The guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill was the first in
the fleet to receive the Advanced Capability Build 08 —
also known as the Cruiser Modernization Program — that
overhauled the ship’s computers with an open-architecture
system that is more flexible and easily upgradeable.
Network (NGEN). NGEN represents the future vision
of the shore-based enterprise network for the Navy and
is the follow-on to Navy-Marine Corps Intranet,
according to the Navy.
The service will continue to take this approach as
future programs approach gate reviews, Benedict said.
“That’s how we’re trying to do it so it’s not an afterthought,” he said.
Jim Sheridan, director of Navy Aegis programs for
Aegis Weapon System manufacturer Lockheed Martin,
said the best way to change the culture toward focusing on open architecture is to make it an essential part
of the effort from the start.
“You get everybody involved by saying this is the
way we’re doing business and this is the way we write
our processes and procedures,” he said.
Lockheed’s cruiser and destroyer Aegis Weapon
System modernization program has been one of the
highlights in moving open architecture from concept
to reality. Last February, Lockheed wrapped up modernization of the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker
Hill, the first in the fleet to receive Advanced
Capability Build 08 (ACB-08) — also known as the
Cruiser Modernization Program — that overhauls the
ship’s 1970s-era computers with COTS systems such as
the IBM BladeCenter, according to Sheridan.
“ACB-08 is certified and ready to go to sea,” he said.
Two other cruisers will receive the ACB-08 modernization, he said.
ACB-08 will be followed by ACB- 12 — or the
Destroyer Modernization Program — a more extensive
upgrade that will be expanded to the rest of the cruiser and destroyer fleet and “builds off the Cruiser
Modernization foundation, incorporating additional
COTS technologies and combat system upgrades,” as
well as, in many cases, the latest version of the Aegis
Ballistic Missile Defense System, according to a
description of the system on Lockheed’s Web site.
After installation on Bunker Hill, open architecture
showed a number of advantages, including the ability
of crews to find and fix problems that show up in testing much more quickly, Sheridan said.
“We would have a test shot in the morning, and we
would have a fix back on the floor and verified when we
went back out and tested in the afternoon — that was
unprecedented,” he said, noting that in the past analysts
would have to come in and try to figure out the problem
in what he characterized as an “Easter egg hunt.”
“You’re looking for a needle in a much smaller
haystack,” he said.
Beyond the advantages of a more easily upgradeable
and flexible system, open architecture has allowed
prime contractors to take advantage of small business
innovations, dipping into a wider knowledge pool than
was available in the past.
“The small business partners we have in program, I
think that’s where you really find the benefits of open
architecture,” Sheridan said. “We’re proud of our role as a
platform systems engineering agent, but open architecture
allows us to bring to bear some of these niche players.”
The approach to bring open architecture to the fleet
will differ with every platform. The Aegis Weapon
System is a legacy platform that required an overhaul,
whereas new programs such as the DDG 1000 destroyer
will be built from the ground up with open architecture.
“Some [platforms] are more open than others,”
Benedict said. “New systems that are starting with
clean sheets of paper [versus] systems like Aegis,
which have been evolved over many years, are going to
take longer to get to a true open state.”
Surface ships have received much of the focus, but
open architecture efforts are expanding into the world
of aircraft, particularly the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye,
P-8A Poseidon and unmanned systems, as well as in
the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System.
Improvements also are being made to submarines.
The Navy plans to look at all programs for the potential to open up systems, reduce costs and increase flexibility. There still is much work to be done to bring open
architecture into the mainstream, Benedict said, and
there will be different challenges and varying ways with
which it will be applied to Navy platforms.
But the ultimate fleet-wide goal is simple: “We want
to get into a position where we can disassociate software from hardware,” he said. ■