An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : Article View
NEWS | May 24, 2024

NSWCPD Building a “Ship in a Bottle”

By Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Girouard, CSSBB

On the bank of the Delaware River in South Philadelphia, a historic aircraft manufacturing building holds the future for Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical (HM&E) testing, supporting the newest ship class in the Navy; the Constellation Class Guided Missile Frigate. Nestled at the old Philadelphia Navy Yard, the facility built in 1917, stands as history incarnate, meeting with the future to provide Sailors a means of assurance that their equipment will operate in all demanding circumstances at sea and fit for all the trials and tribulations of combat.

Once a bustling public shipyard, the Philadelphia Navy Yard is now a merger of the industrial maritime tradition and future economic growth in biotech and fashion. You can now eat lunch at the Urban Outfitters cafeteria while staring up at a mothballed CV-67 (USS John F. Kennedy). You can walk through art exhibits and food trucks on the Marine Parade Grounds. But one thing has not changed about the Navy Yard -- its dedication to providing support to our Sailors and our Navy’s mission.

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) continues to fill the role of “center of excellence” for all things HM&E within the Navy. Through slightly more humble beginnings in 1910 as the Fuel Oil Test Plant started by Rear Adm. George W. Melville (the Navy’s Chief Engineer and a critical member in our engineering heritage) the facility has grown to something far greater. NSWCPD stands as the best location in our Nation for locating a Land Based Engineering Site (LBES) for all our seagoing platforms.

Land Based Engineering Sites provide a significant amount of support for the fleet. Not just a first-in-class risk reduction tool, these sites provide crew training, modernization testing and implementation, casualty response, and sustainment support for nearly every ship class in some way. NSWCPD has fostered dozens of these sites in its storied history of engineering prowess and is the logical place to continue these investments. A prime example of a current LBES success story is the DDG 51 LBES, which continues to provide for the fleet and is responsible for ensuring every iteration of machinery control is tested prior to fleet integration. In addition, each DDG pre-commissioning crew comes to Philadelphia to train on equipment in a ship prototypical hot plant. There is a reason that the DDG 51 class is the reliable workhorse of the fleet and it’s in no small part to the efforts of the team at NSWCPD.

So, what is the FFG 62 LBES? Directed by the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the test site is meant to de-risk and provide lifetime support for Constellation class engineering plant. Through hard lessons learned on other ship classes and challenges with some of the new technology, LBES has been an attractive and proven method of supporting new engineering systems and ensuring long term success. Due to the technically mature but “new for the Navy” combined diesel-electric and gas (CODLAG) propulsion train implementation on FFG 62, a full test site supports the transition from first-in-class ship to fully sustainable combat vessel.

The easiest analogy to describe the site is in our logo, a ship in a bottle. We are essentially taking a copy of the ship’s full electric and propulsion system and putting it in a building. This includes four diesel generators, a gas turbine engine, main reduction gear, two electrical propulsion motors, two shafts, and two propulsion load machines to act as “propellers” in the water. This equipment, plus all the supporting structures, controls, electrical load banks, and auxiliaries make up the bulk of the “ship” in our site. But, just like the hobby version, you must have a “bottle” to put it in.

Currently, we are in that “building the bottle” stage of execution. The south end of the facility was occupied by various older test sites such as a large concrete diesel test cell, torpedo strike down lift system, and a CVN-68 Class cargo weapons elevator test site. Those sites have since been demolished and the facility is now being prepared for the new foundation, structures, roof, control house, and various associated infrastructure upgrades. On the design front, the engineering and procurement teams are hard at work designing the site, ensuring it meets the requirements, and that equipment is being purchased to meet our need date. Much of the ship equipment is already undergoing manufacturing and testing.

One of our challenges in building the LBES has been how to provide a capability to the fleet as soon as possible. In terms of “Get Real, Get Better” the time it takes to design and build both the infrastructure and the test site is substantial and identifying what we can bring to the table to support the first ship has been an important part of the project. After identifying the “Get Real” of our timeline, our “Get Better” effort was to pull a realistic capability ahead of the full hot plant commissioning. We have worked with our Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) and shipbuilder partners to provide a path for early controls testing, providing risk reduction for the first hull on a new and complicated system as well as developing the in-house control expertise that will support sustainment for decades to come.

Philadelphia, the birthplace of our Navy, played a critical role in the early steps as a maritime nation. One of the original six frigates, the United States, was built at the designer Joshua Humphrey’s shipyard just upriver from the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), who famously survived the mine strike in 1988, now sits in the basin near the entrance of the yard, a testament to the tenacity of her Sailors keeping her afloat. Now, Philadelphia carries a new legacy of naval frigates. On a river where one once watched the wind laden sails of wooden ships traveling to sea you will now hear the whine and rumble of engines. So, grab your cheesesteak, run it off up the “Rocky Steps”, and enjoy the sounds of a gas turbine spooling up along the Delaware. The FFG 62 LBES will be here, until the last frigate’s mission is complete, ready for what comes next.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.