NAVSEA’s Moore: Navy ‘Entering Age of Electric Ships’
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is entering an era of high power demand and high-powered distribution on its ships, according to the head of the Navy’s ship design and maintenance command, who also said the development would require an increase in engineers with the skills to design such ships.
“We are entering an age of electric ships,” Vice Adm. Thomas J. Moore, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), told an audience Feb. 15 at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ Technology, Systems & Ships conference.
The commissioning last year of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt highlighted the advent of a warship with an integrated power system, and the recent deployment of a laser weapon and the ongoing development of an electromagnetic rail gun foreshadow the need for more electric power on warships.
“Advanced induction motors and electric drive is where we’re heading,” Moore said.
Describing the history of NAVSEA’s workforce since the Reagan build-up of the 1980s, Moore said the number of NAVSEA’s ship design and engineering workforce in 1990 was 1,292, when the fleet fielded 586 ships. In 2005, with a fleet of less than 290 ships, the ship design workforce had dropped to 251 personnel. Now there are 500 ship design personnel, with a growth potential to 750 by 2025.
To get to 355 ships [as recommended by the recent Force Structure Assessment], “we’re clearly going to need more [people],” Moore said. We “need to get back [to a level of] 1,300 people. The size of NAVSEA is going to have to get bigger.”
He added that NAVSEA needs more depth in its engineer force’s skills to handle the increased demand for ships with integrated power systems.
Moore also said the Navy is shifting back to procurement-based specifications, and away from performance-based specifications in which the industry was given requirements and asked to design a solution.
Moore acknowledged the challenges that such first-of-class ships as the first two littoral combat ships (LCSs), the LPD 17 amphibious platform dock ship, the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier and the Zumwalt-class destroyer, but noted that the Navy is seeing a lot of improved reliability in the LCS and that the LPD 17 gets constant praise from the Marine Corps. He read to the audience excerpts from gloomy press reports of a “black hole” program before pointing out that they were describing the now highly successful Arleigh Burke-class destroyer program.
Moore likened the Zumwalt class, of which three are being built, to the Seawolf attack submarine program, of which only three were built, noting that the Seawolf became highly successful and produced lessons that resulted in the superb Virginia-class submarine. He believes that the Zumwalts will result in “a better product going forward” in the next future surface combatant.
Zumwalt, which arrived in San Diego in December, is scheduled to resume sea trials next week, including tests of its Multi-Function Radar and other parts of its combat systems.