The naval support chain is getting bigger. Just consider the scale of the US Navy.

This article was submitted by Evan Butler-Jones, Director, Defence Product Line, Aerospace & Defence Business Unit at IFS, more can be found about Evan at the end of this article. 

The 250+ strong fleet contains everything from the massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, which stretches more than 1,000 feet, to the nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines whose time at sea is only limited by food and maintenance requirements. And over the next 30 years the US Navy plans to expand both its fleet of ships and aircraft.

An already complex network is growing, driven by new factors including next generation equipment, longer asset lifecycles and changing support agreements.

Achieving a cross-organizational visibility can be difficult

Keeping a naval force ready relies on military personnel, OEMs and in-service support providers working together in harmony–but the sheer size of naval assets and the fact they are deployed around the world in all types of environments makes tracking and monitoring equipment status a difficult task.

A lean and efficient supply chain is vital to keep costs down and readiness up, but this can no longer be achieved with disparate management and legacy IT support systems. Different assets and divisions are often run by separate systems, designed to act as stand-alone applications. The result is that important transactional, technical and performance data can get locked into these ‘functional domains’ making it difficult to provide crucial visibility across the entire support chain—crucial because this can pose readiness challenges but also compromise compliance and safety.

The devil is in the detail – and which detail matters

Yet imposing a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ system to manage all naval equipment and divisions can cause just as many readiness issues. The same processes required to manage spare parts for on-board kitchen equipment will certainly not be able to manage the ship-board maintenance requirements of an F-35.

It’s about choosing the right software partners and a small set of specialist software tools that, when combined, provide capability to gain an enterprise-wide view of performance and force readiness. This means interoperable asset and support chain software designed to work within a large naval ecosystem that understands its complex needs around engineering, configuration and maintenance.

Any selected solutions will still require specificity—naval support must be within the expertise of both the software partner and IT system. Without specialist support, naval forces run the risk of missing key capabilities they need to support specific end-to-end processes that link up the overlapping elements of the support chain.

Mission readiness reports at the touch of a button

Once a best-of-breed IT infrastructure has been put in place, the next challenge is to get a big picture view of fleet readiness. Simple business intelligence tools cannot provide the level of insight required to answer an Operations Commander asking if the force is ready to perform an at-sea mission from an HR, material, and training perspective in a given timeframe.

This multi-layered scenario is exactly why IFS has developed Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI), to provide commanders the capability to model operational readiness by drawing data together from the carefully selected suite of source systems. The goal, when deployed correctly, is to accurately identify assets, resources status or required maintenance—then present a readiness report. The 360-degree view enables Operations Commanders to establish if the force is prepared to execute a mission from a readiness perspective. If the answer is no, a supporting EOI solution can analyze which issues need addressing to ensure the mission deadline is met.

Mastering complexity

As the naval support chain continues to grow in complexity, naval organisations need the ability to maintain asset availability levels at all times. IT support systems now play a crucial role in mission readiness, and the faster militaries realize this the better. Failure to do so will result in compromised safety, spiralling budgets and even uncertain mission success.

About the author – Evan Butler-Jones

Evan’s history and knowledge of the IFS Maintenix product offering date back to 2001-2011 when he occupied various leadership roles at Mxi Technologies and was involved in projects such as the Lockheed Martin F35 Joint Strike Fighter Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) and the Boeing 787 “Goldcare” system development and business model analysis.

Prior to joining IFS, Evan was CEO of The Materials Joining Innovation Centre (MaJIC) in Ontario, Canada, a not-for-profit organization created to fill industry’s need for practical welding expertise. He currently sits as advisor to the Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (ICAMP) – Canadore College, also in Ontario.

9 COMMENTS

    • Americans are a big fan of the RFA. The MSC / CLF has a wide range of ships and capabilities, but it is a very different organisation being both fish and fowl as it were……..

  1. I love the US navy/ millitary they don’t care about money they care about having capabilty. The British defence budget shouldnt be about % of GDP! It should be about what capabilities do we want to have and need to have then get them no matter the cost, within reason obviously.

    Ever since the US Navy took over the Royal Navy in the WW2 days they have been strong and looked great. To think the whole US millitary only had a few hundred odd thousand in 1939 and after 5 years 12 million 2 hundred thousand was in the US millitary is mind boggling! And at the End they over took Britain to be a true superpower and continue to be. God bless 🇺🇸 and god save the Queen 🇬🇧

    • Well, If You paid your Bloody Taxes like the Rest of Us, You’d not have had to pour all the Tea overboard and Maybe, just Maybe, We’d all still be saying “God save the Queen” Add Your Navy to Ours and Bugger me backwards with a rough handled Panzerfoust , We’d never have been Fighting Nazis In Frog Land. Oh and another thing, Leave Canada alone or else. !!!!

    • The US armed forces definitely do care about money, it’s just that being a much larger force serving a far larger economy, it has more budget to throw around.

      Cost has become an increasingly important factor though. It’s why programmes like the F-22, Sea Wolf, and Zumwalt were never procured in the numbers intended, replaced by cheaper options.

      • Well the Americans don’t seem to get good bang for their buck with most things (not all). And the pentagon can’t account for trillions spent… But they are a superpower and by far the biggest economy. So who cares, as long as they have the B1, B2, B52 bombers and the vast amount of army tanks, thousands of jets and the 1 thousand odd f16s alone! And loads of Navy destroyers, dozens of aircraft carriers ect ect and more US Marines than the whole of the British military combined and millitary reserves and the MOD, GCHQ, MI6 Mi5, and the whole special forces and some.

  2. It’s true to say the the US military does not care so much about money as the UK does but it’s also fair to say that the US tax payer gets terrible value for money for what they spend. Programs like Zumwalt and Ford show how the Pentagon is prepared to piss money up the wall for little or no benefit. A $700 billion Budget should get way more than 300 ships, 600,000 land forces and a couple of thousand increasingly old 4th gen aircraft.

    • The taxpayer gets a better value than most countries in the US.

      Zumwalt was made expensive by trying to introduce to much to quick and then having Congress intervene and make it even more expensive. Add to this the program was a victim of timing they were designed and laid down at a time when the government was more focused on Afghanistan and Iraq than China or Russia so they were the victim of delays and cost overruns as funding was directed elsewhere.

      On the Ford class it is the first new class of Carrier to enter service since the 70s. People compare her construction and development costs to the Nimitz class. You would not be able to develop and build a Nimitz class Carrier for a appreciably lower price than a Ford today. The dollar of 2019 is not the dollar of 1975 neither is the pound. The other cause for a increase in cost was the Obama administration decided to go to a 5yr rather than 4yr build schedule because they thought it would save money. It didn’t stretching out the build artificially increased the cost due to suppliers not offering bulk prices.

      A 600 thousand man land forces:
      Army: 476,000
      Army Reserve: 199,000
      National Guard: 343,000
      Marine Corps: 182,500
      Marine Corps Reserve: 38,500
      Keep in mind in the US both the Guard and Reserve units are trained and exercised more than their European counterparts. Also unlike reserves in Europe in America the Army can and does send the National Guard on foreign deployments such as to Iraq or Afghanistan. Back in WWII the first American units to reach Australia and North Africa were Guard units because they had full complements of NCOs due to recalled veterans.

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