Meet the future of naval defense: the DDG 1000.
Launched in October of 2013, this destroyer ship represents the cutting edge in naval and marine warfare technology. It's a ship known for its stealthy engineering - despite its size, coming in at over 14,500 tons and at 600 feet long. The ship marks a fitting convergence of past and present, carrying with it an incredible history of industrial-strength design while also keeping its future wide open. The DDG 1000 is one of those rare naval ships that remembers the future is always coming, and is prepared to be modified accordingly - it's ready and waiting for new forms of weaponry and warfare, whether those are new guns to outfit it or advanced new laser tech.
It's probably unsurprising that it takes a Herculean effort to make a ship like this possible. The construction of this particular ship began in early 2009 and it launched to the public about four years later. Naval procurement is a famously intense process, involving the best and most impressive components of our pick-a-winner economy. Echelon technology works as part of a suite of those technologies, curated by our customer Fairmount Automation, a company that helps put together collections of applied technical solutions for customers including the U.S. Navy.
Outfitting a behemoth of an operation like the DDG 1000 requires thinking through a number of important technical necessities - all the so-called "basics" (might be a misnomer for something of this size and scope) that have to come way, way before anyone can even think about weaponizing. There's the fuel. There's the levels of heavy and dangerous machinery. There’s the possibility of fire or other major damage. And none of that is something anyone on the DDG 1000 wants to spend time thinking about when there’s something bigger at stake.
So, naturally, the Navy turns to automation as a solution. That's also where LonWorks excels: in building systems that can take care of themselves - so the Navy can take care of us.
LonWorks technology is built into the Naval destroyer for the purposes of fire suppression and autonomous damage control.
"It's probably unsurprising that it takes a Herculean effort to make a ship like this possible. Naval procurement is a famously intense process."
Ship fires can begin and spread vertically upwards, spreading their devastation in three minutes flat. That doesn't leave a lot of time to suppress it. There are all kinds of complicating dangerous components to ship fire spread, too: ship piping systems and structure can easily be destroyed in minutes. Tests done a few years ago on the former USS Shadwell, a decommissioned Navy ship, found that no matter the level of expertise of a human-run damage control team, it's nearly impossible to successfully fully suppress a fire without a high degree of automation.
Since the 1970s, the Navy has poured money into researching the optimal way to automate a fire suppression system. Breakthroughs since the 1990s have made it standard practice for every ship to have on board an Autonomic Fire Suppression System. Built into this system is a multi-modal smart valve for fluid system break detection and isolation - keeping the ship monitor on high alert in case a single valve goes awry, threatening the safety of the larger operation. The technology is capable of automatically isolating a rupture very quickly by noticing pressure and flow variations, thereby preventing a pressure loss in the system, and the bigger danger that comes with it.
Putting out a fire on a ship of this size, scale, and importance is more than just grabbing a fire extinguisher and spraying. It involves securing people, machinery, and more. Timing is crucial, and the whole emergency, should it occur, has to be dealt with nearly immediately. It’s ultra-fast, reliable, industrial-strength inter-communication technology that makes that possible. Especially on the high seas: there’s no room for a flimsy system that over-depends on an external signal like wi-fi or, on the other hand, requires excessive wiring. Out there, you need classic and trustworthy industry, coupled with modern and cutting-edge speed and smarts.
Of course, that's why there's an entire subset of the economy dedicated to serving the needs of the defense industry. That's why there's an incredibly competitive process that goes into winning those contracts. That's why Echelon is proud to be a part of the suite of efforts that can make something like the DDG 1000 possible - and that will keep making the next incarnations of our Navy possible for the next century and beyond.