As the Surface Navy Association (SNA) symposium opened in Virginia this week, Saab had freshly delivered surface radars for two US Navy ship classes, the USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2) and EXPEDITIONARY SEA BASE (T-ESB), as well as the US Coast Guard’s OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER (OPC) class.
In the case of LCS 2, Saab is upgrading its two, transmitter-based AN/SPS-77 to a solid-state transmitter model. “The latter has twice the capability and performance of the original SEA GIRAFFE AGILE MULTI BEAM (AMB) derivative naval radar,” Tony Fischetti, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at the company, said during an interview with MON at the show. LCS 24-36 (even numbered hulls) will have the enhanced SPS-77. While unofficial discussions about backfitting the latest SPS-77 on earlier hulls have been included in Navy LCS modernization programme negotiations, the service has not yet made a formal decision on this matter.
Saab USA’s SEA GIRAFFE AMB Multi-Mode Radar (MMR) is being supplied for Coast Guard OPCs and the four ships of the Navy’s T-ESB class. The MMR has been delivered to T-ESB-4, the first ship of the class, and is undergoing evaluation.
Further, Saab has delivered the AN/SPN-50(V)1 Shipboard Air Traffic Radar for testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Webster Outlying Field, MD. Following a low-rate initial production decision by the Navy, the radar is expected to be fitted on CVN-79 and large-deck amphibious ships.
Saab has cast a wide net of suppliers for content to support its US maritime programmes. Some of its major vendors include Chess Dynamics (UK), and Cobham, Trenton and Honeywell from the US. “Basically, everything else is commodity-based supply – that drives down our affordability of the system,” Fischetti explained. As Saab’s US maritime naval programmes evolve, “there is opportunity for us to grow the supply chain. We’re continually looking for opportunities with suppliers. We’re in the process of bringing more of the content into the US, and with that we’re looking at increasing our US supply base,” he added.
In 2020, Saab’s naval technology base will continue to evolve beyond a baseline surface- and air-search offering of SEA GIRAFFE AMB. “We’re going to a more precision-search radar as in our GIRAFFE 1X radar [a mobile, deployable or fixed radar for short-range surveillance and ground based air defence]. This is an X-band radar which has a finer precision search to track and counter-UAS. This radar is in our inventory. We also have our CEROS 200 [radar and optronic tracking fire control director designed for use on naval vessels] which is also a counter-fire system, that is a variant that comes from some European ship classes that we are bringing in to give us a total combat system picture between the search and track radar, and the precision targeting side of the kill chain,” Fischetti told MON. Saab USA has delivered several of its X-band radars to the US Department of State for base protection and is seeking other business development opportunities that require short-range protection. The company’s CEROS system is funded for inclusion in the US Navy’s LCS Modernization Programme.
These technology thrusts are driven, in part, from Saab’s R&D investment strategy and commitment – 20% of its total sales line are for this purpose. “Saab USA is leveraging a lot of that investment into next-generation radar technology – completely digital in nature to the front end – in line where the industry and technology is going across the board,” Fischetti added, reporting also that his firm is on contract to deliver this future-leaning technology to the US Air Force within the next 18 months.
He further discussed a number of radars: closely aligned to his company’s R&D investment is a significant life cycle and affordability issue – all the radars discussed are derivatives of the same family, with a high degree of commonality (about 80%), driving training and logistics, plus production efficiencies that are reducing costs for current and prospective users.
Beyond the US, Saab USA is also under a US Foreign Military Sales contract to deliver the SEA GIRAFFE AMB (designated as AN/SPS-77 by the USN) for installation on two Philippine Navy frigates: BRP GREGORIO DEL PILAR (FF 15) and BRP RAMON ALCARAZ (FF 16), both former US Coast Guard HAMILTON-class cutters. The sale also includes Saab’s 9LV for radar control and display for enhanced situational awareness. “We’re also looking at additional business development opportunities through FMS,” Fischetti concluded.
Marty Kauchak in Virginia for MON