In 2011, Canada launched the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) with the objective to chart a new course for the Canadian shipbuilding industry in preparation for the Navy’s second century of service.
The government committed to invest heavily in new Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ships by commissioning work over the long-term; a new strategy intended to give stability to an industry that up to now has been limping along in a 25-year boom-to-bust cycle. The NSPS represents a change in procurement philosophy that should enable the shipbuilding industry to plan and make investments in infrastructure, R&D and new capability.
The strategy has been hailed in most quarters as a model program to serve Canada’s many maritime needs. It will allow industry to deliver modern navy and coast guard fleets to safeguard international trade and enforce Canadian law and authority along the world’s longest coastline, as well as fulfilling the navy’s role in global peacekeeping by participating in future joint task force operations with the U.S. and NATO partners.
In all the excitement over the satisfactory NSPS launch, it appears that minimal attention has been paid to the condition of the shipbuilding industry at the outset; industry is not well prepared to address the reality of a modern navy. Little has been said about the R&D required to build a relevant navy over a wide spectrum of ships with cutting-edge technology.
For the maritime industry to reemerge successfully, and not expose the selected shipyards to undue risks, the new fleets should be based as much as possible on proven designs and best-in-class off-the-shelf technology.
The RCN has already taken the first step in this direction with the selection of the ThyssenKrupp Type 702 Berlin-class replenishment ship, commissioned in 2001, for the joint support ship (JSS) program. For the Arctic offshore patrol ship (AOPS) program, the Norwegian navy’s KV Svalbard Class (W303), an ocean patrol vessel also commissioned in 2001, is a low risk entry. Both candidates should be subjected to trade-off studies to find the best solutions in hull shape and navigation, electronic and weapon systems, and in power generation and propulsion systems. Since the Canadian surface combatant (CSC) is still in the analysis phase, it has been excluded from this article.
Basing the JSS and AOPS on the design heritage of the Berlin Class and Svalbard Class, respectively, could have many advantages. Chief among them would be to allow Canada to progress with speed to achieve the navy’s urgent operational goals and to avoid the “nightmare” scenarios of price escalations, schedule creep and technical integration risks most often associated with “clean sheet” designs. This is particularly true for an industry that has been out-of-the-loop for over 25 years.
The exception to the built-to-print ship approach is reflected in the attention now paid to warship fuel economy, an aspect of R&D that has seen the most drastic changes. Despite the growth of new sources of unconventional oil, the rise in demand for fossil fuel globally will be increasing at a rate much faster than anticipated. In fact, the International Energy Agency and many oil experts believe that in less than five years, the fossil fuel price will grow substantially. The naval departments in the United States and some European Union countries have recognized this reality and have over the last decade moved closer to more fuel efficient “all-electric” naval ships to counter ever-growing fuel costs.
The generation of electricity to power and run naval ships is not new. The first U.S. Navy electrically-propelled ship was the USS Jupiter (1913) and during WWII some naval ships were using electric propulsion. Since the late 1980s, the cruise ship industry has been using mostly electric power generation for propulsion, a development that is now also found in icebreakers, floating offshore oil platforms and is becoming more common in passenger and car ferries, shuttle tankers and research ships.
In 2001, a USN-commissioned study, “Navy Ship Propulsion Technologies: Options for Reducing Oil Use,” determined that fitting the Aegis cruiser Princeton with a more energy-efficient integrated electrical power and drive system reduced the ship’s fuel consumption by 10-15 percent, equal to a savings of $1 million per year.
In 2007, the U.S. Congress directed the USN to use integrated electric power systems, gas turbine and fuel cells, or nuclear power as alternative power systems for surface combatants, to ensure the lowest possible operational cost in the future. To that end, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) was established to research the Next Generation Integrated Power System, with a promise of reducing fuel consumption by 35-40 percent. In parallel, NAVSEA initiated upgrades of the Arleigh Burke destroyer-class such as adding a bulbous bow which reduced fuel consumption by 3.9 percent (equal to 2,400 barrels of oil per year). Mounting stern flaps on the DDG-51 destroyers has been calculated to save an additional 5 to 7.5 percent in fuel while coating propellers is expected save four to five percent. Taken together, these changes will result in a lifecycle savings of over $500 million for the 52 destroyers.
Last year, the USN launched its first new “all-electric” concept ship, the Zumwalt, which will have 78MW of electric capacity, 32 MW for propulsion and 46 MW for high energy weapon systems, such as the electromagnetic gun, high power microwave and high energy lasers, new weapon systems that will eventually need a vast amount of electric power, far exceeding what is required even for propulsion.
Since 2002, the USN’s ultimate objective is to develop new warships that make more efficient use of energy and improve the onboard distribution of power to cut energy use and provide service loads for the many new technologies that are emerging. The USN-initiated R&D and prototype programs have absorbed billions of dollars, some on over-ambitious ideas. No other nation will consider such an extensive R&D program, but some elements of the ONR’s efforts are worth exploring.
Considerations for Canada
For the Canadian navy to maximize the technology currently being applied to naval ship design it must upgrade the two proposed built-to-print candidates of JSS and AOPS – much has changed in the decade since these ships were commissioned.
The ThyssenKrupp Type 702 Berlin-class originally used a very conventional power and propulsion system that will require substantial change. The Norwegian KV Svalbard-class, though closer to what would be selected for an ocean patrol vessel today, could still benefit from some improvements, notably in the use of energy storage and the latest in engine/generator plants; the latter will give the AOPS higher peak power under extreme conditions, whether for breaking ice, high “dash” speed or future weapon systems’ energy consumption. On the other end of the spectrum, fuel savings can be realized from running fewer engines for cruising and controlling the speed of the propellers to reduce hydrodynamic losses.
It has been well documented that only integrated power systems make economic sense for future naval ships. Current R&D suggests that onboard ship power will grow to meet the electronic equipment and propulsion requirements and that a single electric energy source is a natural direction forward. This evolution will require new concepts in integration, control, and simulation to achieve the maximum benefits for future ship operations, including advisory systems – software to guide the crew on what should be optimal for route selection, speed, trim, process, power control, and so on.
To find the best hybrid power generation and propulsion system one major question should be addressed: since these two new ship classes will be in operation for the next 40 years or more, is there merit in developing a common drive system solution that may prove to have savings across all aspects of operation and support? Substantial savings may be possible through a common source of power generation, which would also simplify in-service support management. With today’s focus on the total cost of ownership of Canadian Forces’ platforms, a common integrated hybrid power and propulsion systems is a natural issue for further study.
As an overarching strategy, it should be addressed by the Design, Engineering, Logistics and Management Support contractor on behalf of the Integrated Project Team as a deliverable to the selected shipyards. And this activity should qualify for Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative funding, even if much of the equipment has to be acquired from U.S. or offshore companies, providing the architecture and the integration of software systems are of Canadian origin.
Many of the technologies brought forward by the ONR will improve performance of onboard power generation, electric drive and energy storage as well as distribution and power management. All of these elements will contribute to reducing the total fuel costs of future Canadian naval ships and ensure the best operational and lifecycle costs for the RCN.
Henning Jacobsen is the owner of HJA Solutions, a consultancy that has advised numerous defence companies, including ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and DCN International. He is a former executive with Bombardier, Spar Aerospace and Oerlikon Contraves.