PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Northrop Grumman and their industry partners formally opened a test and integration center this week for the C5I systems at the heart of the U.S. Coast Guard’s new offshore patrol cutter program.
This OPC production facility is meant to reduce risk on what the Coast Guard calls its top acquisition priority. Within mockups of the bridge, the operations center and other key rooms, every piece of internal and external sensing and communications equipment will be networked together in this facility at Eastern’s Allanton yard first, tested for any integration hiccups and then sent up the road to the company’s Nelson Street yard where the OPC hulls are being constructed.
Northrop Grumman Vice President for Maritime Systems and Integration Todd Leavitt told Defense News this C5I system — command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — is more complex than even the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program the company worked on for the U.S. Navy.
That is only a small part of the report which includes information about the ship’s internal communications system. A shoreside facility is a great idea. It will likely eliminate post delivery teething problems that can be expensive and delay deployment.
We really need these ships to work right out of the box.
A shoreside testing and integration facility is a great idea, but generally not something you do if you only feel that you’re likely to get 4 ships out of this run. Further, while it’s great seeing OPC#1 being constructed on the hard, it’s not likely to be repeated, as ESG is building a covered facility to better produce additional units. Again, two factors that point towards ESG being awarded more than just the first batch of 4 OPCs. No one wants to see a shipyard put in the infrastructure and do the hiring required, then have to virtually immediately scale back down. No, it’s all about the industrial base being strengthened.
I predict that of the next batch of 11 expected to be awarded, ESG will get at least the next 7 vessels, while a second shipyard is brought on for an initial 4 to start them off.
Would love to see a second yard. This facility will have continuing usefulness so Eastern is lining up an income stream for the future.