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The first of the "Revolution at Sea" studies to be completed was the Ship Operational Characteristics Study (SOCS). SOCS was convened in February 1987 by the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Surface Warfare). The study, which was completed and approved by the Chief of Naval Operations in April 1988, was to recommend the required characteristics of the surface combatant ship of the year 2010 as determined by Fleet and Headquarters Unrestricted Line (URL) operators. SOCS details the ideal operational characteristics that must be embodied in the design of the 21st century surface combatant to enable it to perform its missions against the forecast threat. The required operational characteristics were developed from analysis of U.S. national objectives, naval missions, the geopolitical environment, and the threat expected in the early 21st century. SOCS also addresses shortfalls in earlier warship design identified by representatives of the operating forces. SOCS is, among other things, a Fleet study. Essentially, the study group asked operational commanders to design a ship, given a clean sheet of paper, listing those characteristics considered most vital to accomplishing the mission.

The 21st century combatant will be capable of both independent and Battle Force operations. The ability to operate independently requires a stout self-defense capability in every mission area, AAW, ASUW/STRIKE and ASW and an offensive capability in at least one major mission area. To operate effectively with and contribute to a Battle Force requires speed consistent with that of an aircraft carrier and combat logistics ships and system compatibility with the other ships and aircraft in the force.

SOCS did not undertake to define the 21st century surface combatant's hull form. The study concentrated on identifying required operational characteristics that would be suitable with any of the hull forms familiar to the Navy. The operational characteristics recommended in the study for surface combatants will also be applicable to other 21st century ships such as ships of the amphibious, combat logistics and mine forces.

The principal objective of SOCS was to gain the maximum warfighting capability from every 21st century surface combatant. There are numerous means of improving a combatant's warfighting capability including increasing the weapons carrying capacity, increasing endurance, improving survivability and thus the ships ability to "fight hurt" and many others. Each recommendation in SOCS is intended to maximize warfighting capability and put more ordnance on target.

SOCS developed a list of 12 imperative characteristics which were prioritized alpha-numerically in four sets of three. This prioritization is based on the knowledge that funding constraints preclude the immediate incorporation of all 12 imperatives. The 12 Imperative Operational Characteristics for the 21st century combatant are:
  1. Cooperative engagement in all mission areas:
  2. Integrated machinery systems
  3. Survivability and the ability to "fight hurt"
  4. Embedded readiness assessment, mission planning and training
  5. Condition based maintenance
  6. Torpedo self defense
  7. Collocation of ship control (bridge) and Combat Information Center
  8. Access control and security
  9. Alternative use of volume
  10. Smooth topsides
  11. New information management
  12. Organic Aviation and other off-board vehicles

Cooperative Engagement: A multi-mission, integrated and coordinated combat data and action system at the Battle Force level. Cooperative Engagement characteristics are clustered into three general areas: Intership Data Exchange, External Weapon Control, and Automation and Integration.

Intership Data Exchange: A secure (difficult to intercept) data-link for detection, classification (identification) and targeting that is available to all ships in the Battle Force.

External Weapon Control: Each ship is capable of controlling weapons fired from every other ship. This enables a damaged ship's weapons to be used if the ship itself cannot provide targeting data. It also permits a ship which has expended its weapons due to high volume of attack, to use the weapons from another ship that is not in an equally high density threat area. Automation and Integration: Ship control throughout the Battle Force via data-link between shipboard computers. This will correlate and combine information from a ships own sensors with information received from the sensors of other ships via data link, thus significantly increasing the battle space. It will correlate environmental information in the area and in a potential target area and provide that information to shipboard weapon systems and to other ships via data link. It will coordinate the use of decoys throughout the Battle Force to prevent one ship from decoying an incoming enemy weapon into another friendly ship. Automation and integration will also provide the capability to maneuver the ship automatically based on the shipboard computer's optimum course and speed to avoid incoming enemy weapons and to unmask batteries for launch of defensive#offensive weapons or decoys.

Precise Navigation System: A system such as NAVSTAR/Global Positioning System, is imperative to Cooperative Engagement since each unit must be able to locate itself exactly on the face of the earth in relation to ships in the battle force and other contacts. Integrated Machinery: The incorporation of a propulsion system that also provides the necessary power for operation of ships weapons, sensors and hotel services. An integrated system takes advantage of great amounts of propulsion power which are untapped in conventional systems where propulsion power is physically separate from ship service power. Integrated Electric Drive provides this necessary flexibility of operation. Survivability and the Ability to "Fight Hurt": SOCS treated damage control and survivability as a single issue because the 21st century combatant should integrate both in to an effective total system. Survivability and damage control involve all steps from avoiding detection, avoiding being targeted and avoiding getting hit, to minimizing damage if hit, damage control and restoration after being hit, and "fighting hurt", the ability to continue to fight after being hit. Signature management plays a significant role in a ship's ability to avoid detection and targeting. A reduced radar cross section (RCS) (return a target provides on an enemy's radar), infrared signature (radiated heat), acoustic signature (sound a ship makes in the water), and electro-magnetic signature (frequencies, pulse rates, etc. of a given ship's specific radars and radios) are all facets of a ship's overall signature. Signature management is often referred to as STEALTH. Defensive systems such as Close In Weapon System and decoys play a significant role in preventing a ship from being hit after an enemy weapon has been fired. Automated damage control systems will provide rapid response to battle damage through the use of internal sensors and computer which monitor and compare temperature levels, water levels, smoke, etc. Similarly, designed survivability provides redundancy of systems and power, armor, optimum internal arrangement all with the intent of minimizing the effects of battle damage.

Embedded Readiness Assessment, Mission Planning and Training: The Commanding Officer of a 21st century combatant must be able to perform mission and battle planning, conduct realistic combat training for ship's teams at all levels and asses in real time the readiness of the ship's systems and crew. Essentially, a Commanding Officer, using advanced internal and external sensors linked to an advanced computer processor, will have the capability to examine the capability of his ship and crew to fight at any given instant. The system also provides him the capability of artificially changing sensor input as a means of training his crew in how to fight the ship. Finally, the computer system provides the capability to plan mission and battle actions based on sensor input, ship/crew capabilities and operational requirements.

Condition Based Maintenance: Again, using advanced sensors linked to a computer processor, the ship will tell its operators when maintenance is required. This capability will reduce costly and unnecessary time-based maintenance (which relies on the probability of failure based on experience.) Condition based maintenance relies on sensor indication of impending failure, permitting maximum safe utilization of equipment and maintenance only as needed, thus reducing parts expenditure and constant periodic man-hours required to time-based maintenance.

Torpedo Self Defense: An active capability to detect, track and destroy an incoming torpedo much as present AAW systems can detect, track and destroy an incoming cruise missile.

Collocation of Ship Control and Combat Information Center: Reduces unnecessary volume. Since modern combat operations rely largely on long range sensor information rather than visual information (as in times past) the need for a separate ship control area (bridge) and Combat Information Center (CIC) is diminished. Since warfighting capability is the primary purpose of the ship, it is logical to combine all warfighting areas into a single area, thus sensor and weapon information (CIC), ship control operations (bridge) and damage control central functions could all be combined into one location. For those times when visual information is required, entering port, restricted maneuvering, replenishment alongside, a small (size of a 747 cockpit) bridge can be located topside. Additionally portable remote controllers can be provided so that a conning officer could control the ship from selected locations around the ship when it is necessary to see the ship's sides.

Access Control and Security: Provides for a positive, difficult to circumvent means of identification of crew members; a single,easily controlled, easily monitored access to the ship and means to bar unauthorized persons from gaining access. Access control emphasizes security over ceremony in moving the location of the quarterdeck away from the point of access to the ship. Security includes use of high intensity lighting above and below the waterline, trained and qualified security force personnel equipped with armament appropriate for use inside the ship and with personal protective equipment. Internal sensors would be provided to monitor the condition of water and stores. Finally, shipboard data bases would be protected to prevent unauthorized access to personnel files and classified information.

Alternative Use of Volume: This concept is as old as the Navy. A gun deck on sailing ships became a berthing area for the crew as easily as men hanging their hammocks. In the modern sense Alternative Use of Volume recognizes the fact that a ship is home to its crew. Thus in peace time areas such as crew lounges, large berthing area and "luxury" stores are important to morale. In wartime, there would be limited opportunity for such items and areas, thus the space they normally occupy could be designed for rapid conversion to an additional magazine or fuel storage space with the associated increase in warfighting capability.

Smooth Topsides: Provide reduced radar cross section (RCS), better topside safety, facilitate cold and heavy weather operations, reduce electro-magnetic interference and decrease maintenance. This will require general redesign of ships including use of conformal array radars instead of mast mounted antennae, reduction of exhaust stacks, removal of side mounted life boats in favor of stern launched boats (similar to modern amphibious ships) and removal of bulky alongside replenishment fittings to the delivery ship.

New Information Management: Often referred to as the "paperless ship." SOCS noted paper (in the form of logs, message traffic, manuals, training books, etc.) and the requisite storage containers add as much as 36 tons to modern surface combatants. Most of the information contained could as easily be placed on magnetic or laser disc with the associated reduction in weight and volume. The "saved" weight and volume could then be applied to additional weapons or fuel with the associated improvement in warfighting capability.

Organic Aviation and Offboard Vehicles: The requirement for embarked aviation assets (either helicopter or fixed wing) and offboard vehicles (either tethered or untethered) is a response to the expanding battle space of the 21st century. The range between participants in future engagements, the minimum response time to engage future incoming weapons and the sophistication of the battle in general will require vehicles capable of leaving the base ship to extend both offensive and defensive capabilities. Additionally, modular construction of vehicle stowage will improve fleetwide flexibility. Modules themselves must conform to the requirement for smooth topsides as well.

Additional Characteristics: During the course of the study, SOCS examined many additional characteristics which, while not adding to a ship's warfighting capability, will improve operational capability. These characteristics include work reduction items, internal communications and IFF improvements, additional, less vital security improvements and navigational aids. All are contained in the Ship Operational Characteristics Study.

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Sunday, April 19, 1998 4:53:33 PM