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The Future for Naval Engineering

Topics for the Research and Development Community

Paul E. Sullivan VADM, USN (Retired)

Paper prepared for the Committee on Naval Engineering in the 21st Century Transportation Research Board


Naval Ship Design and Construction

Topics for the Research and Development Community


VADM, USN (Retired)

T he United States naval shipbuilding establishment has produced the best, most technologically advanced, and most powerful navy in history. However, the price that the

nation pays for naval superiority has caused erosion of the number of ships in the fleet to the point that there are chronically insufficient resources to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s global commitment. The chief of naval operations (CNO) has stated the requirement for 313 to 324 battle force ships (see Table 1). However, the fleet hovers at about 280 ships, and this number is unlikely to increase significantly without substantial additional investment in new construction or significant service life extensions of ships in the inventory. The naval shipbuilding plans that could quickly bring ship numbers to required strength are unaffordable in the context of a constrained shipbuilding budget. Simply put, numbers count. Unless the overall cost of the fleet can be driven down dramatically without sacrificing military superiority, the U.S. Navy will remain short of resources to cover the need. The biggest cost driver for naval shipbuilding is mission requirements. Quality and high performance cost money. Battle-force ships will never be inexpensive. However, the shipbuilding community has the obligation to help the requirements community by instituting technology initiatives, process initiatives, and policy revisions that result in game-changing influence on the requirements–cost tradeoff process. In addition, there are a myriad of issues driving shipbuilding costs that do not influence mission requirements, and the community could adapt them for all shipbuilding programs. This paper explores the needs for substantive improvement in shipbuilding costs as follows:

Cultural changes in the approach to requirements, ship design, and ship construction

that could reduce the overall cost of battle force ships;

Process changes and design tools that could substantively reduce the time and cost to design and construct naval ships; and

Technology improvements that can simplify and reduce the cost of ship construction and life cycle maintenance.

The 30-year shipbuilding plan sent to Congress with the FY 11 budget requires a pace of 12–15 ships per year of all types. 1 However, the SCN budget for the past decade has provided only 7–9 ships per year. There is little prospect of the SCN budget increasing in real terms, so the shipbuilding plan is likely unaffordable. 2 The naval ship design and construction community must embrace many changes in order to give the CNO options for building the battle force ships required by the 30-year shipbuilding plan.

1 Report to Congress on Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for FY 2011, February 2010.

2 O’Rourke, R. Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service, December 2009.



Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

TABLE 1 Naval 2020–2024 Baseline Force Level Type/Class, 2009 Benchmark

Aircraft carriers


Large surface combatants


Small surface combatants


Attack submarines


Guided missile submarines


Ballistic missile submarines


Amphibious warfare ships


Combat logistics force ships


Maritime prepositioning force (future)


Support ships


Total battleforce level


SOURCE: Report to Congress on Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for FY 2011.


The naval ship design and construction community has a deeply rooted culture and is very successful. Therefore, it is difficult to change. The institutions, traditions, and funding streams are well established, as are the policies and procedures. The problem is that this successful institution now faces a situation in which the existing methods and cultural norms are failing the Navy due to high costs. Something must change. The community has a choice between controlled dramatic change and waiting for the inevitable uncontrolled change as a result of massive budget cutbacks. The research-and-design (R&D) community, as a team member, can assist the ship design and construction community with controlled change through the analytic tools and support processes that will be the underpinning of that cultural change. This assistance can be provided in support of the following proposed initiatives:

Pervasive commonality;

Completion of ship design before construction begins;

Earlier involvement of shipbuilders in the design process; and

Modular outfitting, construction, test, and insertion of payloads.

Culture Change—Pervasive Commonality

Reduce the Number of Ship Types

The most important change that the community can make is to mandate commonality on a broad scale. This starts with reducing the number of ship types, the most fundamental unit of the business. If the navy could cut back the “Type/Model/Series” of ships from the current 19, then the cost to train sailors, equip, sustain, overhaul, and modernize the fleet can be cut dramatically by reducing redundant expenditures and buying in quantity for the remaining ship classes. The Future Force Study of 2006 found that the navy could perform its mission with reduction of the



existing 19 ship class variants to about 11 total or even fewer. 3 The Naval Air Force is undergoing this same transformation and should be used as a template for the ship community to use the same process. Clearly, the navy cannot reduce the ship type numbers immediately without reducing force structure, so the transition should occur over time as future force requirements are fulfilled. The community must discipline itself to adapt existing hull forms to new missions and to make future hull configurations adaptable to multiple missions. The latter concept requires an entirely new approach to naval ship design, which both the shipbuilders and the research community can foster. However, adaptation of existing hull forms also can benefit from the research community, in that tools that speed redesign and re-use for new missions could reduce the cost and time to convert existing ship design baselines to new mission suites. The R&D community can assist in many ways. First, if a reduced number of hull forms are to be used then the remaining types should be optimized for the best combination of speed, endurance, maintenance, upgrade over service life, and simplicity of construction. The R&D community can assist with modeling tools, mission analysis, and adaptation of best practices for simplification of hull structure, construction techniques, and simplification of distributed systems. Where existing hull types are to be modified for new missions, again, the R&D community can assist by making it easy to perform “what-if” studies with existing hull forms through advanced design tools.

Reduce the Number of Combat System Baselines

The concept of reduction of type/model/series should next be applied to the shipboard combat systems configurations. Today, the navy is carrying 16 surface ship warfare system hardware and software configurations. The burden of sustaining these baselines costs billions in acquisition, sustainment, and modernization funds. As in platform reduction, there is also an existing example that can be used as a template. The submarine community has evolved their shipboard warfare systems into a rolling configuration management system that keeps the baseline current at low investment costs by using commercial hardware and a low-cost software update process. Periodic peer reviews determine which new software and hardware configurations will be introduced across the submarine force. Software components are kept small enough and discrete enough to allow a broad range of competitors to continue pushing forward with low cost. A rigid refresh and install cycle is enforced to keep the fleet current without incurring the large cost of a major upgrade. In order to benefit from the submarine force approach, several prerequisites must be met:

The shipboard computing environment must be designed to utilize commercial

computer hardware systems.

The shipboard physical configuration must be designed for continuous replacement

and upgrade during the life of the ship.

The community must commit to continuous evaluation of the marketplace to both use

new developments and to prevent the Navy from drifting into a technology dead end.

The software development and deployment environment must be kept dynamic, fresh, and under rigid configuration management.

3 Naval Sea Systems Command. Future Force Study, 2006.


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

The software development process must be truly open.

The retesting of major combat systems computing environments after alteration of

hardware, firmware, or software, should be automated and streamlined to reduce time and cost of retest and recertification.

First, the shipboard computing environment must be kept current and in the mainstream of commercial development. That is, navy shipboard hardware must utilize the current state of commercial hardware. If allowed to stray into a fixed or custom hardware solution, the navy– contractor team is likely to slip into two undesirable consequences:

The custom hardware solution must be maintained and refreshed at increasing cost of

shipboard spares for the lifetime of that system. The spares, being a custom solution, will be

increasingly hard to find and expensive to purchase.

The navy falls behind the commercial state-of-the-art as the custom solution is bypassed by the marketplace in its drive for better hardware.

The R&D community could help with all phases of this effort. Starting with surveillance of the industry to watch for software, hardware, and firmware trends and guarding against technology dead-ends, in which the navy does not follow market trends. Next, during the development of new mission suites or large combat system upgrades, the R&D community could work together with hardware vendors to assure maximum hardware flexibility and upgrade and to stay in touch with the state of the art. This also requires a different architecture aboard the ship, as the combat systems decks, foundations, and installation mounting must account for shock, acoustics, cooling, and HVAC environments that can tolerate commercial standard hardware. Finally, to speed the cyclical upgrade of tactical software, automated software algorithm test and retest systems can reduce certification and recertification time to a fraction of today’s requirements.

Reduce the Number of Types of Major Shipboard Equipment

Large numbers of major equipment configurations exist in the navy’s inventory. For each major shipboard hull, mechanical, and electrical system, reduction of the numbers and types of equipment that serve the same function is required in order to achieve cost reduction in both acquisition and life cycle of the system. The benefits follow:

Opportunity for quantity buy and long-term relationships with supplier and in-service

agent; and

Reduction of logistic trains for sparing, training, and logistic technical documentation.

There are several cultural impediments to taking full advantage of this initiative. First, there is little incentive for sharing major hardware configurations across classes of ships. Second, some major components simply cannot serve multiple ship types, due to acoustic, shock, and mission requirement differences. For example, a ventilation fan that is acceptable on a surface ship may not have an acceptable acoustic signature for a submarine application.



Examples where this approach is feasible include main propulsion components, electrical power generation, transmission, and distribution components, distributed systems such as ventilation, high-pressure air, hydraulics, refrigeration, fresh and seawater systems, fire main system, and equipment handling systems such as cranes, winches, and elevators. The R&D community can help this effort by adapting database search and mining tools to make readily available to any designer or shipbuilder the full selection of components, but more important, could show designers which fittings, components, or commodity items are most commonly used on other platforms and allow for direct inclusion in the design process. This requires interlacing the various tools available today, from vendor database, to Internet tools, to 3-D product model integration, and finally the ability to include and translate CAD models from the more common types available to small contractors (AUTOCAD, RHINO, etc.) to load into the high-end product models (CATI, Ship Constructor, Intergraph, etc.).

Reduce the Number of Small Components and Distributed Systems Configurations

The navy supports a very extensive infrastructure and logistics system to service the hundreds of thousands of parts, many of which serve the same function. Driving the need for so much support infrastructure are the following cultural realities:

Most shipbuilders purchase components from suppliers that are located within 100 miles of the shipbuilder.

There is no commonality requirement for purchase of small components between ship program managers.

There are few remaining navy-standard design components that can be competed broadly as build-to-print procurements.

There is not currently a contractual mechanism for sharing cost burden among

separate shipbuilding contracts for pooling of purchasing power for components or for

commodities such as steel, pipe, fasteners, and welding consumables.

Clearly, as for major shipboard components, there are great opportunities for both quantity buy and reduction of logistics infrastructure. The R&D community could help this aspect of culture change if it is willing to find a way to work with the shipbuilding community in the details of ship design, where selection of components from accepted catalogs or vendor supply lists is done on a day-to-day basis. In addition, the R&D community can devise tools that facilitate re-use of the more complex parts of distributed systems. Examples are standard fire station layouts, standard hydraulic power plant layouts, standard pressure reducing stations, etc.

Culture Change—Completion of the Ship Design Before Starting Construction

The logic of completing the ship design before starting construction is obvious and intuitive, yet the pressures of budget, programmatics, and workforce considerations drive the navy to launch into construction of the lead ship before the design is ready. This must stop. The consequences for the most recent shipbuilding programs have been reflected in late deliveries, dramatic cost increases for the lead and initial follow ships, large numbers of design changes, and significant


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

reliability issues on the first few ships of each class. This has been most pronounced for the SSN- 21, LPD-17, LCS, and LHD-8. The culture change needed is for the leadership teams in both the navy and the shipbuilders to adapt a strategy for carrying the design to completion before significant construction work begins. In order to achieve this change, several steps are needed:

Assessment of the impacts of extending the design phase up to 2 years before start of

construction and re-assessing the transition gaps between classes at participating shipbuilders.

Predictive tools that allow the navy leadership to assess the true overall cost impacts of early start of construction.

Adaptation of the commercial shipbuilding practice of prohibiting change and

imposing a very large financial penalty for changes. Such a policy shift could occur if:

The design is complete and thoroughly executed such that most changes are


The ship is designed for total modular construction and outfitting, with rigorous

interface control so that the most volatile technology areas (combat weapon systems) are pre-outfitted, tested off-hull and inserted without disrupting the actual ship construction,

test, and delivery program. (See section on modularity.)

The R&D community would be hard-pressed to assist in a culture shift that required ship designs to be complete before moving into the heavy construction phase. However, the ability to accurately predict costs (mentioned later in this paper) under several design–build scenarios (parallel, series, series-parallel) could greatly aid the acquisition and design community when the press of warfare requirements or budget pressures forces early choices to be made. Additionally, if the design tools are good enough and confidence in the design solution can be increased, then the community could develop the patience required to allow the design to fully develop. This confidence can come as a result of tools that the community could develop.

Culture Change—Earlier Involvement of Shipbuilders in the Design Process

The current ship design and construction process allows for the shipbuilding community to participate in the design once the basic configuration of the ship is set. However, earlier participation of the shipbuilder in the design and engineering process could produce additional cost savings from a more complete systems engineering standpoint. Once a decision to design a new ship is made, the community should first decide how the ship is to be constructed. A detailed construction and outfit sequence, that fully encompasses the efficiencies of the shipbuilder and major subcontractor facilities, is as important to cost reduction as are the systems tradeoffs in the ship design process itself. The design and construction sequence needs to be addressed as a continuum. There are several cultural and process obstacles to be overcome before the navy–shipbuilder community can maximize the benefits of early teaming on ship design and construction.

Competitive pressure during pre-contract award prevents total sharing of good ideas from competing shipbuilders who want to maintain the competitive advantage.



Execution of inherently governmental responsibility for system engineering,

integration, and incorporation of mission requirements tradeoffs often closes out potential

shipbuilder-provided cost reduction ideas before the shipbuilders can participate.

For ships with intensive combat systems, such as destroyers and cruisers, early

understanding of the interfaces between the warfare systems and the supporting ship infrastructure is not as robust as it could be because of both competitive pressure and immaturity of the warfare system design.

Though deep-rooted practice will tend to oppose progress in this area, the R&D community could still assist. The reluctance to share information could be overcome potentially by new contracting tools, early teaming arrangements, and better systems engineering tools. Collaboration tools can be developed that permit integration of competitive information without revealing proprietary information. Modern collaboration software that supports complex negotiations should be adapted for the ship design process.

Culture Change—Modular Outfitting, Construction, Test, and Insertion for Payloads

Clearly, the naval shipbuilding establishment has migrated to modular construction over the past 30 years, and this has allowed the shipbuilders to streamline processes and build the ships far more efficiently. However, more can be done, and the community is potentially ignoring the gains that could be made on approximately 50 percent of the ship cost—the combat weapon system. We hold the shipbuilder accountable for total ship delivery cost, yet in most cases the shipbuilder has little control over the timing, technology issues, integration, and test program for the combat system. The integrated installation and test program can account for a year or more of additional time in the shipyard, and it represents a very high cost to the program. Therefore, a new way to achieve a true modular payload installation is needed. The navy should consider assembling, pre-outfitting, integrated testing of combat weapon systems off-hull, so that final installation, checkout delivery of the integrated warship takes weeks instead of months or years. This philosophy could be applied to

Combat system computing plant, command and display hardware;

Sensors; and

Weapon delivery systems.

There is precedent for this approach in the LCS program. Although other factors have driven the costs of LCS to very high levels, the modular payload concept is still valid. In essence, the ship has a basic backbone computing environment and rigid physical and electronic interfaces. Virtually any sensor, processing system, or weapon delivery system that can meet the interfaces can come onto the ship. This concept should be expanded to all future warship classes. Taken to extremes, the navy could take delivery of the ship and execute final installation and checkout at a naval facility, saving time and money at the delivery shipyard. The R&D community can assist this paradigm change by providing the research on structural integrity, damage control aspects, and optimal distributed systems engineering for ships that are predominantly modular. The community also can help to engineer the off-hull test facilities and simulation and stimulation programs that will be required if this concept is followed to its full potential. In addition, new ways of thinking about modular interfaces must be


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

explored rigorously and characterized in order to facilitate widespread adaptation of this technique.


The R&D community could develop a family of tools to facilitate the process changes that reduce costs of design and construction of ships. Most of the tools are analytic models that facilitate decision making for leaders. Some can be adapted from existing advanced software from other industry applications, but some must be developed directly in support of the ship design and construction process. The research community should focus on

Systems engineering tradeoffs,

Cost analysis,

Physics-based ship design and engineering tools,

Collaboration tools and environments, and

Data mining instruments.

The development of these tools cannot be in isolation or even monitored with quarterly or annual updates. In fact, the development should be supervised directly by the ship design and engineering community and the naval research community as part of continuing relationship. The current organizational relationships and control of funds should be investigated for streamlining or modification in order to best support the overarching goal of combat capability at reduced cost.

Process Change—Full Development of the 2-Pass, 6-Gate Systems Engineering Process

Recently developed by the acquisition and requirements community is the 2-Pass, 6-Gate Systems Engineering Process. 4 This process incorporates the principles of total systems engineering, early involvement of the war-fighting community, early involvement of the prospective contractors, and thorough vetting of cost estimates before moving forward with a program. Though still in the first few years of execution, this system holds great promise for avoiding surprises in the future, but there are several supporting processes that must be developed in order to realize the full potential of this new instruction. A diagram of this process is shown in Figure 1, but the process is laid out fully in SECNAVINST 5000.2D.

Highly intelligent cost estimating tools that cover development through disposal,

Highly intelligent alternative analysis tools,

Physics-based modeling of system parameters that can robustly model expected

performance and behavior of new configurations of ships and ship systems in a combat

environment, and

Program analysis performance tools that accurately predict project success with metrics that are readily available and objective.

4 SECNAVINST 5000.2D of October 16, 2008.



Sullivan 9 FIGURE 1 Illustration of two-pass, si x-gate review process (SECNAVINST 5000.2D). Process

FIGURE 1 Illustration of two-pass, six-gate review process (SECNAVINST 5000.2D).

Process Change—Improvement of Ship Design and Construction Analytic Tools

The inability to predict ship acquisition cost accurately is a great impediment to budget formulation and execution for shipbuilding programs. It also has eroded the navy’s credibility with Congress. Dramatic improvements in cost analysis tools are needed. Areas for improvement include the following:

Prediction of R&D costs based on system complexity, subsystem technology, and state of development;

Modeling of design and construction workforce requirements;


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

Modeling the cost of design tools, including configuration, mass properties tools, Product Logistics Models environment;

Modeling of ship integration and test costs;

Assessment of the costs of facilitization of prime shipbuilding contractor, principal subcontractors, and warfare system contractors;

Modeling of the effects of concurrent workloads from multiple contracts at all

contractors facilities;

Assessment of cost of government warfare center participation in development and

execution; and

Probabilistic cost analysis tools that give the range of estimates and the probability that the estimates will not be exceeded.

Cost estimating tools could benefit from an approach that takes advantage of the massive computing power available today, and also the availability of highly intelligent search engines. The principle should be if cost data exist anywhere, the navy should be able to access them. This means that the cost of any component or commodity could theoretically be queried, stored in the navy–shipbuilder cost database, and periodically updated, either from catalog information, bid pricing, or other publically available information. The navy should adapt one or more of the commercially available search engines for this purpose and mandate its use for all shipbuilding programs. Furthermore, if shipbuilders could continue to execute the Common Parts Catalog initiative of the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP), the search engines could query this catalog for component cost tabulation. The ship design community should not accept the notion that a novel ship, ship system, or warfare system architecture will necessarily degrade cost estimating fidelity. Fundamentally, even the most unique systems must be built by design teams; constructed from parts that are fabricated by a contractor team; and assembled, integrated, and tested by the construction and delivery team. The components and the processes both should be predictable unless they have not been attempted before in any industry.

Process Change—Higher Fidelity Physics-Based Tools for Ship Design

Ship design physics-based modeling tools have improved dramatically in the past decade. However, there are still significant gaps in both knowledge and tools for day-to-day ship design tasks. The R&D community could help develop better tools across the board. As is the case for cost estimating tools, the new generation of physics-based modeling tools should take advantage of the improving state of both computing power and existing commercial software tools. However, the design community still lacks tools in many areas that affect the cost of the ship. Included in any serious list of needed tools are

Development and experimental verification of sea-keeping analytical models that

accommodate high sea states, accurately predict maneuvering performance, and can be used to predict performance of atypical hull forms.

Development and confirmation of shock response models for components, systems, and total ship hull performance.

Development and confirmation of ship signature models that include



Acoustics modeling that can accurately depict transmission paths, transfer

functions, speed and equipment lineup variations, and speed dependency, and aspect; and

Electromagnetic modeling that includes steady state, equipment lineups, speed

dependency, aspect, and transmissions, including radar cross-section.

Analysis and production of design rules for electric power distribution behavior,

including transient analysis, that accommodates multiple electric plant architectures and multiple

shipboard electric power distribution configurations and models a variety of load conditions, including transients, load analysis, continuity, and current interruption of major loads.

Utilization of NAVSEA’s Alternative Propulsion Study4 to devise a modeling tool

that assesses multiple propulsion plant configurations for optimization for operating profile, fuel

economy, and mission redundancy and flexibility.

Development of battle damage models that accommodate a variety of ship types;

encompass the blast, shock, and fire effects of a robust library of weapons; and model multiple

shot lines for effect on ship operability and survivability.

Process Change—Collaboration Tools

Addition of shipbuilder and major supplier input into earlier stages of ship design requires a family of tools that does not exist today. For example, there are several product development environments for overall ship design (e.g., CATIA, Ship Constructor, Intergraph) that are not compatible. The NSRP has worked for over a decade to develop graphic and data exchange standards without a satisfactory result. Also, integration of lower level data from less robust design tools (e.g., AUTOCAD, RHINO) is not at the state where data can be uploaded reliably to the higher-level tools. A concerted effort to rectify this situation is needed. Either a robust translation protocol or industry consensus on adaptation of a single product model environment is needed. Areas for improvement must include the ability to

Translate the ship product model into drawing extractions with first-time accuracy

and quality;

Exchange product data information across different design tools; and

Translate design product model information into life cycle ship training, maintenance, and record information.

Process Change—Collaborative Cost Reduction Environment

As discussed in the previous section, pervasive commonality of ship hull types, major components, and combat systems baselines could go a long way to reduce costs across the spectrum of ship designs. However, within each ship design, the approach to ship arrangements and distributed systems engineering needs fundamental change. Design optimization processes that encompass lessons learned from shipbuilding strategies, particularly those in the commercial shipbuilding practice must be adapted wherever they are not precluded by mission and damage control requirements. This requires intense collaboration between the navy, the designer, and the shipbuilder to examine every detail of the ship for cost reduction opportunities. It is imperative that the shipbuilders and major equipment suppliers participate in this process. The guiding principle must be simplicity of design, reduction of labor, and reduction of configuration options


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

in order to reduce ship design and construction to the minimum number of processes and sequences required to produce a satisfactory ship. Examples include

Piping systems—reduction of joints, bends, custom pipe runs, and limiting the number and schedule of pipes allowed.

Electric power distribution systems—modular design, standardization of components, and smart design of cable runs.

Information technology infrastructure—standardization of approach, standardization

of hardware, standardization of software, and refusal to allow new configurations for the sake of

new technology when existing solutions are current and functional.

Examination of components for commercial substitution where MIL-SPEC is not

required. If MIL-SPEC conditions are required, examination of potential to change the

environment so that commercial substitution can still meet MIL-SPEC requirements.

An environment where the shipbuilder can recommend reduced cost items and

configurations that meet government form, fit, and function at lower cost.

Process Change–Database Mining

Modern database mining tools have experienced a dramatic increase in performance and flexibility in the last decade. The availability of these improved tools presents an opportunity that the ship design and construction community should exploit. Suggested areas for research include

Exploitation of component cost databases (previously mentioned).

Improvement in logistics administration by intelligent analysis for the myriad of

logistics databases in use today. The generation of information from these databases that support logisticians in decision making can then be pulled forward to the design process in order to truly include life cycle considerations directly into ship and ship systems design configuration.

Querying worldwide databases of threat weapons to accurately represent threat

characteristics in order to assess battle damage predictions.

Routine querying of families of emerging technologies in order to enable the ship

design and construction community to stay abreast of technical developments that could either

help or that might threaten our ships and that could be game changers in cost reduction.

Support of acquisition program assessment of our contractors by displaying key

business performance and intelligence attributes through querying, sorting, and displaying

databases on contractor performance, stock price, financials, and industry trends.

Creation of robust configuration management and maintenance tools from the data

that is available but currently not accessible enough to be used. An example is generation of OPNAV 4790/2K work requests. A sailor should be able to scan a barcode on the component or system, or scan a barcode in a notebook, and the entire “2-Kilo” except the actual problem should be generated automatically. This is a life cycle cost improvement that the ship design and construction community must install before ship delivery.




The R&D community is most experienced with technology development, as opposed to the culture and process changes discussed in this paper. This rich development experience can be focused on several issues that are barriers to the ship design and construction community reducing construction costs further. Some topics that are very worthy of study (many are already under study and development) are


Mechanical actuation,

Coating systems,

Integrated electric ship,

Bearing surfaces and lubricants,

Shipboard network technology and design,

Construction joining processes, and

Efficiency improvements.

Some of these areas are global, some are very mundane. All are worthy of exploration in order to continuously improve the shipbuilding environment and to assist the shipbuilding industry in its drive for efficiency. Many of these focus areas will also decrease life cycle cost to the navy long after construction is complete.

Technology Change—Shift from Metals to Composites for Large Portions of Ship Construction Materials

The aviation industry has shifted more and more to composites, principally to improve performance and to reduce weight. The ship community can follow this lead to a certain extent, but there is an additional driving need for ships—corrosion prevention and control. Broad use of composites for piping systems, structural components and systems, and outfit and furnishings can save weight and prevent deterioration from environmental effects. Test results for railings, pipes, gratings, and other simple structures are very promising. Cost is an issue. The R&D community can assist the design and construction community by completing the research needed to understand design parameters, rules for fabrication, fatigue performance, and load-carrying ability of composite structures.

Technology Change—Shift of Motive Power for Shipboard Applications from Hydraulics and Pneumatics to Electro–Mechanical Actuators

Pilot programs onboard ships and submarines (e.g., torpedo room actuators on the VIRGINIA class and control surface actuator project at DARPA) have shown great promise and reliability of operations for electromechanical operation. These results should lead us to greater breadth of prototype and pilot programs with the goal of eliminating hydraulics and pneumatics. Finally, where they cannot be eliminated, the applications should be limited to local generation and use of power, instead of using distributed hydraulic and pneumatics, which require high-pressure piping systems, accumulators, pumps, and numerous valves.


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

Technology Change—Coating Systems and Corrosion-Resistant Materials

Corrosion is the number one maintenance issue in the U.S. Navy. Poor in-service performance of coatings continues to the single most important driver. Dissimilar materials operating in a seawater environment pose a major challenge. So does the extensive use of materials that do not stand up to a seawater environment but continue to be used in ship construction because they are inexpensive. This is not strictly a construction issue, but it is a life-of-ship issue. It must be solved, however, by the ship design and construction community in order to hand over the ship to the operations and maintenance community in a condition that coatings and basic materials will last the lifetime of the ship. Research and testing into coatings for weather surfaces, inboard environmental surfaces, tank coatings, and numerous other applications should continue until the community has a new generation of coatings and basic construction materials that

Are durable enough to last the entire life of the ship without replacement or refurbishment,

Are easy to apply (coatings), and

Reduce environmental impact.

Technology Change—Electric Ship

The navy has been executing an incremental approach to the electric warship. The time is now to move to a wholesale embrace of the electric warship. Unless a global unified approach to a full product line is adapted, the navy will not benefit from the potential cost savings and operational flexibility of this technology. A common approach must be developed for overall architecture, power generation systems, distribution systems, and propulsion system prime movers. This is a fundamental shift in naval ship architecture that must occur to support modularity in design and the flexibility to accommodate future weapons and to sustain the power demands of future sensors. A decision-making process should be presented to get the navy, ship designers, ship constructors, and industry leaders together to come to agreement on development paths, standardization, and approach for

Shipboard electrical distribution system design philosophy;

Current, voltage, and frequency standards;

Harmonic distortion standards;

Generator type and capacity;

Propulsion motor type and capacity;

Motor controller type and flexibility;

Current interruption and switching devices, especially for high voltage applications;

Transformer, rectifier, inverter devices; and

Electric power control software design philosophy.

Technology Change—Bearing Surfaces and Lubricants

The life cycle of numerous shipboard components depends on bearing surfaces and lubricants. The mechanical design community that supports ship design and construction should be supporting the shipbuilding community with better bearing surface materials, better design



analysis tools to predict bearing life, and continuing research on lubricants. The goal should be bearing surfaces that do not need replacement or refurbishment for the life of the ship. Clearly, there will be a cost tradeoff required, since improvements may be more costly at installation, but less expensive on a life cycle basis. Recent engine bearing failures since 2005 have shown that the navy needs to pay far more attention to lubrication and to filtration, purification, and conditioning of lubricants. The R&D community can help bring the ship design and construction community up to the state of the art in commercial practice.

Technology Change—Shipboard Network Design

As shipboard networks evolve, the ship design and construction community must follow the lead of commercially available technology, data distribution systems, and installation techniques. The navy currently has in excess of 15 configurations of shipboard non-tactical networks and is in the midst of transition from older network architectures to Gigabit Ethernet on selected ships. Further, the community should make a class-by-class cost and service-based decision on migration of networks to an industry standard. Finally, there is a real need to develop a continuous network evolution process that does not tie up the ships for extended periods of time and that guarantees assurance of service in both classified and unclassified environments. Evolution in this technological area has been dramatic. Unless the avy and its contractors have a forward strategy, the shipboard networks will continue to lag behind industry standards. More important, the maintenance and upgrade of shipboard networks will stagnate due to redundant costs for multiple configurations.

Technology Change—Construction Joining Processes

Joining processes—welding, fastening, and gluing—continue to drive high costs in shipbuilding. Continuing research into automation, fidelity, and reduction of time and cost should continue for materials joining processes. The fastener industry is evolving to support both aerospace and automotive applications. The shipbuilding industry should examine these developments for shipboard applications. Finally, increased use of plastics and composites will inevitably generate the need for industrial processes for joining plastics and composites and also processes for joining composites and plastics to metals in a variety of joint designs. The research to support industrial processes is not robust today.

Technology Change—Efficiency Improvements

Energy consumption on naval ships has been a secondary consideration for decades. However, as the price of fuel increases and as the energy demands are driven up by large mission system loads (radars, electromagnetic aircraft launch and recovery, future weapon systems) the premium on energy efficiency is already a major driver of life cycle cost. There are numerous ways the R&D community could assist. Dramatic reduction of energy consumption is required across the fleet if the fleet is to be insulated from the fluctuating cost of energy. Areas for research for naval applications cited in the recent press 5 include

5 Jean, G. V. Navy’s Energy Reform Initiatives Raise Concerns Among Shipbuilders, National Defense, April 2010.


Naval Ship Design and Construction: Topics for the Research and Development Community

Alternative fuel sources such as biofuels,

Alternative propulsion systems,

Combined propulsion systems such as diesel and gas turbines,

All-electric ship (as described elsewhere in this paper), and

Design tools that accurately predict life cycle energy cost so ship designers can

evaluate the tradeoffs for propulsion plant and electric plant selection based on mission need


The secretary of the navy has set out five specific goals, three of which apply to the fleet, and which need support from the R&D community 6 :

Mandatory evaluation factors for contract awards that include energy costs,

Sail a green strike group with alternative fuels and propulsion systems by 2012,

Reduce petroleum use in non-tactical vehicles (not applicable to ships),

Increase alternative energy ashore (not applicable to ships), and

Increase alternative energy use navy-wide.

Unless the navy has the tools to make dramatic improvements to shipboard energy consumption through efficiency improvements and alternative power systems, there is a real possibility that fleet could be severely restricted in operating time. Training and readiness would suffer. More important, tactical planners would be forced to consider energy consumption as a restrictive input to operations.


The most pervasive need facing the U.S. Navy today is insufficient numbers of ships and a shipbuilding plan that cannot be supported by its current and projected fleet. The CNO continues to highlight this issue. For example, he recently stated, “People look quickly at our Navy and think ‘My, those ships are so incredibly powerful and there seem to be so many of them.’ They don’t always consider that the 283 ships that serve in our Navy today are the fewest that we’ve had in our fleet since 1916.” 7 The R&D community can greatly aid the ship design and construction community in its most important thrust—reduction of the cost of naval ships and shipboard systems. The R&D community must support not only technical developments but also technical developments that in turn support process change and culture change in the ship design and construction process. The coming crisis in shipbuilding—the inability to finance the required fleet—demands that the collective ship research, development, design, and construction community fundamentally change the focus to cost reduction strategies, technologies, and processes.

6 Ibid.

7 Roughead, G., CNO., May 2009.