Northrop-Raytheon team wins contract for next generation ships

The Navy's contract with Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co. to develop the next generation surface combat ship will push new technologies in the areas of command and control, communications, data sharing and surveillance and recognizance.

The Northrop-Raytheon team, known as the Gold Team, was picked April 29 for the four-year, $2.9 billion contract over the Blue Team, which was lead by General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. Both General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin will now join the Gold Team as subcontractors.

The contract, known as DD(X) design agent, is for the development of a new family of ships that can operate with smaller crews and will use technologies to avoid radar detection, share information and communicate more effectively.

Rear Adm. Philip Balisle described the DD(X) ships as being "netted" together, a reference to the Department of Defense's push for network-centric warfare, where combat systems are electronically connected to share data and command and control functions.

"The award of the DD(X) design agent contract signals the start of the revolution of the Navy's surface combatant fleet, with the development of transformation technologies that will create new capabilities while reducing crew size," said John Young Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

Crew sizes for the new ships will drop from 300 to 125 and eventually 95 as automation, the computing environment and other features mature, Young said.

The DD(X) program is expected to follow a pattern set by the Aegis program that developed much of the technology used on current combat ships, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of the market research firm Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

The Aegis program brought advanced electronics, communications, missile defense and data sharing capabilities to Navy ships. "If you look at DD(X) as the next generation of that, we are going to see a whole lot more in those areas," he said.

The program will increase interoperability between different combat systems as well as with other branches of the service. The Department of Defense will increase its ability to collect and share data with DD(X) program, Bjorklund said.

The ships will be able to collect and share data from multiple sources, including airplanes, satellites and land-based systems.

"The collection and sharing of data is going to be pretty mind boggling," he said.

Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles, will provide ship design and development. Raytheon, Lexington, Mass., is the mission systems integrator, which covers areas such as radar, communications and command and control.

Other teammates include the Boeing Co., Chicago, Sun Microsystems Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., and United Defense LP., Arlington, Va. The Gold Team has about 30 members.

Navy officials described the competition between the Gold and Blue teams as very close, but a couple design elements in the Northrop-Raytheon proposal pushed the competition in that team's favor.

The Navyt particularly liked the Gold Team's inclusion of two helicopter pads and a boat launch that could be used for special operations vessels, Young said.

Once the design and prototype phase is completed, the Navy will hold a competition for construction of a DD(X) destroyer. A cruiser also will be developed as well as a littoral combat ship.

The shipbuilding program could be worth $60 billion over 25 years, according to published reports.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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