In addition to approaching a significant milestone in developing its next-generation attack submarine, the U.S. Navy is putting new technologies into its underwater fleet to make it safer, more intelligent, and more lethal.
Shifting the Submarine Warfare Federated Tactical System into a cloud-operated common computing infrastructure is one of the modifications that will have the biggest effects. In addition to integrating with ship control, navigation, and other systems, SWFTS consists of a sub’s sonar, electronic warfare, imaging, and fighting systems.
Undersea warfare systems programme executive officer Capt. Todd Weeks stated at the annual conference held by the Naval Submarine League that this action forces the separation of hardware and software, making it simpler and quicker to upgrade each.
Improved cybersecurity and capacity for installing artificial intelligence technologies for submariners are features of the shared computer system.
More electronic and sonar warfare data is sent to submarines than they can process by hand. Sailors may scan through a smaller pool of compelling data if an AI technology were to filter away irrelevant information.
The Navy created a “sandbox” for these applications as it started testing AI tools onboard submarines. This allows users to access the data produced by SWFTS without endangering or otherwise altering current systems. Before agreeing to deploy SWFTS, the Navy can test out programs in this sandbox.
The modest sandbox in the current SWFTS edition will grow in size in the upcoming years so that numerous programmes can undergo testing.
Cutting-edge attack sub
After 35 years of manufacturing the Virginia-class boats, the Navy plans to start purchasing the SSN(X) assault submarine in roughly ten years.
The programme executive officer of attack submarines, Rear Adm. Jon Rucker, stated that his team is working on early design and technology development.
Best features from the Virginia, Seawolf, and Columbia submarine designs will be combined, emphasising four key areas: speed, payload capacity, stealth, and operational availability. The goal is to minimise time spent on major depot maintenance and maximise time spent on patrol.
Rucker said that Navy leadership agreed to sign the SSN(X) initial abilities paper on November 7 at the same conference. The document is currently awaiting final signs and approvals from the Joint Staff.
He added that the Navy will then start analysing the options in 2024 and that this process will assist in determining the best course of action—creating a new design from scratch, altering the current Virginia-class design, or going somewhere in between.
Countermeasures and torpedoes
Weeks’ office provides enhanced capability to ships and planes that hunt down enemy submarines by creating a sophisticated sonar array for the Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes currently in use.
In order to make use of modern sonar technology and achieve significant improvement in lethality, depth, and speed so that there is no submarine in the world that is secure from anti-sub warfare forces, his team is also developing an advanced lightweight torpedo.
In addition, Weeks stated in his address on November 8 that his office is “in the process of developing” the Compact Rapid Attack Weapon (CRAW), a spin-off of the anti-torpedo torpedo defensive device the Navy utilises on aircraft carriers, to augment the torpedo inventory.
Weeks informed reporters that CRAW was created by the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University. Compared to the previous system, CRAW has a new warhead and new operational software.
He would not reveal the identities of the industrial partners the Navy is collaborating with to bring the technology into production. In the upcoming weeks, he anticipates approving its Milestone B accomplishment, he continued.
After receiving a software update, CRAW will initially operate for an offensive anti-sub mission before being equipped with a defensive anti-torpedo capability.
Weeks stated that aviation and surface communities have an interest in the system, which is smaller than lightweight torpedoes but has a shorter range, and that CRAW will arm Virginia submarines “soon.”
Commander of Naval Submarine Forces Vice Admiral William Houston announced on Nov. 7 that he has quickly improved safety on Ohio-class ballistic and guided missile submarines, including better firefighting equipment.
In the past, in an emergency, sailors would use handheld thermal imagers to navigate through dim, smoke-filled sections of the submarine. However, there would usually only be two of these on the Ohio boats, so many first responders wouldn’t know how near they were to a fire.
The Navy created and acquired an innovative, self-contained breathing device with a unique thermal imaging heads-up display mechanism integrated into the face mask within a few months. With thermal imaging now available to all first responders, there’s no need to find or carry equipment.
This new equipment is available to the whole Ohio class, and Houston stated that the Virginia attack submarines will receive it shortly.
Reference- Defense News
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