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Navy ship the USS Ford is set for an upgrade of the ship’s defense weapons

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USS Gerald Ford: The latest warship in the Navy fleet

A look at some of the state-of-the-art features in the USS Gerald Ford, the latest warship in the Navy and the impressive fleet

The Navy is now integrating and preparing weapon systems for the advanced Ford aircraft carrier during a period of 12 months, the so-called Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA)—one of a number of important final steps designed to prepare the ship ocean warfare when the ship puts in 2022.

While the Ford electromagnetic catapult, larger deck space and nuclear technology are strongly emphasized in the public discussion of the ship of the newer technologies, layered ship defense, his commander proportionate development of the attention – given the global threat environment.

This includes efforts to in the latest interceptor missiles and close-range weapons, such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Block 2 (ESSM) and the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).

Therefore, in addition to the more highlighted items for the PSA, such as the advanced weapons elevator and advanced arresting gear upgrades, the preparation of ship defense for implementation will also function as an indispensable element of the Marine strategy for the Ford-class.

“The planned 12 months PSA/SRA will install the remaining combat systems, to complete deferred works and the correct remaining discrepancies during sea trials and shakedown,” William Bank, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman told the Warrior Maven.

The PSA is intended to build on the lessons and the adjustments resulting from the previous test.

The crew of the ship is “running post-delivery test and trial activities in which the design and construction of problems. They are very effective in identifying any problems at an early stage, which helps us address for the return of the fleet.” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a published Navy statement.

During testing and development phases immediately prior to the start of the PSA, Ford successfully completed fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft integration and compatibility testing, air traffic control center certification and JP-5 fuel system certification, the Bank added in the statement.

The demonstration of the ship’s defensive systems was also an essential part of these preparations for the PSA. While the carriers often travel in the Carrier Strike Groups, protected by cruisers and destroyers, the platforms are increasingly being viewed as vessels in need of their own biological defensive weapons.

This is particularly true in light of the often discussed threats from the Chinese DF-21D “carrier killer,” a long-range anti-ship guided missile is reported to achieve ranges of more than 900 km.

There has been much discussion about how the USS Ford’s massively-increased on-board power technology, driven by four 26-megawatt generators, will be possible to be able to new weapons, such as the defensive lasers and railguns.

In the near term, however, the USS Ford will use the PSA to solidify the integration of the different upgraded ship defense weapons.

“In addition to that more than 75 combat aircraft, the USS Ford has some serious destructive capabilities. Engineers and designers included ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), and a Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS,” a report of Engineering.com writes.

Upgrade Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile

The USS Ford is expected to implement with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2, or ESSM, is a weapon designed to track and destroy incoming enemy supersonic missiles and anti-ship missiles, among other threats.

The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can improved flight or guidance to the target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, Marine and industry ESSM developers told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.

The current ESSM missiles use of a so-called semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2 “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built on the rocket itself that it both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

A sailing illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

The emerging rocket has an ‘active’ front-end, which means that it can send a magnetic signal to track a maneuvering target, sometimes without a ship-based illuminator for guidance.

Also the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface sea-skimming or diving in on a target from a greater height, Navy officials explained.

Phalanx Close in Weapons System

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon designed to be a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, the destruction or the beat of enemy fire from the sky for the reach of a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, is the protection of the ship platforms for decades.

CWIS spruce 20 mm Vulcan cannon mounted on a swivel base. An essay in naval forces magazine called “CIWS – the Last-Ditch Defense,” further remarks that the weapon fires “armor piercing tungsten penetrater rounds with discarding sabots.” CIWS fires a M61A1 Gatling gun out of reach of 3 km.

Navy officials say that the latest CIWS Block IB ships provides the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary wing, aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

A CIWS overhaul in the past few years has consisted of a large number of upgrades of the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system, called the Phalanx CIWS Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration includes a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (GBD) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC).

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer.

The DAB/ELC combine tighter dispersion and increased first hit range, a Marine official added. The Phalanx 1B fires Mk 244 ammunition, using the Enhanced Lethality Cartridge specifically designed to penetrate anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Mk 244 ammunition is designed with a 48 percent heavier tungsten penetrator and an aluminum nose piece, according to information from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

The Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade is a new digital radar that offers improved detection performance, greater reliability and a reduction in sailor man-hours for system maintenance, developers said.

The Baseline 2 upgrade mitigates obsolete components inherent in the existing analog radar by introducing COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) processing of the signal in combination with a new signal source and mixer.

CIWS uses “Ku-band radar featuring closed-loop spotting technology capable of autonomously performing its own search, detect, evaluation, track, engage and kill assessment functions,” the navy essay writing.

The Baseline 2 radar also provides the Phalanx CIWS with the “surface-mode”, means it adds the ability to track, detect and then destroy threats closer to the surface of the water compared to the previous models of the weapon, the developers explained.

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