Networked Warships Open New Horizons

October 15, 2009
By Henry S. Kenyon


Australia’s new Hobart-class air warfare destroyers (AWDs) will provide amphibious task forces with protection against aircraft and missile attacks. The Royal Australian Navy’s first ship to be equipped with the Aegis weapons system is the HMAS Hobart, scheduled to enter service in 2014.

Advanced sensors, command and control systems will provide new Australian warships with operational advantages.

The Royal Australian Navy is building its first warship designed around a state-of-the-art radar and battle management system that will allow the vessels to share critical information with allied ships. A key part of the system is a phased array radar capable of detecting and identifying airborne targets, from aircraft to incoming missiles, at long distances. Once a threat is identified, the ship’s battery of vertically launched missiles will engage it.

The ship is part of the Hobart-class air warfare destroyers (AWDs) being manufactured under the SEA 4000 AWD program. Australian government officials report that the Hobart-class AWDs are the most complex warships ever built by the Australian Navy. The three ships, in order of their construction, are: the HMAS Hobart, HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Sydney. The HMAS Hobart is scheduled for delivery in 2014.

Designed for long-range operations across the Pacific, the ships will be large—146 meters long with a displacement of 6,250 tons—and will carry a crew of approximately 180 to 200. The AWD’s main mission is to defend amphibious task forces from air and missile attack by detecting and engaging airborne targets at ranges of more than 150 kilometers. The Hobart-class vessels also will be tasked with supporting land forces in coastal areas and friendly aircraft operating around task forces.

As multipurpose warships, the AWDs will be equipped with antisubmarine and anti-ship capabilities. The ship’s various U.S.- and European-designed combat systems are being modified to meet Australian specifications, and selected upgrades will be unique to the Hobart class. These modifications include more efficient and powerful diesel engines than the European design on which the AWD is based, with improved fuel tank arrangements for increased range; a bow thruster for enhanced maneuverability in harbors; improvements to at-sea replenishment processes to enhance crew manpower efficiencies; changes to the ships’ funnel tops to improve air wake; and increased bunk size for improved habitability.

The Hobart-class AWDs will be equipped with the Aegis weapon system baseline 7 and the AN/SPY-1D(V) phased array radar, which can track up to 100 airborne targets. Undersea warfare capabilities are built around an upgraded torpedo defense system consisting of antisubmarine warfare decoys, enhanced undersea communications to coordinate operations with friendly submarines and the addition of the MU90 torpedo. The AWDs also will carry a helicopter for antisubmarine warfare operations.

The core of the ships’ combat capabilities is built around the Aegis radar and battle management system, the Mark 41 vertical launch system and the Standard Missile (SM)-2, which can intercept both aircraft and missiles. The ships also will be equipped with a naval gun capable of firing extended-range munitions to support land forces and anti-ship missiles. The AWD’s design is based on the Spanish Alvaro de Bazan F-100 class of air defense frigates. To meet operational requirements, the Australian government wanted a highly capable air warfare system for its new warships, says Kenneth Webb, Lockheed Martin’s Australian programs director, Moorestown, New Jersey. Lockheed Martin is responsible for installing the Aegis system in the Hobart-class ships. Webb notes that the Australian government chose Aegis after assessing the air defense systems available on the world market.

The AWDs will be fitted with the latest version of Aegis and will be the first ships in the Royal Australian Navy to be equipped with the radar and combat system, Webb explains. Aegis currently is installed on U.S., Japanese, South Korean, Spanish and Norwegian warships. The Aegis system also can be upgraded to intercept theater ballistic missiles. U.S. and Japanese ships currently have this capability (SIGNAL Magazine, March 2008).

Installation of the radar is tied closely to the shipbuilding schedule. Webb explains that the ship is designed around the Aegis combat system. He shares that Australia chose the Spanish F-100 frigate because it is designed specifically as an Aegis warship.

Another reason the Australian government chose Aegis was its ability to interoperate and share data with U.S. and coalition warships. The system has an inherent datalink capability.

The latest version of Aegis is built around an open-architecture software system operating commercially available programs. “They’re getting the latest system out there,” Webb says. The Aegis version that will equip the Australian AWDs is derived from an upgraded system installed on the missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill.

A software architecture using commercially derived applications also provides various advantages to the latest version of Aegis through system upgrades and interoperability. Webb notes that the ability to modify or replace system software quickly and inexpensively increases the weapon system’s operational effectiveness and also serves to reduce operating costs.

One commercially available software program that will operate on Hobart-class ships is a systems management application developed by GoAhead Software. Aegis is a compilation of tactical weapons systems, explains Tyson Moler, GoAhead’s aerospace and defense program lead, Austin, Texas. He notes that Lockheed Martin developed the open-architecture system manager as part of the Aegis open-architecture system program, which is being used in the latest design baselines.

GoAhead’s product resides in the open architecture system manager and provides resource management services for the ship’s tactical subsystems. It is designed to maintain continuous service availability under all conditions.

Moler explains that GoAhead’s software is a type of commercial middleware that monitors the health and performance of a system at all levels: the hardware, operating system and application. When a fault or performance degradation is detected—based on the system modeling, redundancy and recovery policies developed by integrators such as Lockheed Martin—the middleware can recover from a fault in sub-second manner while transferring all current data to a standby system to maintain continuous service, thus preventing data glitches or interruptions of service.


The Hobart class’s Aegis weapons system will allow the AWDs to share data with other Australian and allied warships. The Aegis system’s radar enables warships to detect and classify up to 100 airborne targets simultaneously and to engage them at distances up to 150 kilometers away.

“Middleware is definitely not sexy. It can be a tough concept to grasp how middleware actually works within a system, but it’s critically important,” Moler says. He adds that a variety of middleware applications exist, such as the company’s high-availability system, messaging middleware and other applications. Having commercial middleware become a standards-based product is important not only to the U.S. Navy, but also internationally, he says.

As a part of the Aegis’ open-architecture system manager, GoAhead’s resource management application is deployed in a variety of U.S. warships such as the USS Bunker Hill. Moler notes that this ship recently completed tests of its upgraded combat systems under full operational conditions. He says that GoAhead is taking a similar approach to the Australian AWD program in terms of where its products fit within the Aegis system. Moler adds that the resource management software is relatively agnostic to the types of systems and applications that it supports. “We don’t actually have to understand that we’re dealing with a routing application for a telecom network or the tracking system for a SPY radar,” he says.

Although the middleware is not aware of the type of application, it provides system developers or integrators with the ability to model the entire system comprehensively and plan for any types of faults or performance degradation while maintaining continuous service.

The resource manager connects to the Aegis system via open-software applications. Moler explains that this prevents vendor lock-in. Lockheed Martin can choose multiple vendors if necessary because the system is flexible enough to accept a variety of commercial products. The open system can operate across a number of Aegis systems operating on international vessels such as Spanish and Australian warships.

In addition to working with Lockheed Martin, GoAhead also is working with the Australian Department of Defence and the Australian Defence, Science and Technology Organization on the AWD. Regarding the Hobart-class AWDs, Moler notes that other programs and organizations within the Australian Department of Defence are examining the command and control aspects of the vessel to determine how these systems can be applied to other platforms. Moler emphasizes that the Australian government is not reverse engineering Aegis. Instead, he says, the government is approaching firms where distinct components of the system can be supported by commercial products. Moler adds that his firm is working with the Department of Defence to develop prototypes of applications to provide combat-system-like functionality.

Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance:
Australian Department of Defence:
Lockheed Martin Aegis Weapon System:

New Ships for 21st Century Missions

Australia’s Hobart-class air warfare destroyers (AWDs) are designed to support Royal Australian Navy and coalition operations across the Pacific. The warships comprise features that support the national security goals of defending the nation’s coasts, and that ensure regional security by operating in the oceans around Australia. The key military mission of the AWDs is to reduce the fleet’s vulnerability to air attack with its AN/SPY-1 radar and Aegis weapons system, explains Cdre. Vincenzo E.B. Di Pietro, RAN, naval attaché with the Australian embassy, Washington, D.C.

Besides their air defense role, the three Hobart-class ships also will provide additional services such as force protection, collecting and evaluating intelligence, controlling surface and undersea environments, performing land attack missions, delivering strategic strike operations and enabling interoperability with coalition forces. This last feature is a key aspect of the AWDs, Cdre. Di Pietro says. The ships will be equipped with a command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) subsystem integrating the vessels into the Australian defense force’s communications and data infrastructure. This will enable seamless operation with coalition forces. He notes that jointness and integration are key parts of the military’s ability to respond to a variety of domestic, regional and global scenarios.

Cdre. Di Pietro explains that the AWD program is leveraging evolving technologies and processes to provide the ships with a network-centric warfare-enabled environment. This environment will allow the defense forces to gain information superiority, as well as tactical and strategic situational awareness for their air defense and task force command platforms. The technology at the heart of the AWD’s operational capability is the AN/SPY-1 air and surface radar for the Aegis weapons system. It is a multifunctional phased array radar capable of search, automatic detection, tracking of air and surface targets, and missile engagement support. Aegis-equipped ships typically feature four SPY-1 radar antennas covering 360 degrees and capable of detecting and simultaneously tracking hundreds of targets.

The SPY-1D radar antenna is a version of the SPY-1B installed aboard U.S. Ticonderoga-class cruisers that is tailored for destroyer-sized ships. The commodore notes that SPY-1D antennas are installed aboard U.S. DDG 51-class destroyers, Japanese Kongo-class destroyers, Spanish F-100-class frigates and South Korean KDX-class destroyers. Australia’s AWD’s will be equipped with an upgraded SPY-1D(V) radar optimized to detect low-altitude, reduced radar cross section targets in heavy clutter and electronic countermeasures environments.

Maintaining a common baseline Aegis system allows the Hobart-class ships to be interoperable with Australian, U.S. and coalition forces, Cdre. Di Pietro maintains. He adds that the technology also provides long-term access to U.S. Aegis architectural and technology development programs. These two Aegis-related considerations are critical to sustaining the AWDs’ military effectiveness and growing Australia’s indigenous combat system design and management capabilities, with the ultimate goal of national self-reliance, he says.

A key capability of the AWDs’ air defense and task group role is the cooperative engagement capability (CEC). The CEC is a system of hardware and software that allows ships to share radar data on airborne targets. Radar information from individual ships in a battle group is transmitted to other ships in the group. Data processing algorithms in the vessels’ cooperative engagement processors allow each ship to have the same display of track data on aircraft and missiles. The commodore explains that this capability permits a ship to launch an anti-aircraft or anti-ship missile based on radar data it receives from another ship.

The AWDs’ operating environment is dictated by Australia’s unique geographic and political situation. To perform their intended missions, the warships must be able to operate in waters ranging from the tropics to sub-Antarctic, in open oceans and littoral waters. These design considerations factor in Australia’s location as a continent bordering Asia to the north and the Indian and Pacific oceans to the west and east. These operational areas, with their large expanses of open water, require ships with extended range and endurance.

Cdre. Di Pietro observes that this environment also emphasizes particular combat system capabilities and introduces other requirements, such as submarine detection, naval fire support and surface defense against asymmetric threats. For surface warfare, the Hobart-class ships will be equipped with Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles with integrated satellite guidance and improved sensors for greater target selectivity in congested sea lanes and littoral environments. The warships also include an integrated very short range self-defense system and the Mark 34 gun weapon system firing a variety of guided and non-guided munitions. The ships also will support shore-based operations by providing precision land attack capabilities through its gun system.

Although its primary mission is air defense, the AWDs will be equipped with an anti-submarine warfare capability to detect submarines beyond torpedo firing range for both self-defense and to contribute to task force undersea warfare operations. The commodore remarks that the Hobart-class ships introduce two new capabilities to the Royal Australian Navy’s capabilities: a lower frequency sonar to provide longer detection ranges and enhanced torpedo self-defense through an integrated system providing commanders with tactical data.