The Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) Land Based Engineering Site (LBES) at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) has supported the fleet through development, testing and evaluation, and training for 30 years.
The engineering site has become a staple of the life cycle engineering work performed by NSWCPD engineers. Since the Light-Off ceremony in 1989, LBES has trained more than 2000 Sailors and officers, supported all 67 DDG-51 destroyers commissioned to date, and will continue to support the future DDG 51-class destroyers as they are acquired.
“An LBES is a full-scale propulsion system. LBES testing has been a specialty of the Philadelphia Division since 1943. Since 1972, LBES testing reduced the acquisition risk of four of the five Navy surface combatants (Spruance-class, Oliver Hazard Perry-class, Arleigh Burke-class, and Zumwalt-class),” said. Dr. E. Michael Golda, NSWCPD’s Chief Technology Officer. “Only the Arleigh Burke-class has chosen to expand the advantage of the capabilities of its LBES to include crew training and cost and risk avoidance for major machinery upgrades during the service life of the class.”
The site duplicates Main Engine Room Number 2 in its as-built configuration adding the electrical generation system. This LBES provides a location for immediate investigation, replication, analysis and resolution of reliability and maintenance issues identified in both commissioned destroyers and new units under construction without the impacts of having to use an afloat unit. The DDG 51 LBES serves as a testbed for all new machinery software and hardware prior to installation in the fleet. In addition, DDG 51 LBES is also used to support modernization and tech refresh efforts for the Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
While the DDG 51 LBES is only part of NSWCPD’s legacy of 76 years of full-scale propulsion system testing experience, it is uniquely distinguished as the longest running operational test site for the U.S. Navy’s largest peacetime class of warships.
“The LBES is NSWCPD’s crown jewel,” said NSWCPD’s Charlie Gilligan, DDG 51 LBES test engineer. “It is one of the most successful projects in the Navy.”
Gilligan started as a marine machinist mechanic in 1987 and helped finish construction of the DDG 51 LBES. He has spent the last 19 years as a test engineer, overseeing the operation of LBES through 150 days of testing a year and over 2,300 total engine tests.
Construction of the DDG 51 LBES began in 1982, after NSWCPD was designated the in-service engineering agent for the DDG 51 machinery systems. Construction occurred concurrently with the class’s lead ship, USS Arleigh Burke.
Toni Checchio, was an entry level electrical engineer when construction began and has been working with the DDG 51 LBES for her entire career. During the LBES main propulsion Initial Light-Off (ILO), the LBES staff worked 16 hour days, seven days a week to complete the Machinery Controls System software testing prior to the DDG 51 Ship’s Main Propulsion ILO.
“I’ve supported the DDG 51 class longer in my life than I haven’t,” Checchio said. “It’s been my entire career ever since I was 22 years old.”
LBES testing identified several issues prior to USS Arleigh Burke’s sea trials in 1990-1991. Early detection allowed the equipment manufacturer to correct problems with the ship’s machinery control system (MCS), data multiplex system (DMS), and the Allison 9130 generator sets. There was an issue with the main reduction gear lube oil system. Together with representatives from Bath Iron Works, NSWCPD engineers developed and demonstrated modifications to the piping systems, lube oil sump, and lube oil vent at LBES necessary to correct the issue.
Engineers at Philadelphia were instrumental in the first baseline change in the electrical system in the DDG-68, the 17th ship in the class. The original electric system was installed on the Arleigh Burke without testing at the DDG 51 LBES. Years of testing lead to a reconfiguration of the system and new Gas Turbine Generators.
Since USS Arleigh Burke was commissioned on July 4, 1991, NSWCPD engineers have continued to make improvements to the propulsion system. The 1960s vintage mechanical fuel control for the LM-2500 gas turbine engines was an early, ongoing problem. Even after 29 modifications, the fuel control was still responsible for nearly 50 percent of the engine failures.
In early 2000, NSWCPD engineers developed a digital fuel control. More than 25 hours of single-engine and dual-engine preliminary testing at the DDG 51 LBES identified several minor issues with this upgrade. Follow-on LBES testing validated successful corrections for these issues, prior to successful at-sea testing in 2001.
NSWCPD used a similar approach to develop a Full Authority Digital Control for the ship service gas turbine generators. Digital fuel controls were installed on new construction ships beginning with USS Sampson (DDG 102), while back-fit installations began on earlier ships of the class.
Use of the DDG 51 LBES to support the development and test and evaluation of major machinery modifications has an estimated cost savings of 89 percent compared to using one of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for developmental testing of machinery system upgrades. Between 1994 and 2009, the Navy realized an estimated $100 million cost avoidance through LBES testing.
Beyond testing machinery, electrical, auxiliaries and software systems, the DDG 51 LBES staff train the Pre-Commissioning Crews sometimes before they ever get aboard their ship. The site personnel have proved instrumental to the development of the various system familiarization-training courses and have provided training to Pre-Commissioning Sailors and Officers for all DDG 51 class ships.
The DDG 51 LBES training program for pre-commissioning Commanding Officer, Executive Officers, and Chief Engineers has trained some of the Navy’s best. Former Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead trained at NSWCPD, as did Vice Adm. William Landay who served as Chief of Naval Research and lead Program Executive Office for Ships, and Vice Adm. Peter Daly, deputy commander and chief of staff.
“There’s nowhere else in the Navy that has the training capabilities that we have,” Checchio said.
Today, the site is currently undergoing a significant upgrade adding the new electrical system of the DDG Flight III to test and validate the performance of both the hardware and the Machinery Controls System (MCS). At the same time, many of the early ships in the class have entered mid-life modernization whereby new government furnished equipment (GFE) controls upgrades are tested at LBES and installed shipboard during modernization availabilities. The LBES mid-life upgrade testing has been taking place since 2010.
LBES will stay in service through the lifespan of the DDG 51-class, which has been expanded to a 45-year service life, continuing to train crews for both new construction and earlier ships undergoing their mid-life upgrades, and to validate machinery system upgrades improving availability and reducing operating costs.
“The DDG 51 LBES has already made proven contributions to the in-service engineering supporting this class. With the restart of Flight IIA production, the upcoming Flight III, and service life extension, the Philadelphia Division DDG 51-class LBES will continue to provide value to the Navy for years to come,” Golda said.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,600 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.