As new threats emerge and defense budgets shrink, the U.S Navy and allied nations are seeking a new breed of fighting ship—one that balances capability and affordability like never before. The ship of tomorrow is needed today, and it must have cutting-edge anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities.
A ship built for speed, survivability and multiple missions needs a combat system that is just as quick and adaptable. COMBATSS-21, is the Aegis-derived combat management system that will be integrated on all U.S. Navy littoral combat ships and frigates.
Initially developed for the Freedom-variant LCS, COMBATSS-21 is the backbone of the ship’s mission system and integrates the radar, electro-optical infrared cameras, gun fire control system, countermeasures and short-range anti-air missiles. Lockheed Martin partnered closely with the U.S. Navy to develop and integrate the scalable combat system for the next-generation surface fleet.
For decades, the Aegis Combat System has shielded sailors at sea and ashore from a wide range of missile attacks. As the Navy’s operations evolve, Aegis is also evolving to fit a variety of ships of all shapes and sizes that are completing critical missions such as:
- Anti-terrorism and force protection
- Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
- Mine warfare
- Homeland defense
- Special operations
- Maritime interdiction and interception.
Key Components of COMBATSS-21
Open architecture has become the touchstone for innovation and invention. Today, sailors are reaping the rewards of the common resources and commercial systems that open architecture offers. Open architecture has enabled increased responsiveness to the mission and increased collaboration across the industry, government, commercial companies and academia that is pushing the boundaries of technology to make the Navy quicker, stronger and smarter in its responses.
Future technology and capability innovations
At the heart of COMBATSS-21 and all Aegis evolutions is the Common Source Library (CSL), which enables software reuse and commonality across surface ships and land based installations. The CSL meets two basic customer needs: rapid technology deployment and cost savings.
Software updates can be developed and quickly released across the fleet in an efficient “build once, field many times” process. Using its CSL pedigree, COMBATSS-21 also allows for the seaframe integration of advanced radars, missiles and launchers, which increases the lethality of smaller ships.
Low-risk solution with life cycle affordability
Elements of COMBATSS-21 have already been proven with the surface fleet. Common software is aboard all Aegis destroyers and cruisers at sea, and the C2 system code will be the same as what is fielded in the fleet today. Instead of developing new code, COMBATSS-21 brings existing code from an Aegis ship into a smaller ship. Because the Navy has already invested in Aegis, using COMBATSS-21 reduces cost for integration, test and certification by eliminating redundancies.
Cost savings come through training requirements, too. By integrating an Aegis-derived system on new ships, the Navy will be able to leverage the knowledge of sailors already skilled to operate Aegis. Existing Aegis training programs can prepare sailors to operate components of COMBATSS-21. Now, sailors can come off an Aegis destroyer or cruiser, and board a LCS with a high level of familiarity with the system they need to operate.
Littoral combat ships USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth each deployed with COMBATSS-21, and participated in international partnership exercises, conducted humanitarian aid missions and proved the concept of operations for the littoral combat ship class. Two additional ships, the USS Milwaukee and the USS Detroit, have completed acceptance trials and received perfect scores on the detect to engage tests. The COMBATSS-21 system integrated seamlessly with the ship and other systems to provide enhanced situational awareness for sailors on the ship and ashore.