in at several times the speed of sound it requires everything to be working real time. If we know we have this straight, the rest of it will fall in, Mull added.

In addition, there are other efforts ongoing with string sets that deal with DDG-1000’s power systems and engineering controls, Mull said. And just like at Wallops Island, Va., there is a similar land-based integration site that’s going to be at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia, Pa.

“Those are risk reduction activities so that when we get to the ship we won’t have to spend as much time or, frankly, as much money doing the integration and troubleshooting in a shipyard environment,” he said.

At about the same time the Navy will be pursuing another risk reduction activity where they will take a subset of the TSCE, along with one of the multi function radar faces, and go back onto the self defense test ship at Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme, Calif., to do test firings, Mull added.

“That will be happening in the 2012 time frame. That will prove to us and prove to the Navy that this combat system…can actually close the fire control loop, everything from detect the target to process the information and then put a missile out of the launcher and kill the target,” he said. “That will be done in advance of the ship sailing away. So, the first time that the system will have proven itself will be before it has gone to the ship.”

That means if there are things the Navy learns as a result of testing at Wallops Island, or Philadelphia, or on the test ship, they will have the time to go back and make changes, Mull added.

“The last thing we want to do is have some design flaw show up after the ship is built and sails away,” he said. “We want to get all that behind us.”