Information: The Real Power

While much of the focus on the Streetfighter concept focuses on the physical vessels being conceptualized, developed and tested, the underlying technology that makes the move to small acceptable is not found in a shipyard or a machinery space. Work on the Expeditionary Sensor Grid is a critical piece in the puzzle that will empower the Navy of tomorrow with the capability to identify, target and defeat foes, large and small. As Harold Hultgren, CNAN project manager, Navy Warfare Development Command explains, it largely centers on the ability to collect, distribute and analyze data efficiently, without fail. "We have to get our sensing closer ... you get no precision effects without precision sensing," he said. In essence, as weapons capabilities have grown, so to have the systems needed to detect them, in both size and cost. Today's Navy ship must carry an exhaustive array of complete systems to help it detect and thwart most any threat.

The work currently being carried out at NWDC is examining the employment of smaller, faster vessels to carry out the changing mission demands of the fleet of the future. It would be impossible for smaller vessels to carry such a diverse and complete package of equipment and systems, from both a payload and cost stance, so testing currently being carried out focuses on, for lack of a better term, "plug and play" capabilities of smaller, faster ships into a network, operating on a squadron concept.

While the technology inherent in providing a vessel to do its mission while going "light" is multifaceted and diverse, it is based on consumer technology — with military tweaks, and is currently focused on the use of computerized "agents" to seek and retrieve information.

While work has progressed, Hultgren noted there are some enormous challenges ahead, such as making sensors smaller and making them robust enough to weather the rugged maritime environment.

"Seawater is tough," Hultgren said. "Also, energy is a huge issue."

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