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Antenna Aids Navy, Pays Tribute to Attacked Ship

November 15, 2010
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Connections
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Part of the USS Cole has found new life in a field in New Jersey. Engineers at the Vice Adm. James H. Doyle Jr. Combat System Engineering Development Site (CSEDS) Aegis Technical Representative (TECHREP) in Moorestown refurbished the SPY-1B/D antenna that was installed on the ship when it was attacked by terrorists in 2000. The reworking provides necessary capability to the landlocked facility, and it serves as a reminder to local personnel of the sacrifices made by those onboard the Cole.

The vessel's radar antenna replaces the engineering development model (EDM) array that had been installed at the CSEDS approximately 20 years ago. The development model served as a prototype for production arrays, which meant it contained a number of exclusive pieces. "Because these components are one-of-a-kind, no spares exist to correct failures," Bob LaPlume, Aegis TECHREP production lead, explains. "Each failed component had to be repaired, and if not repairable, it had to be scrapped."

That process leads to diminished manufacturing sources (DMS), or in layman's terms, an obsolescence of parts. "We were hitting the DMS wall as the components aged," LaPlume says. "This drove some computer program testing to be done at other sites, which adds cost and schedule [time]. It is for these two reasons that the idea of refurbishing the Cole array came to be. Having a true production array solves both issues." It also added functionality to the site, because the previous version did not have the full capability of a production SPY-1B/D antenna.

Work on the actual refurbishment of the Cole array took approximately six months to complete. At the beginning, when the antenna came out of storage, engineers were unsure of the state of the equipment. After disassembling it methodically to determine what parts needed repair or replacement, they were surprised by the minimal amount of damage to the internal portions of the antenna.

Installing the new array solved obsolescence issues for the CSEDS as well as increased fidelity for the programs using the antenna. Other benefits to the Navy include cost and time savings for work that had to be performed away from the CSEDS and reduction of the risk of downtime associated with EDM failures.

LaPlume says he has not heard of any reuse at a similar level in the Navy. However, the sea service does have components from decommissioned ships that are verified and placed in the supply chain for reuse. LaPlume explains the reason the site in Moorestown took advantage of those offerings: "It was sitting in the warehouse with no plans of use, which may have driven a disposition decision, and it was already a Navy asset, so we put it to use." Whether or not this type of activity can become a model in the future will depend on the specific case, he adds. "As technology improves, the need for legacy components will diminish as upgrades on the ships occur. But the equipment removed from ships being upgraded can be used to support ships awaiting upgrade," LaPlume says.

The refurbishment and installation process was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. LaPlume says the government, military and industry team involved in the project are proud of their work and accomplishments, but the pride goes deeper. The personnel involved also feel honored to have taken part in what now stands in memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.