Sea5000: A tale of two combat systems

cec combat

While the Sea5000 platform announcement gets all the headlines (F-5000, FREMM or Type 26), and many are concerned about what the ships look like, a very interesting announcement was made regarding the combat systems which hasn’t received much thought or analysis.

Future Frigate decision’s focus on combat system will leverage Aegis

The combat system. While originally conceived as a choice between the (perceived) lower, cheaper end 9LV and higher end, more expensive, Aegis. Many seemed surprised when it was announced that both would be used. Even more curiously, the recently built and yet to be commissioned AWD’s would get the same combination as an upgrade, they were originally fitted with just Aegis combat systems and consoles, and a slightly older baseline.

This combination approach has been applied before, most notably by South Korea and Japan. Both South Korea and Japan extensively manufacturer their own systems, sensors and weapons, in many cases there are very few US manufactured items on their ships, many are licences locally manufactured or locally developed and locally manufactured. Korean and Japanese languages, cultural preference mean that the local consoles can present and control the systems anyway they want and be localized. Any weapons can be integrated at this level, rather than try to get it integrated directly into Aegis.

This may have been the reason why Japan and the US decided to work together on missile defense, as that is really the only weapon system which you really wanted or need to be integrated into the core. To fire SM-3, Aegis is probably the only game in town that has the level of integration and the number of platforms and the inherent capability.

U.S.-Japan Cooperation and Ballistic Missile Defense

But the question is why would Australia not be satisfied with the regular Aegis combat consoles and systems and want a combined approach?

Unique weapons – Korea and Japan have their own missiles and torpedoes. However, Australia is generally quite happy to buy off the shelf US weapons. So unless there is a change in policy, a sudden change in the Australian arms industry, this would seem possible but unlikely. There are a few non-US systems in the ADF, MT-90 (but we also use and have the American Mk 54 and of course the Mk 48 heavyweights in the submarines)

Unique sensors – Australia will have its own radar, the CEAFAR, which is going to be quite the capable unit. Australia will also likely select a a range of sensors different to what the US operates with, and may not be able to be directly integrated with Aegis. Here 9LV will be more than capable in this regard and the integration can occur on the console so it is completely seamless to operators which sensors and systems are integrated into what system.

Unique data sharing – Most of Australia’s data sharing is through US links and systems, but it may allow European kit (think of something like the Tiger attack helicopter which famously isn’t talkative to other ADF systems, even other European ADF systems) to be integrated into the ships systems and the entire battlespace system. This can exist alongside other links like Hawklink & LAMPS.

Cooperative engagement capability is also to be included on the Frigates, and has already been integrated and tested on the new AWD’s (which are now DDG’s). There will be apparently further integration on the E7 Wedge-tails as well.

It would also seem possible that the Anzac frigates could be integrated with the 9LV system, as could OPV’s as sensor platforms.

Australia is poised to be very far along the integration path, across it’s whole force. With surprisingly few legacy platforms operating past 2020 in front-line roles and by 2030 nearly all of them being phased off or integrated. Making the individual platform less of a critical factor as the whole interconnected system.

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