PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE: April 2007 to April 2011
The requirements for the next generation shipboard communications equipment needed to support multiple mission scenarios include performing the following roles: intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, mine hunting, interdiction of enemy ships, and the transportation of personnel. The philosophy of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is centered on the concept of a reconfigurable platform that will be utilized to counter anti-access littoral threats. In order to meet the various mission requirements of the LCS, electronic communications equipment tailored for a particular mission will be installed on the ship. This presents a problem for interfacing to the various antennas mounted on the ship. The real estate on the ship is limited, and it is not possible to mount every antenna that is required for each possible frequency range and application. It is, therefore, necessary to develop an antenna system that makes use of fewer antennas. Additionally, an electronics interface which can be rapidly reconfigured for a specific mission is required. The objective of Phase 2 of this project was to focus on the development of key technologies that will lead to significant reduction in cost and the number of antennas needed to support LCS mission requirements.
This project developed key technologies that will lead to a 4:1 reduction in the number of VHF/UHF communication antennas needed, with minimal or no performance degradation. A proof-of-concept Antenna Combining prototype was developed and tested. The cost savings associated with this technology includes equipment costs (reduced antennas, RF Cabling, RF Power Amplifiers, and RF Switching) and labor savings (ship’s cable pulling, terminating, and testing). Estimated cost savings achieved by integration of the flexible antenna system was approximately $660K per ship. Implementation of the system would reduce the antenna farm from 26 to as few as 5 antennas.
With this technology, the ship will be capable of accommodating new mission package, VHF/UHF communications requirements without the costly process of having to redesign the ship’s topside, because no new antennas would be needed. Reducing the antenna count will decrease the maintenance burden of the LCS communications system. A topside weight reduction will also be achieved as fewer antennas will be mounted on the antenna mast.
LCS Flight 0+, which includes up to 15 ships that will be awarded annually from 2010 to 2014, has been identified as the primary insertion target for this technology. This Antenna Combining system has been targeted for integration on the ships awarded in FY12 and beyond. This project yielded a demonstrator comprised of an electrical prototype of the desired hardware that exhibited near form-fit factor of the desired final design. Other programs with flexible communications needs could also benefit from the techniques developed in this effort.