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Conventional submarines with diesel-electric propulsion and increasingly with air-independent propulsion (AIP) are highly potent sea denial and intelligence-gathering assets which, with a competent crew managing a networked combat system and advanced weapon systems, can become a challenging adversary even for highly equipped anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces.

In addition to the fact that the platforms are becoming quieter and more flexible, recent developments in the capabilities of the combat system are a key element in addressing current and future operational areas and threats. The improved sensitivity and significant processing power of modern sensors produce much more data for the command team to absorb. In particular, the latest generation fully integrated multi-array sonar suite and submarine-launched weapon system (including heavyweight torpedoes and anti-ship and land-strike cruise missiles) allows for more operational options that have to be managed by a reduced crew. The new generation (or the latest versions) of submarine combat systems analysed here in terms of their overall capabilities show a trend toward a scalable COTS-based open system architecture that enables avoiding proprietary products, managing obsolescence, rapidly introducing new technologies such as a common network and server infrastructure, and cyber attack protection. The introduction of multi-function consoles (with a trend towards single vertical colour displays) allows the operator to manage any application from each of them, while a simplified human machine interface (HMI) reduces operator workload and further optimises procedures and information workflow.

The Norwegian and German Approach

The U212A first batch’s control room equipped with Kongsberg´s MSI90U combat management system. (Photo: Luca Peruzzi)

Following the Norwegian Government’s decision in February 2017 to pursue strategic co-operation with Germany covering the joint procurement of six new submarines (four for the Norwegian Navy and two for the German Navy), together with joint training and exercises, a shared spare parts inventory and co-operative maintenance and lifetime management, Kongsberg and thyssenkrupp, together with the latter’s subsidiary ATLAS ELEKTRONIK, formally established a new Norwegian-German combat system joint venture.

With its headquarters in Kongsberg (Norway) and a German branch office in Bremen (Germany) and equally owned by the Norwegian and German groups, the kta Naval Systems is exclusive supplier to thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (tkMS) and will design, integrate and deliver the complete Combat Systems for all future tkMS submarines in addition to midlife upgrades or renewal programmes. At present, the tkMS and kta are working together in several procurement processes for worldwide new building and upgrade programmes. In addition to the export markets, namely Poland, the Netherlands and India, the current main focus is the two-nations’ programme for the new joint 212 Common Design (CD) submarine procurement and life-cycle support. Both nations’ procurement agencies have received a bidding offer from the main supplier in late 2018 and, after a joint evaluation, negotiations remain on-going with the aim of reaching a signed agreement by the close of 2019. The new submarines will be based on the 212A class and specifically tailored to the requirements of both nations. According to formal statements, the 212CD class will combine the low signature of the 212A class with extended range, speed and endurance to allow for international operations. The commission of a first platform for the Royal Norwegian Navy is set for completion by 2026. The kta will design and deliver the new submarine combat system (CS). While other systems come from third suppliers, in the case of both the command management system (CMS) and the sonar suite, kta relies on the experience of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and ATLAS ELEKTRONIK as a supplier and strategic partner to kta. Both have developed CMS, which is in service worldwide as well as sonar suites, mainly by ATLAS ELEKTRONIK. Although no details have been unveiled as to the exact submarine configuration, according to earlier feasibility studies, the 212CD class submarine can embody a number of upgrades, a potentially improved fuel cell technology, a new engine, possibility for new-generation batteries, improved quietening, reduced target echo strength, enhanced sensors and enhanced Command and Control systems. Overall, the integrated CS will allow for more flexibility regarding arrangement and working inside the submarine control room, and it also has additional advantages regarding the CS security and its sub-systems. According to kta documentation, the combat system infrastructure will feature a common and integrated approach where each operator will be able to access any application from any multi-function console (MFC), while the system will run on a common network and server infrastructure and provide support for virtualised processing and red/black separation. The CMS will support the following functions: situation awareness, track management, target motion analysis, combat system overview, classification and recording/replay. It will be capable of interfacing and managing a whole range of underwater and above water sensors, the integrated communications and navigations suites, in addition to weapon control – including torpedo countermeasures, mine laying, medium and long-range missiles (as a possible option). As a supplier and integrator of modern Combat Systems, in its latest projects, kta is working on optimising shareable resources and services. This is available via a multi-domain capable common infrastructure and can seamlessly integrate sub-systems by highly flexible and (therefore) scalable means. Kta has highlighted that ‘State-of-the-art’ technologies such as Big Data, artificial intelligence, etc., may be utilised where applicable. During the Balt Military Expo 2018, the new JV has displayed two notional consoles and demonstrated human-machine interface (HMI) for the first time. Even if kta stressed the showed MFC could not be the end-product, the latter featured a single large touchscreen place vertically with keyboard and integrated mouse. The kta brochure envisaged a control room with lateral MFCs, control station with rotating chair and integrated screens as well as large wall-mounted displays. The new technologies and platform enhancements could also be applied for the already in-service U212A with the German and potentially Italian Navies mid-life upgrading programmes.

A Shared Solution

The kta naval systems’ new generation vertical single-screen-equipped multi-function consoles. (Photo: kta naval systems)

In December 2018, the first SCORPENE class RIACHUELO submarine (S-BR) for the Brazilian Navy was launched by ICN (Itaguaí Construções Navais) joint venture between Odebrecht (59%) and Naval Group (41%) at the Itaguaí facility in Brazil. The four SCORPENEs for the Brazilian Navy are the latest export platforms to be equipped with Naval Group’s SUBTICS (Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System) combat system. Capitalising on more than 30 years of French Navy operational feedback in various crisis theatres as well as the shared underwater equipment experience of what are today Naval Group and Thales, the SUBTICS modular and open architecture relies on a common shared infrastructure that is fully compliant with international standards for data, video and audio distribution and is based on COTS hardware components. The system infrastructure is based on a dual-redundant large bandwidth Ethernet databus to integrate all acoustic and non-acoustic sensor inputs, weapons, navigation systems, and command and weapon control functions on twin-screen multifunction consoles. Command and weapon-control functions are divided into three main areas: situation elaboration (for track association and fusion, TMA and track management); command and decision (threat evaluation, plus attack and escape-manoeuvre planning); and engagement control and weapon launch.

Extensive use is made of the COTS hardware and software standards. The SUBTICS architecture has substantially evolved over time to exploit innovation in open standards, processing, networking and graphical user interface techniques. According to the French shipbuilder, the infrastructure integrates Naval Group’s cybersecurity by design and allows cyber maintenance services. SUBTICS is interfaced with the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) and steering console and proposes an innovative operation-room arrangement to optimise operations. Naval Group said that thanks to user friendly HMI, young submariners will quickly become efficient operators during complex missions, reducing the need of long specialist training courses. The system`s non-intrusive HMI and standardised web technology opens new opportunities, including extensions to mobile devices (such as touchpads, third-party view integration and the integration of legacy systems for modernisations). Naval Group is working on a new-generation tactical table that will be able to fuse and display the tactical picture while looking to further enhance HMI through the possible introduction of a new-generation console, with a single large-area vertical touch-screen multifunction colour display instead of the current-two screens configuration.

The SUBITCS saw first application on Pakistan Navy’s AGOSTA 90B followed by the Chilean, Malaysian, Indian and Brazilian Navies on their respective different SCORPENE-type submarines. SUBTICS has been applied for modernisation programmes, including the Singapore Navy’s A12 and A17 submarines as well as the Chilean (Type 209/1400) and Ecuadorian (Type 209/1300) Navies’ platforms.
Naval Group is currently proposing its SCORPENE and SHORTFIN BARRACUDA conventional designs in different international tenders, including Poland, India and the Netherlands with a combat system capable of managing a range of weapons (including cruise missiles and offering net centric-oriented operations). Technological transfer agreements, involvement and partnerships with local industries are key drivers of international success, such as the Brazilian and Indian programmes. Today Naval Group has developed a customised and evolved SUBTICS-based combat system version for the French Navy called SYCOBS (SYstéme Commun BARRACUDA Snle-ng) to equip the current LE TRIOMPHANT class SSBN (SNLE, Sous-marines Nucléaires Lanceurs d’Engins) as well as the new BARRACUDA-type SSN. The last boat of the LE TRIOMPHANT class SSBN was the first French platform to receive the SYCOBS while the remaining class boats followed during overhauls, the last being the TÉMÉRAIRE. To be delivered in 2020, the BARRACUDA SSN-type will be the first SYCOBS-equipped platform with Safran full non-penetrating masts allowing to optimise the boat control room location, as well as new weapon systems including the MBDA NCM (Naval Cruise Missile) and Naval Group F21 Heavyweight Torpedo.

Advance in Capabilities

The new generation Swedish Navy’s Saab Kockums-developed and built A26 as well as the upgraded A19 under the MLU (Mid-Life Upgrade) programme are equipped with a new generation combat system developed by Saab Group under the supervision of the Swedish Navy. The Swedes are, however, proposing the new submarine design in three iterations (Pelagic, Ocean and Ocean Extended Range) for export, including to the Dutch, Polish and Indian markets. In order to facilitate system integration, future upgrading and expansion, as well as to reduce costs, all applicable management and control system of the new-generation A26 submarines are interconnected through the vessel’s General Management Services System (GMSS) and operated from common multifunctional consoles (MFCs). Based on an open architecture distributed system, which utilises COTS products, technologies and standards, adapted and/or applied to naval military applications, the GMSS access points throughout the submarine enable easy connection for a large number of additional MFCs, workstations and laptops.

Saab’s latest SESUB 960C command management system (CMS) is at the ‘heart’ of the A26 combat system. According to them, instead of being a central system, which all other systems are integrated, the CMS functions as a subsystem linked to the GMSS that communicates using open standards. According to Saab, this allows integrated systems, including the CMS, to be individually upgraded or exchanged, thereby greatly reducing project risks typically found with complex and highly integrated systems. The A26’s CMS can perform tactical picture compilation based on on-board sensors and systems and information received via data links, target motion analysis (TMA), weapon control, and tactical data exchange via the Royal Swedish Navy’s Alfa/Link 8000 tactical datalink. The CMS allows high-performance data exchange via the GMSS with other systems like sonar suite, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), weapon interface systems and vessel control system. Like all other systems connected to the GMSS, the CMS can be operated from any MFC in the submarine. As the CMS’s MFCs are used by the majority of the combat system’s subsystems, the latter have dedicated computers that run a graphical operator console software providing a framework for integration of the subsystems HMIs and enabling access to any subsystem from any console. As a result of the Safran-selected mast-mounted optronic sensors, which technology eliminates a hull-penetrating periscope, an efficient arrangement is achieved with the control room located in the bow, equipped with a total of eleven MFCs in a U-shaped configuration (including a centrally-mounted console for the officer of the watch), large screen display and navigation platform control and SCMS consoles. The A26 open-platform’s comprehensive and advanced network-centric communication suite is managed from the control room MFCs (instead from a separate room as in earlier RSwN’s platforms) due to the Saab-provided TACTICALL integrated system (ICS) managing all platform’s internal and external communications. The TACTICALL collects all communication media and simplifies communication tasks in daily operations as well as in critical situations.

A Technological Frontrunner

Commission of first 212CD platform for the Royal Norwegian Navy is set for 2026. (Photo: tkMS)

The third ASTUTE class SSN HMS ARTFUL commissioned in 2016 has been the first platform to feature the latest submarine Common Combat System (CCS) in the Royal Navy. The latter has been developed in a partnership between the UK MoD’s Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation, BAE Systems and other first- and second-tier suppliers – including Thales UK in 14 months using COTS technology and open systems architecture. The joint team produced a common open architecture, which removed functional duplication where possible and used COTS and open standards to produce a design that is significantly cheaper than if it was designed in the ‘traditional manner’. According to DE&S, the key to the design methodology used was to separate the hardware from the software, thus avoiding expensive upgrades as hardware becomes obsolete. Previous activities and programmes were unified into the Common Combat System (CCS) design evolution programme. Initially developed for the final ASTUTE class boat, the CCS version 3 (CCSv3) has been brought forward in the programme due to the early success of the prototype system. The core of CCSv3 is a bank of COTS servers in a Shared Computing Environment (SCE).

The future VANGUARD replacement under the Dreadnought programme (Photo: UK MoD)

According to DE & S, due to the processing power available through these servers, fewer units were needed to support application software, meaning less space was required for the legacy systems. In addition to introducing COTS, the team also addressed the challenge of migrating the combat system to a more open architecture to reduce whole-life costs of ownership. A key element of the new system was the introduction of a virtualised environment that would enable software developed for various different operating systems and hardware to all be run in the same shared computing environment. The CCSv3 was developed by DE&S and BAE Systems as system designers and Babcock Marine as the support integrator. Dell provided the hardware based on PowerEdge COTS server technology while Aish Technologies developed and provided the ‘Common Enclosure’ cabinet designed to protect the shared computing equipment in harsh environments and also save space on-board. The VMWare company provides the virtualisation product. A further development was the introduction of MFCs, boosting operational versality as the latter are capable to being utilised for any sub-systems. Following on from the ARTFUL platform, the CCSv3 was refitted to earlier in-service, introduced to the new-build ASTUTE class submarines and are planned to equip the VANGUARD class SSBNs during the life-extension programme and future replacement platforms under the Dreadnought Programme.

Joint Development at the Heart

The Saab Kockums A26 submarine control room (Photo: Saab Kockums)

In April 2016, Naval Group was selected as Platform Systems Integrator for the Australian MoD’s SEA 1000 Future Submarine Programme to design the platform for the Australian Navy’s ATTACK class, offering the conventional SHORTFIN BARRACUDA variant. The Submarine Design Contract for the SEA 1000 Programme for 12 new platforms and life-management support for more than US$50Bn was signed in March 2019. Key strategic requirements for the Future Submarine have been indicated in a range and endurance similar to the COLLINS class platforms in-service with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), stealth and sensor performance superior to the COLLINS class and a combat system based on upgraded versions of AN/BYG-1 combat system and the Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo, both already installed on board the COLLINS class platforms.
This programme seeks to ensure that the Australian industrial capability necessary to support the build and operation of the future submarine is established. This will involve maximising the involvement of Australian industry in all phases of the programme without compromising capability, cost or time frame. The design of the future submarine has already commenced, with construction due to begin in 2022-23 at the Submarine Construction Yard, Osborne, South Australia. The first future submarine named HMAS ATTACK is expected to enter service in the early 2030’s with construction of the last submarine anticipated in the 2050s with sustainment continuing until the 2080s.

A new iteration of Common Combat System (CCS) is planned to equip the VANGUARD SSBN during the life-extension programme. (Photo: BAE Systems)

Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) was selected as the Future Submarine Combat System Integrator in September 2016 and the Design Build and Integration Contract was signed in January 2018. LMA will supply the AN/BYG-1 combat control system (CCS), which provides an open-architecture submarine combat control system for analysing and tracking submarine and surface-ship contacts, providing situational awareness as well as the capability to target and employ unspecified missiles and Mk 48 torpedoes. Both the latter and the AN/BYG-1 combat control system are two Armaments Cooperative Programmes (ACP) between the Australian and the US Departments of Defence, and renegotiations for follow-on Memorandums of Understanding are ongoing for the fiscal period 2020-34. According to the US Navy, the AN/BYG-1 CCS ACP agreement provides significant R&D, production and sustained savings for both the RAN and the US Navy. The US Navy added that the joint development of AN/BYG-1 has produced rapid innovation and increased capability for both navies, while allowing for better cooperation and strengthened alliances in support of National Maritime Defence. Cooperation extends to both in-service modernisations and the common development of new construction platform combat systems.

The COLLINS class submarine control room before AN/BYG-1 installation (Photo: Australian MoD)

Currently, the AN/BYG-1 and CBASS (Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System) Mk 48 torpedoes are on all six RAN COLLINS class submarines, all US Navy attack (SSN) and guided missile submarines (SSGN) and are being installed on fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). Lockheed Martin has also been technological partner of Navantia group for the S-80 Plus Core Combat System Programme involving mainly SAES company.

Luca Peruzzi