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April 2011 Issue

Ohio-Class Submarine Replacement Advances to Technology Development Phase
The U.S. Navy's Ohio-class (SSBN 726) submarine replacement SSBN(X) program was approved in January to enter the technology development phase of the Department of Defense acquisition process. The Navy said the SSBN(X) characteristics and configuration would be frozen. Ship specifications and detail design will now be developed, which will lead to a construction contract for lead ship procurement in 2019.

The new submarines will have 16 missile tubes; the Ohio-class had 24. The SSBN(X) will carry the Trident II (D5) Life Extension missile, which has had 134 consecutive successful flight tests. As they reach the end of their service life, the current 14 Ohio-class SSBNs will be replaced with 12 SSBN(X) submarines.

Stream of Saltwater Could Replace Metallic VHF Antennae, Researchers Say
The typical Navy ship currently houses 80 different antennae, and increasing use of wireless communications will require more antennae to support transmission.

But there is a problem. U.S. Navy ships normally use metallic antenna elements to transmit and receive VHF signals. These protruding structures impede vision, take up space and abet radar detection because of their height. SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific has developed a technology that uses the magnetic induction properties of sodium chloride (salt) in seawater to create a VHF antenna. Seawater is pumped from the ocean into a stream; the width and length of that stream determine the frequency capabilities. For example, an 80-foot-high stream could transmit and receive between two and 400 megahertz with a relatively small footprint, SPAWAR said.

The seawater antenna is capable of transmitting and receiving VHF signals and has been tested at a receiving range of more than 30 miles, SPAWAR said.

The researchers said the antennae needs of a typical Navy ship with 80 metallic antennae could theoretically be replaced with only 10 seawater antennae of varying heights and streams to cover the same frequencies.

ONR Achieves Milestone In Free Electron Laser Program
Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory said they have recently achieved a breakthrough with the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) Free Electron Laser (FEL) program.

Researchers at Los Alamos in December demonstrated an injector capable of producing the electrons needed to generate megawatt-class laser beams for the U.S. Navy's next-generation weapon system.

The Navy may one day deploy megawatt-class laser weapon systems. The laser passes a beam of high-energy electrons generated by an injector through a series of strong magnetic fields, causing an intense emission of laser light.

Navy Vessels Disrupt Pirate Attacks Abroad
USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) disrupted a pirate attack on Panamanian-flagged merchant ship Duqm in February in the Gulf of Oman. The Duqm had reported that pirates were attempting to get aboard.

The U.S. Navy said Momsen and Bunker Hill responded to the distress signal and caused the pirates' skiffs to flee. Momsen and Bunker Hill then tracked the skiffs' movement and located the mother ship. Consistent with the U.N. and U.S. rules, Momsen destroyed the two skiffs, the Navy said.

In another pirate incident in late January, an Australian Orion patrol aircraft (AP-3C) assisted a merchant vessel under attack in the Arabian Sea. The aircraft was conducting a surveillance patrol for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) when it was tasked to investigate a pirate attack taking place on the merchant ship New York Star. After the Orion investigated, CMF tasked a NATO warship to assist the New York Star. The warship deployed a boarding team, securing the vessel, after which the ship's crew released themselves from the ship's anti-piracy stronghold.

In a third incident on February 22, while negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of four American hostages, U.S. forces responded to gunfire aboard the pirated vessel Quest. Boarding Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot dead by their captors. Two pirates died during the confrontation and 13 were captured and detained along with two pirates already in U.S. forces custody. The U.S. forces also found two other dead pirates aboard. U.S. forces had been closely monitoring Quest for approximately three days once it became known to be pirated.


2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2011:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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