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NEWS | Jan. 20, 2023

From Sea to Shining Sea: NSWC Dahlgren Division Combat Systems Installation and Integration Team Delivers Tactical Upgrades to Naval Ships

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Hardware and software – in an increasingly technological world, nearly everything relies on both – whether phones and computers or meat thermometers and calculators. The marriage between the two is lifelong and constantly faces adjustments as technology grows and matures. The U.S. Navy and Department of Defense are no exceptions.  About 30% of the workforce at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) falls into the software category, according to Technical Director Dale Sisson, Jr., SES. One of the teams within this percentage is the Combat Systems Installation and Integration (CSII) workforce.

“On naval ships, there are all kinds of systems onboard that need to work together interoperably to form a combat system. There are command and control systems, gun weapon systems, vertical launching systems – all kinds that on their own are fine, but they have to work together to essentially turn a ship into a warship or combat ship,” explained CSII Branch head Jim Salyers, Jr.

The nearly 30 person CSII team at NSWCDD executes the delivery of the tactical computer program build for multiple baselines, including the Aegis and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ships and land-based sites.

“We install improved tactical computer programs that get all those different systems to work together and provide the ship with the systems and capabilities it needs to be successful in an operational setting,” Salyers said. “Without that highly complex software, a lot of the systems wouldn’t be able to work cooperatively together.”

Dahlgren works with industry partners to develop the latest capabilities the fleet needs to be successful, whether that be adding new capabilities or upgrading existing ones. Once developed, the software is brought to Dahlgren for configuration control. From there, the software often undergoes further rigorous testing before being delivered to the ship. Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division handles the hardware side of the equation while Dahlgren works with the software. Within the Dahlgren Division, CSII works as part of Combat Engineering and Configuration Control (CECC) to develop and deliver systems to the fleet.

“The CSII team is incredibly hands-on. They are onboard ships, installing combat systems and making sure those systems are running as designed. They are in the details, touching the combat system directly,” explained Keith Manion, the CECC Division head. “The rest of the division typically doesn’t touch the combat systems directly, but they’ll look at the artifacts of the system and make sure it is meeting and performing against requirements. Those platforms have to meet the requirements of the mission.”

While the rest of the division stays closer to home, the CSII team travels about 40 to 60% of the time performing ship and land-based software installations.

“We do it all – we do the paperwork and procedures needed to get to the ships, then we go and install it,” said Senior Technical Lead Craig Emmerton. “The newer baselines bring new technical challenges and problems to solve. The process for installing may stay the same but the figuring out why something doesn’t work or how we can make something better keeps the job fresh. It’s not just the same thing over and over again.”

Emmerton has 20 years of experience at NSWCDD. The majority of that time has been spent with CSII.

“Unlike a lot of positions here at Dahlgren, we are actually seeing the end product. We are testing that final completed weapons system on the ship. We see all the hard work that everyone on the base has already put in,” said Emmerton. “Working with the Sailors is one of the best parts of the job. It’s rewarding to share knowledge about the system with them, knowing that information is being applied somewhere very important.”

“We feel directly responsible for ensuring the fleet’s operational readiness and sustainment,” said Salyers. “We take great pride in sustaining the fleet of today. We know that if something flares up or goes hot, we are giving the ships everything they need to be successful.”