Thursday, September 04, 2008

San Antonio Takes New Technology to Sea

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) heads to sea as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (IWO ESG) supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tyler J. Wilson)

The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) deployed Aug. 28 as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), marking the first deployment of a ship in the technologically advanced San Antonio class of warships.

The deployment introduces new technology and capabilities never before seen in any ESG. One example of this technology is the shipwide area network (SWAN).

"SWAN is the first network to be the backbone of vital components of the ship," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Wendall Bates.

"Engineering, navigation and steering all run through SWAN, allowing Sailors to monitor all the systems in a much faster and reliable way."

Communications with other ships has always been key to the Navy's success. San Antonio has taken communications to the next level.

"Our cooperative engagement capability allows us to interact with fellow ships underway," said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Kevin Sanders, combat systems leading petty officer.

"By seeing what other ships see through our radars, we can see targets far ahead and either intercept them ourselves or pass along orders for our allies to intercept."

Targeting surface threats with weapons has also benefited from the new technology.

"San Antonio is the first class of ship to have an MK-46 30mm gun weapon system," said Cmdr. Kurt Kastner, San Antonio's commanding officer. "It is a very effective anti-surface weapon with specific daytime and nighttime modes."

Another force protection measure added to the transport dock ship is San Antonio's arsenal of small boats.

"Our collection of small boats makes both Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) operations and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations easier with increased capability and flexibility," explained Kastner.

Other San Antonio design features make day-to-day life more comfortable for the Sailors, while also increasing efficiency.

The engineers aboard keep much cooler thanks to unmanned engine rooms. This is possible due to the engineering control system (ECS).

"ECS is a PC-based system that provides remote monitoring and control of the propulsion, fuel, electrical, auxiliary, damage control, and ballast systems," said Kastner.

San Antonio can also serve as a small-scale hospital ship, and boasts a state-of-the-art medical department that is equipped to provide the highest quality of care with the inclusion of systems like Medical Web.

"San Antonio is designed as a secondary casualty receiving ship with an in-house care facility, complete with an operating room, capable of caring for 24 intensive care patients," said Kastner. "Additionally, Medical Web allows the medical team to transfer digital X-ray images for consultation at large, to shore-based hospitals."

The design of the ship has also made moving supplies throughout the ship less laborious.

"The ship's design places the elevators in front of the store rooms, allowing for easy transfer of stores while other ships often need to snake around the ship to get the stores where they need to go," stated Kastner.

A deployment is an opportune time to work on qualifications and further in-rate knowledge. San Antonio's Total Ship Training System provides shipwide access to computer-based lessons.

"This Total Ship Training System offers everybody the opportunity to train on any computer aboard on various topics ranging from rate specific training, to basic damage control courses," continued Kastner.

Ultimately, San Antonio was designed with one predominant focus: the Marines and supporting their mission.

"LPD-17 provides 23,000 square feet of vehicle space and wider passage ways for debarkation and embarkation," said Marine Chief Warrant Officer Two Anthonie Scott.

"This allows the ship and the Marines to perform independent operations, while the rest of the strike group works other missions. This is the future of amphibious shipping, and the Navy-Marine Corps team will only benefit from its existence."

"These systems, when combined together, will deliver to the Navy the next generation of warships," concluded Kastner.

San Antonio is part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which also consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7); the dock-landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); all homeported at Norfolk, Va.; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported at Groton, Conn.

The strike group is currently en route to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO). MSO helps set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations.

The strike group will also support the other tenets of the Navy's Maritime Strategy, which include forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response. The Maritime Strategy represents a new vision for the 21st century and establishes new capabilities to codify longstanding challenges, while maintaining the focus on enduring missions.