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Navy Overhauls Amphib's Electronics Ahead of Deployment

Norfolk, Va. -- The Navy is upgrading the sensors, radar, computer networks and electronics on-board its LPD 24 amphibious transport dock, the Arlington, in anticipation of its scheduled deployment next year, service officials said.

The ship and its crew are finishing up a six-month Post-Shakedown Availability -- a time when engineering, electronic and technological adjustments are made to the ship prior to deployment, said Chief Warrant Officer Terrence Parks, an electronics materials officer.

“We had several upgrades and repairs done to get us ready for our deployment cycle. This included electronics packages and engineering modifications that will enable us to do our mission better,” Parks explained.

A key portion of the ship improvements involved upgrades to an on-board networking system called Shipboard Wide Area Network, or SWAN, designed to connect various ship functions such as radar, navigation, electronics and communications signals onto a single network.

“SWAN is our integrated network system that has a lot of components from the ship such as navigation, steering and other things together. Other ships have multiple networks. With SWAN, everything is connected and rides on the same network,” said Jeffrey Schneider, information systems technician.

The upgrade to SWAN converts several physical servers on the system to virtual servers, upgrading them to what’s called Blade Server Environments, he added.

“This way you have fewer cabinets and fewer servers to maintain. Now, we can move our servers around to different node rooms,” he said.

Also, the new design improves capability and performance compared to existing design by using the virtual servers, Navy spokeswoman Marissa Myatt said in a written statement.

“The upgrade reduces the number of server cabinets from eight to four. The use of virtual servers prevents loss of network connectivity due to any scheduled shipboard maintenance requiring a loss of power to any of the four server cabinets,” she added.

Also for the Marine Corps, the upgrade includes the ability to host servers for their equipment while embarked aboard the USS Arlington, Myatt said.

Should the upgrades to the SWAN system continue to progress as planned, then they will likely be extended to the entire class of LPD 17 amphibs.

Other improvements to the ship made during the PSA include modification to the heat, stress and monitoring systems on the ship, Parks said.

“This is a group of sensors placed throughout the ship where there is high heat,” he added.

The ship’s ability to monitor commercial shipping traffic and communicate with coalition allies were also improved during the upgrades, Parks explained.

“AIS, or Automated Identification Systems, allows us to get information on commercial vessels such as cargo details and last point of origin,” he said.

The ship also has what’s called a global command and control system or data base which provides the topography of the ships in the surrounding area, Parks explained.

The USS Arlington is one of a series of LPD 17 San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships designed to support and amphibious ready group and help transport Marines from ship to shore. The 684-foot ship is equipped with two Landing Craft Air Cushions and one Landing Craft Utility vehicle to move Marines and equipment to shore.

The ship, which can surge to a crew size of 800, can simultaneously operate four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 Ospreys. The ship is designed to support an ARG, including a big-deck amphib but also has the capability to operate independently.

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