Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) is a new combat system which is currently in testing aboard USS ASHLAND (LSD 48). It is intended to integrate and coordinate all of the existing sensors and weapons systems aboard a ship. They system will eventually be installed aboard most classes of non-Aegis ships. SSDS makes it possible to automate the detect through engage sequence through the use of identification and engagement doctrine statements. The entire combat system, including the sensors and weapons, is known as Quick Reaction Combat Capability (QRCC). SSDS is the integrating element of QRCC. SSDS is not intended to improve the performance of any sensor or weapon beyond the performance of the stand-alone version. The primary advantage SSDS brings to the combat systems suite is the ability to coordinate both hard kill and soft kill systems and employ them to their optimum tactical advantage.The SSDS system aboard LSD 48 includes interfaces for the following systems:
The Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) is the first integration and control element of existing shipboard sensors and weapons to provide Quick Reaction Combat Capability (QRCC) to protect non-Aegis ships. SSDS provides a Local Area Network (LAN), LAN Access Units (LAUs), computer programs, and operator stations to provide an automated, quick response, multi-target engagement capability against anti-ship cruise missiles.
The principal air threat to US naval surface ships is a variety of highly capable anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). These include subsonic (Mach 0.9) and supersonic (Mach 2+), low altitude ASCMs. Detection, tracking, assessment, and engagement decisions must be accomplished to defend against these threats, with the duration from initial detection of an ASCM to its engagement with weapons typically on the order of a minute or less. SSDS is designed to accomplish these defensive actions.
With radars and anti-air weapons for self defense of today's amphibious ships and aircraft carriers installed as stand-alone systems, considerable manual intervention is required to complete the detect to engage sequence against ASCMs. SSDS is designed to expedite that process. SSDS, consisting of software and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, integrates radar systems with anti-air weapons, both hardkill (missile systems and rapid fire gun systems) and softkill (decoys). SSDS includes embedded doctrine to provide an integrated detect-through-engage capability with options ranging from use as a tactical decision aid (up to the point of recommending when to engage with specific systems), to use as an automatic weapon system to respond with hardkill and softkill systems as targets become engageable. Although SSDS will not improve capability of individual sensors, it enhances target tracking by integrating the inputs from the several different sensors to form a composite track. For example, SSDS will correlate target detections from individual radars, the electronic support measures (ESM) system (radar warning receiver), and the identification-friend or foe (IFF) system, combining these to build composite tracks on targets while identifying and prioritizing threats. Similarly, SSDS will not improve capability of individual weapons, but should expedite the assignment of weapons for threat engagement, and will provide a "recommend engage" display for operators or, if in automatic mode, will initiate weapons firing, ECM transmission, chaff or, decoy deployment, or some combination of these.
SSDS integrates previously "stand-alone" sensor and engagement systems for aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships, thereby supporting the JV 2010 concept of full-dimensional protection, by providing a final layer of self protection against air threat "leakers" for individual ships. By ensuring such protection, SSDS contributes indirectly to the operational concept of precision engagement, in that strike operations against targets are executed from several of the platforms receiving SSDS.
A successful at-sea demonstration was conducted with an amphibious ship (LSD-41) in June 1993 as a proof-of-concept exercise, at the direction of the Congress. Milestone II was conducted in May 1995. Total procurement consists of 58 units, with 48 slated for amphibious ships and aircraft carriers and 10 to support training and engineering development. LRIP consists of four units. The LRIP decision in late FY96 was supported by an operational assessment OA conducted by COMOPTEVFOR. Milestone III was achieved in early 1998.
OPEVAL was conducted with an amphibious warfare ship, USS ASHLAND (LSD 48), in the Virginia Capes Operating Area off of Wallops Island during June 1997. OT was conducted in accordance with a DOT&E-approved plan and TEMP, to support the BLRIP decision for procurement of SSDS. Testing consisted of aircraft and reduced radar cross section drone targets flown on profiles to simulate anti-ship missile attacks on the ship. Neither missile nor CIWS firings were conducted for OT because if flown on realistic profiles, targets engaged by missiles or guns could become disabled with loss of control, and endanger the ship. A CIWS firing was conducted during this period to complete DT, but this was not a realistic profile. Both RAM and CIWS firings conducted during the DT before this OT were observed by OPTEVFOR and DOT&E staff.
The OPEVAL testing included simulated defense by the ship against 171 ASCM targets, as well as other targets. Although there were limitations imposed by targets and safety concerns, testing was adequate to provide the information necessary to determine SSDS operational effectiveness and suitability against subsonic, non-maneuvering anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).
Based on overall OT-IIB results, SSDS is operationally effective against subsonic, low altitude ASCMs. This conclusion alone marks a major improvement in the self defense capability of amphibious warfare ships against air threats.
SSDS is reliable, maintainable, and operationally available, notwithstanding the mixed results regarding software reliability and hardware mean-time-to-repair. It is logistically supportable, compatible with its operating environment, and interoperable with other systems. With planned software modification to demand operator acknowledgement of identification discrepancies, it is suitable with regard to human factors. Documentation is satisfactory, with the interactive electronic technical manual being validated before fleet introduction. SSDS is considered safe to operate and maintain, although there are specified areas that require continued attention. Overall, SSDS is operationally suitable.
FOT&E planned with the Self Defense Test Ship should investigate SSDS capability with live firings against ASCM targets. SSDS interoperability with RAM Block I should be demonstrated with actual engagement of such targets.