Navantia’s SMARTShips line and the future of naval technology

19 October 2022

What is Navantia’s goal in developing the SMARTShips line? What innovations does it incorporate?

Ana Moya: Navantia’s goal with the new SMARTShips line is to address the essential elements for new ships over the next decade or two. The SMARTShips line will explore and incorporate innovations to anticipate Navantia’s response on new threats, new linked operations between services, new materials and production methods, reduced crew operation, new propulsion and energy generation concepts, new combat systems, extensive use of UxV, and new and enhanced sensors and communication systems.

With these goals in sight, the SMARTShips concept seeks to provide a platform to carry out technology maturation and risk reduction to future Navantia designs, leveraging the advantages provided by model-based systems engineering and modelling and simulation for early system evaluation.

They are also to be used to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not be actually built as-is, although some of its characteristics will be implemented in specific designs in Navantia’s portfolio.

What are the key vessels in the SMARTShips line?

The SMARTShips line is an evolving concept, flexible enough to deal gradually with all challenges with future adaptations.

The first SMART designs developed are SMART4000 and SMART8000. SMART4000 is a concept design for a future medium-sized multi-role surface combat ship and SMART8000 is a concept design for a future destroyer-type multi-role surface combat ship.

Additional concepts such as amphibious ships, logistics suppliers, submarines and smaller units such us USVs are being developed incorporating gradually the SMART innovative features.

How do you define SMART Concept in relation to ship design? What kind of features does SMART Concept focus on?

The SMART4000 and SMART8000 concept designs, as well as other upcoming designs, should be viewed much in the same sense as the ‘concept cars’ so common in the auto industry. They are being developed as testbeds for new technologies and styling.

SMART ship designs explore innovative, energy efficient hull forms developed on the basis of CFD optimisation and new concepts of topside shaping and materials to improve stealthiness. From the operational point of view, the ship design focus on the extensive use of UxV as a seamless part of SMART Ship capabilities. SMART concepts integrate a large, flexible multi-mission space adapted to deploy and operate a wide range of USV and UUV vehicles, while the flight deck allows the operation of several UAVs.

Modularity is also a key element in ship design as both ships are designed to be reconfigured depending on the missions, including the installation or removal of modular compartments, including cabins, also considering interoperability opportunities with other allied navies.

A special effort is being made to redesign accommodation and operative spaces to provide a comfortable and flexible working environment and a comfort for rest and leisure hours equivalent to that of a shore-based worker, supported by a next gen digital backbone provided by Navantia’s patented system ISS (Integrated Service System).

The SMART concept is also intended to provide increased levels of automation, natively incorporating Digital Twins and Smart Services to support ship operation and maintenance, improving crew workload while keeping or increasing operational effectiveness.

How important are the following factors, and how do you aim to improve them:

  • Environmental sustainability?

Environmental sustainability is becoming a key factor for navies that should be addressed during the design phase. SMARTShips line incorporates technical solutions aimed at sustainability, such as measures to reduce emissions, integrated energy management systems and the selection of equipment and materials with reduced environmental impact, with a comprehensive approach throughout the ship's life cycle.

  • The use of new materials?

The use of new materials will be essential to improve ship’s survivability, reducing damage impact and increasing stealthiness, whereas achieving light platforms that will improve speed and energy consumption.

SMARTShip Line incorporates the results of research on new materials to enhance ballistic and blasting resistance in critical areas of the vessel.

  • Improved connectivity and monitoring capability?

All SMART ships are provided with Navantia’s new ISS, a new generation of smart digital backbone connecting spaces, crew and systems. This system provides a high degree of flexibility and an unprecedented capability of the platform situation.

  • The use of Digital Twins?

The Digital Twin allows linking the physical with the virtual environment of the product by applying technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning or IoT. The SMARTShip line natively incorporates Digital Twins and Smart Services to support both ship maintenance and operation.

  • Enhanced automation?

The future operational battle space will become more complex, demanding heavier workload of the crew. This, together with extended mission durations, will require increased automation and autonomy to improve crew workload while keeping or increasing operational effectiveness.  

How do you achieve increased autonomy to enable vessels to run with smaller crews?

As part of the SMARTShip line development, there is an ongoing project addressing the crew needed to operate these kinds of vessels, making a strong emphasis on reduced crews and high levels of automation. The first, very conservative iteration of the project has established an upper limit of 70 for the SMART4000 and 180 for the SMART8000, but the goal is to reduce these figures as much as possible.

How does the use of Digital Twins improve operation and maintenance?

Using a Digital Twin, data obtained during the whole life cycle is analysed (from design to maintenance) in the virtual environment to generate simulations which allow identifying corrective measures and recommend preventive actions, such us predictive maintenance, based on state and condition, support for decision-making, identification of deficiencies when comparing the physical systems with its digital models or to optimise system operation.

What improvements have been made to Navantia’s manufacturing facilities? What characteristics make a 4.0 factory?

A Navantia 4.0 factory is a digital, connected and collaborative shipyard, where processes are digitalised, there is an extensive use of robotisation and automatisation, and a high degree of sensorisation. All production associated data is available through the factory Digital Twin providing viability, transparency and traceability of the whole production process for the ecosystem and enabling to take the best actions based on data for continuous productivity, energy efficiency and eco-sustainability. Block production will be highly automated in our Block Digital Factory exceeding 25% efficiency improvements.

Navantia is currently implementing the following improvements: modelling and simulation of the production process, digital management of the shipyard industrial facilities through Digital Twins, introducing additive manufacturing of components and new laser welding techniques, as well as wireless connectivity for IoT-enabled systems and equipment.

How do the SMART4000 and SMART8000 concept designs showcase new technologies? What is the main purpose of these vessels?

The SMART4000 is a concept design for a future medium-sized multi-role surface combat ship. It is designed to engage and neutralise both asymmetric and conventional threats. It is capable of embarking on different mission modules, adapting its habitability, service and operational spaces. This platform is capable of operating a wide range of unmanned, air, underwater and surface vehicles, increasing its operational capability. It has an open systems architecture that allows it to operate networked with other units of the force and a Combat System based on the C4IP concept.

The SMART8000 is a concept design for a future destroyer-type multi-role surface combat ship that aims to address emerging and future threats like long-range supersonic/hypersonic anti-ship missiles, deployed from air, underwater or surface platforms, smart mines, drone saturation attacks and so on, as well as upcoming cyber threats in uncertain, complex, ambiguous and volatile operating scenarios. This concept design also counts UxV as a seamless part of its capabilities and provides a large, flexible multi-mission space adapted to deploy and operate a wide range of USV and UUV vehicles, while the flight deck allows the operation of VTOL UAVs. Command capabilities, ranging from minor afloat command capability-surface to task group, are also considered.

Depending on the operational scenario, as well as the mission profile and its tasks, the SMART8000 vessel will progressively reach different capabilities. A scalability of capabilities is necessary depending on the mission and scenario of each operation.

What innovative features do they have in terms of:

  • Propulsion?

Both SMART4000 and SMART8000 are high-power demand platforms, with power generation margins for new weapons and systems. Currently, several alternatives are being considered for integrated propulsion and power generation systems, mainly hybrid and Diesel-Electric/Turbo-Electric, using new fuels to reduce carbon footprint and integrated energy management systems.

  • Interoperability with other services?

Service interoperability will be achieved through an open systems architecture that allows it to operate networked with other units of the force and a combat system based on the C4IP concept, leveraging standard interfaces, new communication standards such as 5G or EDRS, or the integration of the ship as a node within a tactical cloud.

  • Response to new and evolving threats?

Design evolution to address new and evolving threats is taken into account by margin reserves in key performance areas like arrangeable area, space, weight, power or cooling for future upgrades in weapons, sensor systems, C4IP systems, command capabilities or other required payloads.

  • New combat systems (such as rail guns and directed energy weapons)?

The SMART ship family of combatants is planned to have integrated propulsion and energy generation systems capable to accommodate new weapon systems as onboard DEW (directed energy weapons) as fast shooting CIWS for UxV defence, Hyperspeed Missile Defence System or electromagnetic rail gun (EMRG) as CIWS, main naval SSW and SAW weapons, among others. These combatants will integrate improved sensor and combat systems that allows to extend the vessel’s sensor detection range and anticipate the detection by sharing information among multiple platforms and increase automation to reduce decision and reaction times, introducing smart systems based on AI.

So far, how have your customers reacted to the SMART4000 and SMART8000 concept designs?

SMART4000 and SMART8000 were unveiled in the International Defence and Security Exhibition (Madrid) and Indo-Pacific (Sydney) respectively. The comments have been very positive so far, allowing Navantia designers to engage in constructive discussions with all kinds of clients and suppliers about current SMARTShip solutions and technologies, and their pros and cons for future operating environments and threats, paving the way for further refinements and alternatives of the SMART Concept Ships.

What is the next main area of innovation that Navantia is working on?

Navantia continues progressing on the development of the key innovation areas for the future naval ships. These innovative breakthroughs will be progressively shaping the new SMART design concepts.

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