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Title: Flexible Infrastructure: An Example of Implementing a Flexible Warship Initiative Now to Reduce Future Modernization Costs & Increase Operational Availability on LHA 8

Author(s): William Hammond Mish Jr, Tim Lynch, Alan Beverage and Felix Ruiz, Gryphon Technologies


Command, Control, Communications, Computers & Intelligence (C4I) equipment presents unique challenges during the acquisition phase of a new-build ship. The development and technical refresh timeline of most C4I systems is significantly shorter than the ship procurement schedule. This leads to requiring the identification of systems during ship contract design which in turn leads to future Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs) and out-of-sequence design and construction when the systems specified are changed during their own design phase. In many cases, equipment required at ship delivery does not exist at contract design, e.g. Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) to support LHA 7 Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract award. To address some of these issues, the Total C4ISR Integrated Product (TCIP) process implemented on LHA 6, LHA 7 and LHA 8, which initially established not to exceed (NTE) design budgets for numbers of cables and foundations, Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) weight and HVAC and power requirements at the compartment level and provided the shipbuilder increasingly refined information through the ship construction schedule, largely addressed many of the issues associated with C4I and ship procurement schedules. 

After implementation on LHA 6 several lessons were learned that could further improve the TCIP process to further allow for delays in system identification until closer to ship delivery and also further decrease out-of-sequence design and construction work for the shipyard. The improved process implements a modular approach where compartments are classified as manned operating and unmanned equipment zones. The shipyard will install Flexible Infrastructure (FI) and its subsidiary components – such as power panels, lighting, LAN junction boxes, HVAC in manned spaces, minimal HVAC in unmanned equipment rooms, and chilled water connections in unmanned equipment rooms – and provide installation access routes in equipment rooms. This will allow for specific C4I equipment selection to be deferred until closer to ship delivery, in line with in-service installation timelines. This will better ensure that the C4I suite will support the ship’s first deployment and provide the benefit of supporting Open Architecture and future upgrades.

The FI system is a key element to this process. The system design, owned by the US Navy, is a compartment-wide solution, consisting of six major physical components including: open structure, open power, open lighting, open HVAC, open data cabling, and open outfitting. The backbone of the concept is open standards to permit seamless integration of each component into the system. The open structure portion of the concept is a modification of the ISO 7166 standard slot-and-hole configuration for equipment installation, allowing for various modules and equipment to be installed using the same interface. A compartment that utilizes the FI concept can be designed to be open and reconfigurable, allowing the equipment selection and layout of the space to be developed later in the acquisition schedule; this produces a ship with the most current and technologically advanced warfighting capabilities possible at delivery. In addition, FI allows for insertion of new technology or space reconfiguration for changing missions and threats. Due to increased ease of equipment change-out and maintenance, changes and upgrades are no longer limited to the availability schedule, thus providing significant life cycle cost and time savings.

In 2010, in order to facilitate the utilization of FI, the LHA 8 program commissioned a three phase study to evaluate FI. This paper provides the details of these studies with the intent of providing other ship programs the information they need to leverage this work, thus significantly reducing the non-reoccurring engineering cost of implementing Flexible Infrastructure. The first phase of the study explored the possible FI solutions and examined the impacts that may arise from the installation of Flexible Infrastructure. Three representative spaces were chosen to study FI: Combat Information Center (CIC), Ship Signal Exploitation Space 1 (SSES 1), and Flag Plot. Information that was learned included: 1) LHA is an excellent candidate for Flexible Infrastructure, 2) height requirements need to be monitored, 3) only a few minor impacts on conventional equipment arrangements were required, 4) implementation is weight neutral when considered over multiple spaces 5) installation of FI is cost neutral compared to conventional installation when considered over multiple spaces, (Both weight and cost are sensitive to equipment density and whether there is an existing traditional false deck), and 6) FI provides repeated cost savings during the ship’s lifecycle. 

Having verified FI as a feasible solution for LHA 8, Phase II of the FI study was commissioned to look at all of the LHA compartments for type and turnover of equipment within the compartment as well as physical aspects of the compartments that make them well suited for FI installation. The attributes included: whether the space is outfitted with traditional (stick-built) false deck, the size of the space, equipment density of the space, equipment commonality to the CVN 78 FI install (an example of a successful implementation of FI), the deck thickness, deck material, acquisition priority, lifecycle priority, and ECP equipment change priority. The Phase II study resulted in the selection of twenty two compartments. 

The Phase III study consisted of a detailed Business Case Analysis (BCA) on three representative LHA 8 compartments to compare life cycle costs between outfitting the compartment conventionally and outfitting the compartment using FI. The three compartments were CIC, Computer Room and Data Processing Center and SSES 1. Results showed 7-34% savings in acquisition cost and 54%-91% savings in escalated life cycle cost. These costs were then verified and validated against independent shipyard estimates. The paper discusses these results in more detail.

As a result of the three-phase study, LHA 8 decided to move forward with installing FI in twenty two compartments. These compartments were not without their technical challenges and the FI installation had to evolve to accommodate these issues. The paper discusses the lessons learned and how future installations can benefit from these challenges.

FI, being a new technology, requires some modifications to the ship specifications and some additional ship specifications to guide the installation. The LHA 8 program handled this by creating three Project Peculiar Documents (PPDs). This paper reviews the documents that have been created and examines how other programs may leverage off of those documents.