With the shift from the open ocean strategies of the Cold War to the current strategic concept of joint expeditionary operations in the world's littorals, mine countermeasures has emerged as an essential naval war-fighting capability. A fundamental part of the Navy's mine countermeasures capability resides in the surface mine countermeasures ships of the MCM-1 and MHC-51 class. In order to ensure an ability to effectively integrate with the Joint force structure in the forward-deployed littoral environment, and to meet the operational needs imposed by this new role, a significant upgrade of the combat systems aboard the MCM-1 and MHC-51 ship classes is now required. This upgrade will result in the Integrated Combat Weapons System (ICWS) for MCM ships.
Mine Countermeasures (MCM) is one of the clearly essential naval operations necessary for success in the littorals. The Navy's primary surface MCM capabilities reside in the MCM-1 and MHC-51 class mine countermeasures ships. From the MCM perspective, the upgrading of the MCM-1 and MHC-51 ship combat systems has become a virtual necessity. The MCM-1 and MHC-51 ships are equipped with combat systems which were developed independently and then integrated. The existing stove-pipe combat system architecture's place severe restrictions on the amount of C4I and information flow available to the MCM force. Obsolete combat system equipment makes hardware and software maintenance, system upgrades and training costly and inefficient ventures. These factors combine to make the existing surface ship MCM Combat Information Center (CIC) a crowded, inefficient and noisy place. The result of this is cumbersome and inefficient combat system. From affordability, survivability and readiness perspectives the surface MCM force is not adequately equipped to contribute effectively in a joint war-fighting environment.
Fortunately, the same technical factors that form the backbone of the Navy's joint war-fighting capability will facilitate and make affordable the upgrade and transition of the MCM-1 and MHC-51 combat systems to an open system architecture. An Integrated Combat Weapon System (ICWS) for the MCM-1 and MHC-51 ships is now an achievable and affordable option.
When fully implemented, the Integrated Combat Weapon System will bind the detect, control and engage functions of MCM together in an open system architecture connected by a dual-fiber optic LAN. ICWS will enhance mine detection and classification capabilities through improvements to the AN/SQQ-32 mine hunting sonar which include (1) re-hosting all software on the next generation tactical advanced computer and (2) engineering improvements to the sonar array. The advanced, computer-hosted AN/SYQ-X navigation, ship command, and control system will merge the functionalities of the AN/SYQ-13 or AN/SSN-2(V)4 Precise Integrated Navigation System and NAVSSI. Battlegroup connectivity and C4I will be enhanced by adding the JMCIS system hosted on the next generation tactically advanced computer. The MIW Environmental Decision Aids Library (MEDAL) will become a segment on the JMCIS operating system. The MEDAL system -- featuring embedded tactical decision aids -- will significantly improve MCM planning and evaluation. The advanced, computer-based AN/SSQ-94 onboard trainer will be included to improve training and readiness and to support battle force tactical training. Mine identification and neutralization capabilities will be significantly improved by automating and integrating the process of maneuvering and vectoring the AN/SLQ-48 mine neutralization vehicle to the target while at the same time hardware upgrades will provide improvements in thruster capabilities and the identification sensors. Within the CIC, the ICWS will feature large screen displays to provide better situational awareness and close-in views of the mine neutralization operation. ICWS will automate the generation and modification of mission plans and automate the generation of contact reports. It will allow automated commands to direct the sonar to view a designated area, and, by providing a mine neutralization vehicle auto pilot capability, will reduce vehicle fly-to-contact time by an estimated 20%.
The Integrated Combat Weapon System will be implemented as a multi-phase program. Planned combat system upgrades have been grouped into blocks. The block-zero upgrade will baseline the major MCM-1 and MHC-51 subsystems. The block-one upgrade will establish the Integrated Combat Weapon System. The block-two upgrade will provide significant enhancements to the overall MCM mission effectiveness.
The benefits associated with the establishment of the Integrated Combat Weapon System are significant and fall into four categories: reduced space and weight; reliability and maintainability improvements; increased war-fighting capability; and most importantly, reduced system installation and maintenance costs. The shift to a COTS-based combat system -- designed in a standard open system architecture and incorporating a dual-fiber optic network -- reaps benefits in all categories. Replacing obsolete display and processor technology with next generation tactical advanced computers has the immediate benefit of achieving reductions in the areas of card count, system complexity, and space and weight. For example, in addition to the elimination of obsolete consoles, the 294 electronics modules in the AN/SQQ-32 mine hunting sonar will be replaced by a single TAC and 14 VME boards. Futhermore, 175 obsolete modules in the AN/SSN-2 navigation system will be replaced by a single TAC and 27 VME boards. Similiar gains will be achieved in the mine neutralization system where 319 obsolete modules in the AN/SLQ-48 will be replaced by a TAC and 12 VME boards.
Weight savings are expected to exceed 3,660 pounds and space savings will have a profound effect on the efficiency and user friendliness of the resultant reconfigured CIC. Hardware reliability will also improved as a result of the reduced card and component count and through the use of proven multi-user designs and the incorporation of reconfigurable consoles. Software reliability is improved through the use of proven COTS and TAC software, while supportability is improved as a result of affiliation with a larger user base. The reduction in the number of software languages and the shift to state-of-the- art object oriented software will ease the burden on maintenance personnel as well as reduce software maintenance costs as the number of software languages drop from 7 to 2. Combat system maintainability will also be improved as a result of the simplified architecture, reduced card count, hardware and software commonalty between systems, as well as the fewer maintenance steps and better diagnostic capabilities inherent in the use of COTS equipment and computer programs. On-line, interactive, electronic technical manuals can be expected to further enhance maintainability by improving the training of both operators and maintenance personnel.
These improvements in reliability, maintainability and sustainability contribute directly to an improved war-fighting capability -- as does the common, man-machine interface presented by ICWS. A common tactical picture provided by a JMCIS operating station inside CIC will result in previously unattainable levels of interoperability with other platforms. Finally, upgrading the MCM-1 and MHC-51 ship classes with the ICWS block-zero and block-one improvements will result in a high and directly measurable payback in terms of performance and affordability. The cost avoidance associated with a shift to COTS hardware and software -- coupled with the associated elimination of over 700 lowest replaceable units -- will be substantial. The block-two upgrade will enhance mission execution and further increase reliability, maintainability and affordability. Readiness will be improved as a result of onboard training. Sonar processing and towed body upgrades will provide better target detection, allow higher speeds of advance, and improve ship survivability. Mine neutralization system upgrades will improve neutralization vehicle performance in currents and allow a higher vehicle speed of advance.