Sprouting from the tops of warships like cactus needles, antennas and arrays are now so numerous that they interfere with each other. Combining them all into integrated systems is changing the look and performance of ships.
Modern warships, such as this Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, have a plethora of antennas, arrays, and other electronic systems on and around the superstructure.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Eli K. Buguey)
Modern naval surface vessels often bristle with a dizzying array of antennas, dishes, and other electronic emitters and receivers to meet radar, electronic warfare, information operations, and communications requirements. This has resulted in a host of compromises and problems, such as antenna blockage, electromagnetic interference, and increased ship radar cross section (a measure of a ship’s detectability by radar). There are also logistical issues because each individual system comes with its own set of requirements for training, maintenance, spare parts, repair personnel, and operators.
To address these issues, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has advanced a variety of enabling technologies, such as wideband apertures and amplifiers, multibeam-capable radio frequency (RF) chipsets, RF filters, packaging techniques, and cooling systems. These technologies were combined to create a common set of broad-band apertures, signal and data processing, signal generation, and display hardware. In 2004, the Advanced Multifunction Radio Frequency Concept used this common set to demonstrate that radar, electronic warfare, and communications functions could perform simultaneously.
The Multifunction Electronic Warfare Future Naval Capability program, which was the technology demonstrator for the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2, provided an enhanced electronic support capability by means of an upgraded antenna and receiver and an open combat system interface for the AN/SLQ-32—an electronic warfare system that provides powerful countermeasure protection for small and midsized surface ships. Success of both of these programs led to the Integrated Topside (InTop) innovative naval prototype program.
InTop reduces the number of stand-alone systems needed for sensors, electronic warfare, information operations, and communications. The first InTop prototype has transitioned to SEWIP Block 3 and will allow the AN/SLQ-32(V) system to outpace the threat while simultaneously providing multiple communication links and a frequency extension for the information operations community. InTop systems will provide unprecedented capability for dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum and the use of open architectures in delivering those capabilities provides continuous affordable upgrades through continued innovation and competition.