Thursday, 23 January 2014

Joint Logistic Support Ship – The Strongest Link In The Supply Chain

This article was written in September last year. The ship has since undergone a few significant events. It first controversially went on sale due to budget cut by the Dutch MvD and the Canadian government has shown interest to purchase the newly built ship. However, in October last year, the Dutch MvD has reversed the planned cut after receiving EUR 115million funding. To overcome budgetary issue, HNLMS Karel Doorman will operate with reduced crew size. 

UNREP, a term coined from Underway Replenishment has constantly become one of the most critical element in the endurance of any naval operation. The growing trend for naval fleets to operate far from home waters is making UNREP more necessary than ever. International operations, such as the Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) in the Gulf of Aden requires the presence of UNREP ships so that combatant ships can remain on station for extended periods. The history of at-sea-replenishment has highlighted the importance of having excellent multi-role UNREP support. Although the single-role concept was proven very successful, they are now becoming more and more obsolete thus many naval forces today eliminated the single-role concept for food, fuel and ordnance supplies. Budget restrictions, as well as the requirement of smaller fleets with superior capabilities has consequently resulted in the retirement of these worn out logistic ships hence the introduction of the new, multi-role, Joint Logistic Support Ship (JSS).

Genesis of the JSS

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was the first to initiate the concept of JSS in 2004 when they announced the contract for the construction of two vessels under the JSS category. Under the contract, the RCN would have expected one ship to be fully operational by 2012. However, in August 2008, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services announced the termination of the procurement contract of the highly anticipated JSS. The whole progress was put to a halt pending July 2010 when the Defence Minister of Canada announced the purchase of two JSS, with a value estimated at USD2.8 billion.
In December 2009, while the Canadian procurement contract was at a standstill, the Netherland’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) heralded a contract for the supply of a JSS. The ship, named Karel Doorman, was initiated as the replacement ship for the HNLMS Zuiderkruis, a Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) logistic ship, which has been operational for the past 34 years. The ship is fundamentally designed as a multi-role platform to enhance the RNLN’s logistic strength, to function as a multiple platform, from maritime support, strategic sealift to sea-basing mission in blue and brown water environments.
According to DSNS, construction of the ship’s main structure largely takes place at Damen Shipyard in Galati, Romania. The ship’s keel was laid down in June 2011 by RAdm K. Visser and while this article is written, JSS Karel Doorman has completed its three-week journey from Romania to DSNS in Vlissingen, Holland for completion including systems outfitting, commissioning and testing. The JSS is due to be rolled out in July 2014.

Stronger Logistic Muscles

The JSS is a multi-role logistic ship, measuring 205 metres long and 30 metres wide. The Royal Netherlands Navy’s 28,000 tonnes JSS Karel Doorman is designed to accommodate at least 300 personnel, consisting of 150 crewmembers and 150 non-listed members that include helicopter crew and medical teams. The huge build-up contributes to JSS Karel Doorman’s ability to accommodate multiple extensive facilities including a bigger hangar, a bigger helicopter deck and also a more comprehensive hospital facility.
In the hospital configuration, the ship allows for more complex hospital operation, capable of providing diagnosis, treatment as well as holding of patients needing and receiving total treatment. In disaster relief mode, the ship is furthermore able to accommodate a large number of evacuees, fully utilising the hospital space. This, in a whole, provides the ship with greater reaction time in an event of a disaster.
Meanwhile, to achieve superiority in the logistic category, the ship is equipped with a deck area measuring 2000 lane meters, providing enhanced room for cargo roll on-roll off (RORO). Fully loaded, the ship is able to carry as much as 8000m3 of fuel, 1000m3 of helicopter fuel, 450m3 of potable water as well as 400 tonnes of ammunition. In addition to that, for loading and unloading purposes, the ship is equipped with two Replenishment-At-Sea masts, an elevator and a crane capable of handling 40 tonnes of loads. This ship too, is equipped with a RORO facility and a steel beach stern for easier transport of landing craft.
Aft of the ship is a helicopter deck, easily recognisable by the open wide space, large enough to enable two helicopters as big as a Chinook to operate simultaneously. For helicopter storing purposes, JSS Karel Doorman is built with a very large hangar that can house as many as six NH-90 helicopters with folded blades or two Chinooks, both with full-extended blades.

Thales I-Mast Goes Seaborne

On March 2010, DMO and Thales Nederland have signed a contract for the construction, delivery and installation of the I-Mast on the JSS. The DMO has opted for the I-Mast 400, a system similar to the one installed on RNLN’s four Holland-class Patrol Ships.
JSS Karel Doorman, is currently undergoing tests using a Thales I-Mast system that is reportedly borrowed from the RNLN’s new Holland-class OPV. Delivery and installation of the I-Mast on board JSS Karel Doorman is set to take place January 2014.

Thales I-Mast 400
The I-Mast system offered by Thales is an all-in-one mast concept, a structure built meticulously to house various sensory equipments including radar, optical-electronics, communication devices, antennas, cabinets as well as many other peripherals. The introduction of the one mast concept minimises the need of more costly and complex power supplies, structure adaptations, electrical interfaces as well as cabling and cooling systems.

The whole system consists of a Seamaster 400 SMILE air warning radar, a non-rotating phased-array S-band radar with four faces that is derived from the SMART and APAR radar systems, Seawatcher 100 active phased-array surface detection and tracking radar, a non-rotating active phased-array I-band radar for naval surface surveillance and the Gatekeeper infra-red/electro-optical warning system, a 360° panoramic electro-optical surveillance and alerter system based on IR/TV technology.

Integration of Advanced Firepower

The fact that the JSS is merely a logistic ship does not prevent the RNLN to boost its firepower. Focusing on defensive equipment rather than offensive, JSS Karel Doorman is armed with considerably heavy countermeasures against inbound threats. To begin with, the JSS is armed with a pair of Thales Nederland’s 30mm Goalkeeper 7-barrel gatling gun systems along with Missile Piercing Discarding Sabot (MPDS) ammunition. The system, which is built with dedicated search and track radar, is meant to provide the much-needed resistance against surface threats. Operating on I-band, the system is able to detect targets in all weather conditions, and furthermore backed by the I/K-band track radar for a continuous track-while-scan mode to engage multiple threats at the same time.
Next in the defence line are two Oto Melara’s Marlin WS 30mm naval guns. Adding to the two previous guns, four Oto Melara’s Hitrole NT systems are going to be installed. These 12.7mm small calibre machine guns can be remotely operated and normally assigned within a ship’s secondary defence line. Operating through optronic sensors, the system can also be connected to the ship’s Combat Management System.

Oto Melara's Hitrole NT
JSS Karel Doorman is also set to carry four Super Rapid Blooming Off-board Chaff (SRBOC) systems. The SRBOC stand as the ship’s only soft-kill protection system, generating decoy patterns and providing full screening for the ship.
The JSS Karel Doorman features comprehensive ASuW suites, including self-defence mechanism against seaborne threats including missiles, combat aircraft and helicopters. Its defence features have way surpassed its predecessor, the HNLMS Zuiderkruis, which during its service life was only armed with a single Goalkeeper system and two manned 12.7mm gun stations.

Propelling Forward: The Propulsion System

Rolls Royce will supply five Bergen diesel generators, comprising of four 5.5MW and one 2.8MW generator, which totals up to 24MW. DSNS too has awarded a procurement contract to Converteam, or later known as GE’s Power Conversion for the supply of two main electric motors. In the contract, Power Conversion will also supply the ship’s thrusters electric systems and an Energy Management System.
Looking at the main propulsion system, the RNLN has decided to use the conventional configuration of rudder and fixed pitch propeller. Powered by two 9MW electric motors, JSS Karel Doorman is capable of cruising at a maximum speed of 18 knot. For easier manoeuvring in limited space, the ship is equipped with two 1.25MW thrusters at the bow and a single 0.75MW thruster at the stern. These thrusters act as the ship’s auxiliary propulsion system, enabling it to move port and starboard thus providing a logistic solution for the ship’s operation.

Economic Challenges Ahead

Soon to be commissioned as a frontline logistic platform, the JSS is anticipated as the RNLN’s logistic delivery capability of the future. While combatant ships are receiving more complex and advanced technological suites, logistic ships such as JSS Karel Doorman albeit less complex, are built with immense capability. Being a part of future naval system, naval ships generally or specifically the JSS Karel Doorman is expected to perform way beyond its original capability.
Therefore, the RNLN is taking one step ahead of its potential opponents with the integration of advanced technologies in all aspects including logistic, self-defence and communication and sensory systems. Since this has cost the government a lot of money, the expectation of this super-expensive naval asset is high in the air. Global recession as well as many other economic contributing factors has occasionally put pressure on both the public and private sectors. While the public sector is facing budget constraints, the private sector, the contractors to be specific, are facing challenges in gadgetry development as well as time constriction aspect.
With navies tendency to deploy ships far from home waters for international operations such as the CTF-150, one should expect to get the most out of this expensive sea-going ship hence operational ability and capability remains the main issue. The RNLN, eagerly expecting the JSS Karel Doorman, is anticipating challenges in the future, especially in current economic setting in order to maintain the equilibrium of cost efficiency and operational capability.

 A Look At The Not-So-Distant Future

Marked by the arrival of JSS Karel Doorman in her homeland in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, the RNLN is expecting some momentous events in the future. It will begin with the integration of the I-Mast 400 by Thales Nederland, which is going to take place somewhere in January next year.
On May 2014, JSS Karel Doorman is set to undergo the first phase of its sea trial and the handover ceremony between DSNS and DMO later in July next year. Right after the handover ceremony, a number of tests will be conducted, as well as the commencement of refinement period for the ship and her crew.

The commission of JSS Karel Doorman, as planned, is due mid 2015 and it is to enter service and revive the duty of its predecessors, HNLMS Zuiderkruis, decommissioned 2012 and the HNLMS Amsterdam, which will be decommissioned in 2014 respectively. On the day of its inauguration, the JSS will officially bear the name, HNLMS Karel Doorman and A883 pennant number as a mark of its role as the RNLN’s primary auxiliary ship. 

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