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The US Navy’s accelerated integration plan of new commercial hardware and software into its submarine fleet is suited for the technologies woven into the Virginia class of attack submarines. These submarines are being upgraded with a new Tactical Control System (TCS) to provide weapons control, improved network subsystems, and other critical technologies, a recent Pentagon announcement said.
According to defensesystems.com, the TCS portion of BYG-1 (a weapon control system) integrates sensor inputs to provide a common operational picture and enhance information assurance for attack and guided missile submarines. A key reason for the integration into the Virginia class submarines is because the newer submarines rely heavily on computer technology, automation and advanced sensors. The new technology is designed to exploit the power of sonar, electronic support measures, radar, navigation, periscopes and communication.
According to the Navy, TCS makes use of advanced equipment through commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology and upgrades it with a practice called Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion. “By adapting off-the-shelf technology, the Navy and its contractors are able to put to use the latest commercial advances while saving money. The commercial sector typically leads the military in fielding cutting-edge electronics, so it makes sense to leverage what’s available in the marketplace in support of naval needs,” said Loren Thompson, Chief Operating Officer at Lexington Institute, a public-policy think tank headquartered in Arlington.
Commercially developed software and information are provided openly and freely to the TCS development community of contractors, laboratories, and universities as well as other DoD organizations and partners. Throughout each development and integration cycle, which takes place on a biennial schedule, the software and system design information is provided.
This is designed to allow frequent evaluation and testing by the end user.
Compared to older Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles class, the Virginia class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said. The submarines are designed with “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator. With this technology, a human operator will order depth and speed, allowing software to direct the movement of the planes and rudder to maintain course and depth.