As first reported in the July edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News, Lockheed Martin's Sea SLICE advanced technology demonstration vessel recently provided the Navy a sneak peak of a small, fast, stable ship with multi-mission modularity in its role as a Littoral Combat Ship surrogate in the Navy's Fleet Battle Experiment - Juliet, which took place along the San Diego coast from July 24 - August 7.
Arriving in San Diego with no combat systems aboard in early June, the ship was transformed in less than a month into a bristling littoral combatant complete with: the 35-mm Millennium Gun; NetFires missile launching system; FLIR Systems Inc. furnished Forward-Looking Infrared sensors; and a complete combat information center with the Lockheed Martin developed COMBATSS command and control core architecture system utilizing Q-70 VALIANT consoles as well as Time Critical Targeting technology for precision strike. According to George Root, Advanced Programs director for Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems, Marine Systems, "The technologies represented aboard this ship were integrated in a period of six months, installed on Sea SLICE in only one month, and produced an integrated littoral combatant for the Navy to evaluate with more integrated combat systems (real and simulated) than any of the other experimental platforms in the experiment."
Designated by the Navy as a High Speed Vessel (HSV) for the experiment, Sea SLICE was tasked with experimentation in the following warfare areas: Anti-Surface Warfare (AsuW), Time Critical Targeting, Self Defense, Mine Warfare (MIW) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).
The early days of the experiment focused in on Sea SLICE's ability to serve as an effective data collection node in mine countermeasure warfare. Members of the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Mobile Unit 7 embarked Sea SLICE for at-sea operations, employing the Klein 5000 side scan sonar using a bolt-on / bolt-off module designed by Lockheed Martin, that interfaced a U.S. Navy A-frame hoist and winch on the stern. In addition to the Klein 5000, a Remote Environmental Monitoring Unit System (REMUS), a specific type of autonomous Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV), was used to investigate mine-like objects detected by the Klein 5000. According to the EOD team aboard, the stability, speed, and low wake wash of Sea SLICE were all very favorable attributes in performing the MIW mission.
Early during the second week of the experiment, Sea SLICE participated in a mock amphibious assault executed by the Marine Corps on the beaches of Camp Pendleton. As part of what is called a "Ship-To-Objective-Maneuver," a CH-46 helicopter lifted one of two NetFires launchers from the stern of Sea SLICE and transported it to the beach, where it was then remotely fired using a CO2 cartridge to demonstrate a simulated missile launch.
Sea SLICE was also put to the test in the AsuW and Self Defense arenas, when USS Fitzgerald came under
a simulated attack from a group of real, small, high speed boats. Responding to a request for support, Sea SLICE steamed at 30 knots to Fitzgerald's coordinates and immediately placed herself between Fitzgerald and the small, swarming boats, targeting the small boats with the help of Time Critical Targeting technology, COMBATTS, and the Millennium Gun.
Sea SLICE also participated on the live fires range during the experiment, where both the Millennium Gun was fired at various targets at ranges up to 1,000 m, and a Blast Test Vehicle (BTV) was fired from the NetFires missile launcher, intended to launch Loitering and Precision Attack Missiles. Mission success was 100% in all venues.
In the end, Sea SLICE proved that multi-mission modularity is possible in a small, fast, stable ship, and that through Sea SLICE the Navy had an exceptional opportunity to evaluate their requirements for one of the next ship classes on the horizon, the Littoral Combat Ship. Only time will tell if Lockheed Martin is on to something with the technologies they put forward aboard Sea SLICE in FBE-J.