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  The Australian submarine HMAS Waller
(SSG 75)
. Royal Australian Navy Photo.

by Team Submarine Public Affairs

Today's complex security environment places a premium on international partnerships and operations. The U.S. and Australian submarine forces are contributing to these combined efforts, not only in the manner in which they operate, but also through their unified approach to the development and fielding of shared undersea systems and assets. To that end, both navies operate the highly capable AN/BYG-1 Tactical and Weapons Control System, which enables a submarine to track, monitor and prosecute undersea and surface targets, and the MK48 Mod 7 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System (CBASS) Heavyweight Torpedo. The AN/BYG-1 and the MK48 ADCAP CBASS are unique among submarine systems in being jointly developed under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two governments.

"The MOU provides the framework for the United States Navy and Royal Australian Navy to continue our joint efforts in developing and acquiring the most advanced submarine combat and weapons control system and the best torpedo in the world," said Rear Adm. William Hilarides, who is the U.S. Navy's Program Executive Officer for Submarines.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Commonwealth of Australia DoD signed a ten-year MOU for the cooperative development of the MK48 ADCAP CBASS Torpedo on March 31, 2003, and a five-year MOU for the cooperative development of the AN/BYG-1 on Nov. 5, 2004. These MOUs allowed for the cooperative development, production, and support of the two vital submarine systems, while establishing a construct to develop joint requirements, allowing both countries' cooperative dollars to go further. By fielding this advanced combat system, the submarine forces are able to employ the MK48 ADCAP CBASS. Due to the success of the first MOU, both governments signed ten-year continuations for these two programs on Nov. 20 and Oct. 28, 2009, respectively. Under the current MOUs, the U.S. and Australian submarine forces will oversee the evolutionary updating of hardware and software systems to meet their requirements.

The AN/BYG-1 is the first submarine combat control system to rely predominantly on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and an open-architecture (OA) computing system; OA involves the use of public, consensus-based open standards, thereby providing an environment for stable, multi-vendor support. Combining COTS with OA allows the system to receive regular software and hardware upgrades at greatly reduced cost when compared to previous upgrade processes. Further, the AN/BYG-1's tactical and weapon control functions are segregated, allowing the Navy to upgrade one area without having to do a complete system test to ensure that the updates did not affect other areas of the system.

To provide regular capability and hardware upgrades to AN/BYG-1, the submarine forces utilize biennial technology insertions (TIs) and advanced processor builds (APBs), with each ship receiving, on average, every other TI/APB. The TI/APB process allows for the rapid introduction of new capabilities into the Fleet, allowing ships to remain "state of the practice" and reducing the logistical tail inherent with legacy systems. These submarine systems and the TI/APB process fall under the Submarine Warfare Federated Tactical System (SWFTS) business model. The SWFTS program covers all non-propulsion electronic systems—including, but not limited to, sonar, tactical control, weapon control, imaging, electronic warfare, the radio room, and torpedoes—and it applies to all attack submarine classes as well as the U.S. Navy's four Ohio-class SSGNs.

The latest variant of the MK48 heavyweight torpedo—the CBASS—utilizes existing torpedo bodies, warheads and upgraded propulsion plants, as well as providing much-improved sonar and increased processor capacity that is required to operate effectively in shallow waters, where the ambient noise and volume of contacts are greater than in the open ocean.

To execute the CBASS and AN/BYG-1 projects, the U.S. and Australian navies established Joint Project Offices (JPOs) in Washington, D.C. Unlike Foreign Military Sales (FMS), wherein one country buys military products from another, the countries operating within a JPO participate as full and active partners contributing to the development, testing, fielding, and post-delivery support of the product. An added benefit of both countries fielding the same combat control system and torpedoes is increased interoperability.

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Waller fired the first MK48 ADCAP CBASS warshot torpedo during RIMPAC 2008, sinking the ex-USS Fletcher (DD 992). U.S. Navy photo.

For instance, in a hypothetical wartime scenario, if the U.S. Navy were engaged in the Pacific and its deployed submarines ran low on torpedoes, they could pull into Australian submarine ports to reload. Similarly, if an Australian submarine were forward deployed and were experiencing issues with its AN/BYG-1, it could pull into a U.S. port for repairs. This significantly increases the potential range of submarines by increasing the support network for both countries' submarine forces. The success of the partnership was demonstrated on July 16, 2008, when the Australian submarine HMAS Waller (SSG 75) fired the first MK48 ADCAP CBASS warshot torpedo during that year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, sinking the ex-USS Fletcher (DD 992).

"The AN/BYG-1 and MK48 CBASS JPOs foster a mutually beneficial relationship with our partners in the U.S.," said Commodore Bronko Ogrizek, Director General for Submarines at the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation. "Both countries have made significant contributions to the programs' shared successes, and we look forward to an even closer partnership as the MOUs progress."

The AN/BYG-1 has been installed on three Collins-class diesel-electric submarines, one installation is currently underway, and the final two submarines of the class boats will receive the combat system in the coming years. The majority of the U.S. attack and guided missile submarine fleet is equipped with the AN/BYG-1 system, with the remaining upgrades currently being scheduled.

(Below) A MK48 ADCAP CBASS torpedo is loaded aboard Waller. Royal Australian Navy Photo.

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