Managing Modernization
A Fleet First Perspective

by Capt. Ken Perry

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Contact management displays on USS Virginia (SSN-774)
Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class James Pinsky

The true measure of advanced processing build's (APB) success is not how much capability we build into a new sonar or combat system, it's how much capability our crews get out of the new systems.
—Capt. Ken Perry
Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE

Commander Submarine Force (SUBFOR) and the Undersea Enterprise are recognized as Navy leaders in harnessing commercial technology and open architecture for improved mission capability. The latest Sonar and Combat Control systems deliver real gains in display quality, faster processing, and better integrated tactical pictures. As Capt. Jim Stevens emphasizes in his article in this edition of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine, keeping pace with technology is smart for the warfighter and a smart use of resources.

Keeping pace with technology is an operational imperative: we need the world’s most advanced capabilities to deal with the world’s biggest set of Submarine Force missions, in the world’s most global undersea operations, against arguably history’s broadest range of threats. But the true measure of advanced processing build’s (APB) success is not how much capability we build into a new sonar or combat system, it’s how much capability our crews get out of the new systems.

Keeping pace with technology makes good operational and programmatic sense, but it also poses big challenges for submarine crews who must build and re-build operational proficiency on new systems. To ensure our crews are fully supported in understanding and employing their new systems, partners throughout the Undersea Enterprise must work together to deliver ready equipment, clear documentation, sound employment guidance, and effective training for every tactical system installation. Systems must be adequately tested to ensure they meet performance criteria and are technically compatible with existing ship systems before they are installed on fleet boats. System employment manuals, integrated electronic technical manuals, and other doctrine must be adequate in scope to address new system concepts, tailored for fleet sailors, and delivered in time to support crew training before the new system is scheduled to be employed at sea. Finally, training resources—including time—must be fully ready to support new systems so that the crew can train effectively.

Submariners lead the fleet in understanding and employing advanced technologies. Every commanding officer (CO) returning from a successful mission credits a measure of his crew’s effectiveness to the enhanced capabilities made possible by well designed new gear. But the fleet has also voiced concerns about the APB process. Reliability of new processors; interface issues between new tactical equipment and existing ship systems; unclear or incomplete employment guidance or technical documentation; and lack of training support for newly installed gear are some of the gaps that keep crews from realizing the full capabilities of new hardware or a new program build. For some tactical system modernizations in recent years, the ship and crew have paid a big part of the “bill” to make the new installs work the way they were designed.

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USS Nevada (SSBN-733)(G) navigator Lt. Andrew Ring evaluates the contact picture on AIS.
U.S. Navy photo

Keeping Doctrine on Pace with Technology: System Employment Manuals (SEM) and Interactive Electronic Tech Manuals (IETM)

As we deal with the pace of technology, it is tempting to look back at legacy systems as “the good old days.” They were not. In the 1980s, few ship drivers were complaining about the pace of modern technology or multiple system configurations. Instead we were frustrated by obsolete technology which limited our ability to deal with expanding missions and changing threats. We do not want to go back to legacy “closed architecture” systems; we want to move the APB process forward to deal with a new set of challenges.

By definition, the APB process results in changes to tactical systems. These changes lead to changes in system employment which, in turn, require updated system employment guidance and updated training. As the recognized Navy leaders in exploiting commercial technology and open architecture, SUBFOR and Undersea Enterprise have focused major resources on developing, testing, and installing new systems. Now, as the APB process matures, we recognize a need for greater collaboration among system developers, installers, doctrine writers, and trainers to prepare the ship and crew for employment of the new systems. In a properly balanced approach, all of the following elements are synchronized for delivery on or before the system is installed on the ship:
1) appropriate documentation to support maintenance, logistics, information assurance, and other compliance requirements;
2) system employment guidance; and
3) training resources to build crew proficiency on the new capabilities.

Technology, documentation, doctrine, and training all must be delivered ready and in time to support system employment and crew readiness. In the case of doctrine, the system employment and technical manuals are evolving to deal with the pace of change and to meet the needs of fleet Sailors. In 2007, Commander, Submarine Force (COMSUBFOR) issued the Submarine Force Doctrine Strategy to make system documentation more coherent for tactical decision makers and system operators. Specifically, the strategy specifies a System Employment Manual (SEM) and a complementary Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (IETM) for new tactical systems.

System Employment Manual (SEM): Geared to inform the CO and his watch team leaders in the use of tactical systems. A ready reference for CO/officer of the deck (OOD) in representative operating conditions and tactical situations. The SEM is written by Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE (DEVRON-12).

Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (IETM): The IETM provides detailed information and procedures for the system operator. This includes traditional troubleshooting and maintenance guides, functionality descriptions, “navaids” for the graphical user interface (GUI), system operation, and hierarchy of dropdown menus. IETMs are the responsibility of the system developer.

DEVRON-12 has issued SEMs to cover coustic rapid COTS insertion (ARCI) sonar builds APB-03, 04, 05, and 06 (including APB-03 on the Virginia-class), and for the BYG-1 combat system for APB-05 and 06. The program offices have delivered IETMs which meet the desires of the Submarine Force Doctrine Strategy starting with APB-05 for the BYG-1 and APB-06 for the ARCI Sonar.

Building the Future: Fleet Involvement Pays Off

The Submarine Force has driven the content of all APBs. Beginning with the earliest program builds, teams of Acoustic Intelligence Specialists (ACINTS) provided input to develop improved sonar systems. Later, we brought in our Fire Control Master Chiefs to help shape the AN/BYG-1 combat system. Together these teams, now known as Concept of Operations Support Groups (COSGs) work to build systems with additional features, advanced tools, and improved displays to make operators more effective.

It is important that, in pursuing advanced tactical capabilities, we maintain a fleet-first perspective. The U.S. Submarine Fleet values advanced technology as a force multiplier. But the introduction of even “small” new features and new displays aboard a ship can sometimes add unnecessary overhead to the crew’s training load (where IS that ZOOM button now?!). As there is value in keeping pace with technology, there is also value in stabilizing baseline employment principles to help control the training “cost” to the ships. As a result of fleet feedback, we’ve increased the involvement of officers with shipdriving and command experience in the design decisions and technical performance evaluations for new systems to help us strike a healthy balance between system modernization and stability.

A great example of fleet-Enterprise partnership, to address top tactical priorities, is a first-of-kind fusion display called Integrated Battlespace Awareness Layout (I-BAL). During 2006 and into 2007, as APB-07 was in development, the top SUBFOR priorities included CO Decision Making and Situational Awareness/Collision Avoidance. In direct pursuit of these priorities, DEVRON 12 developed a display concept that integrates real-time sonar waterfall data with active contact solutions to provide CO and OOD with a more intuitive, actionable tactical picture. System developers transformed the concept from a white-board drawing to a working prototype and the result is I-BAL (“eyeball”), a 360-degree PPI-type display specifically designed for the shipdriver. IBAL fuses real sensor data (the kind every submarine driver demands) with active contact solutions (AIS, radar, periscope observations, high confidence sonar targets). I-BAL doesn’t display more data, it displays key data in a more intutitve, coherent, and actionable way. Beta tests with OODs, COs, and tactical teams from both Lant and Pac have provided valuable and positive feedback and DEVRON is shooting for installation—with employment guidance and training—in 2008!

Fleet-first Perspective: the Key to a Solid Return

The Submarine Force has established itself as the Navy leader in modernizing tactical capabilities within a sound business model. As with all complex processes, there is room for improvement. From the fleet’s perspective, the operational return on the TI/APB investment will be realized when the new installs are fully compatible with existing ship systems; documentation supports maintenance, logistics, and compliance requirements; employment guidance clearly informs tactical decision makers and system operators; and training resources enable crew readiness—all when the new system is installed. SUBFOR and Undersea Enterprise leaders are committed to the success of modernization, and keeping a fleet-first perspective throughout the modernization process which will improve our “return” at sea, where it matters most.

Capt. Ken Perry is the commodore of Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE.

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With the increased use of advanced technology, the training at King’s Bay’s Trident Submarine Training Facility has become more valuable.
U.S. Navy photo


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