The Navy is preparing to add upgraded capabilities to four aircraft carriers in support of Project Overmatch, the Navy’s top officer in charge of carrier design, construction, delivery, system integration and life-cycle support said last week.
“At the summary level, there are four carriers that we’re working on right now to introduce those capabilities. I won’t go into the specific hulls or the strike groups, but I’ll say that’s how carriers are built – to bring these systems aboard,” Rear Adm. James Downey, program executive officer for carriers, told reporters during a media call on Jan. 21.
Project Overmatch is billed as the Navy’s contribution to the overall Defense Department joint force Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort.
In 2020, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday directed Rear Adm. Douglas Small, commander of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, to lead the project. The goal is to build a new Naval Operational Infrastructure that would help a future force of manned and unmanned ships operate in a distributed manner and create a common operating picture so commanders can best match sensors and shooters via multiple networks (Defense Daily, Oct. 15, 2020).
Early last year, Vice Adm. James Kilby, then-Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, said the Navy planned to deliver a minimally viable product (MVP) of Project Overmatch systems to the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) in fiscal year 2023 (Defense Daily, Feb. 9, 2021).
Also, at that time, Small said starting with an MVP is normal for any agile product, allowing personnel to use and learn from it while the Navy builds on it with additional capabilities as something to start with. The Project Overmatch MVP is set to include things like networks, certain configurations of CANES networking gear, certain sets of management aides and planners and then defining data structures for the first increment of capability.
CANES is the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program that modernizes the Navy’s shipboard computing systems and consolidates five legacy networks into one.
Downey said the modernization conducted during availabilities to install the Project Overmatch equipment “is not minor, but we don’t have any hull, electrical or mechanical significant changes to the ship to accommodate those modernizations.”
He underscored that historically about 40 percent of the modernization work on a Nimitz-class carrier goes to ripping out parts and involves hot work like welding and flame cutting, but the Ford-class is specifically designed to not have to deal with those issues.
“Ford-class was specifically designed to take all what we refer to as the mission base and put them into a contiguous section of the ship, the O-3 level, and to allow those spaces to be reconfigurable without hot work. So this is a flexible infrastructure design that we’ve talked about over the years, we proved much of that out on Ford’s [18-month Post-Delivery Test and Trials period],” Downey said.
“So Ford-class is designed to take in systems like the Project Overmatch capabilities, most of it without significant hot work,” he added.
Last April, Gilday said Project Overmatch was set for four increasingly complex spirals in 2021, with testing and evaluation leading to deployment to a carrier strike group in late 2022 and early 2023 (Defense Daily, April 6, 2021).