Down the Line: Stealth and Speed Will Propel Future Navy
Throw those anchors away, because this ain’t your uncle’s navy. To keep up with evolving military strategies, the U.S. Navy is developing a variety of high-tech tools that emphasize speed, stealth and maneuverability.
A new class of advanced vessels currently under development will transform the traditional look and feel of the Navy. The DD(X) program includes stealthy cruisers and destroyers that will gradually replace today’s existing fleet.
The DD(X) “represents the transformation engine of the Navy, both as a ship and a critical source of technology,” says Edward Aldridge, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics at the U.S. Department of Defense (Washington, DC).
New technology that will be incorporated in the vessels includes a new power system, widespread automation to reduce crew sizes, and a reduced radar profile through the use of stealth design and construction techniques. Because of greater use of automation, the Navy hopes to reduce the average crew size per ship from 300 to 95.
“The DD(X) is the centerpiece of the Navy’s 21st century transformation and is the cornerstone program for a family of surface combatants to be designed and built over the next 25 years,” says Kent Kresa, CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp. (Los Angeles).
The cruisers and destroyers are expected to share a common design based on a radical “tumblehome” hull configuration that features angular profiles. The tumblehome hull form significantly reduces the ship’s radar cross section.
And, with most of the hull underwater, the ships will be as close to a submarine as a surface ship can be. The “wave piercing” design will forgo the traditional sort of buoyancy that tends to lift ships over waves. According to Aldridge, it will minimize rolling motion, because any motion presents an observing radar with opportunities to pick up the ship.
The first ship in the DD(X) program is scheduled to be constructed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Co. (Lexington, MA) in 2005. Eventually, up to 70 warships could be built, if a $100 billion contract is approved.
Another experimental vessel that may soon be wearing Navy colors is a high-speed aluminum catamaran. The X-Craft is being constructed by Titan Corp. (San Diego) and Nichols Bros. Boat Builders Inc. (Freeland, WA) for the Office of Naval Research. It will use a unique propulsion system based on four Rolls-Royce Kamewa S125 water jets.
The vessel will be able to achieve a top speed of 50 knots. The independent water jet units will make sideways movement possible, offering greater maneuverability. The X-Craft’s deck will have two landing pads capable of handling a wide variety of helicopters and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
The Navy also is experimenting with a new land vehicle for the Marine Corps. The reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting vehicle (RST-V) is being developed by General Dynamics Land Systems (Sterling Heights, MI). It is a 4x4 hybrid electric drive vehicle that is lightweight and highly maneuverable in off-road environments.
The RST-V features an in-hub hybrid-electric drive that allows operations at double the range of current vehicles. It can reach a top speed of 70 mph over cross-country terrain.
The hybrid drive provides a silent operation range, on batteries alone, of 20 miles. The hybrid power system also generates up to 60 kilowatts of auxiliary power, which simplifies logistics by providing electrical power without towed generators. The RST-V will be equipped in a wide range of variants, ranging from a light strike vehicle to a battlefield ambulance.