In January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) — part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group — left San Diego for a scheduled Indo-Pacific deployment. Along with 6,000 service members spread between several ships is a new experimental unit designed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory that could one day change the way the Navy plans for defeating anti-ship missile attacks.
The hard kill/soft kill (HK/SK) Performance Assessment Tool (HaSPAT) helps the warfighter understand the planned defensive posture and evaluate combat system performance before an enemy attack. It also balances weapon inventory by advising what’s available and keeping enough weapons back for individual defense measures. APL deployed HaSPAT on the Bunker Hill to get warfighter feedback that will be essential to developing new engagement coordination capabilities for the fleet.
SK sensors detect signatures from weapons and then use electromagnetic countermeasures to disrupt them. HK countermeasures include physical weapons, such as projectiles, to destroy or damage incoming fire. The tool — developed and ready for deployment in less than six months — demonstrates the Laboratory’s ability to rapidly prototype sponsor solutions. APL engineers began working on it after a visit to the Bunker Hill in June 2019.
“During the visit, the commanding officer, Capt. Kurt Sellerberg, offered to evaluate hard kill/soft kill coordination tools if APL could provide them before the ship’s deployment in early 2020,” explained Rich Kochanski, the project’s chief engineer and a member of APL’s Air and Missile Defense Sector. It was a risky endeavor, Kochanski admitted, but one made possible with the use of internal Independent Research and Development funding.
While the tool is meant primarily to be used by the warfighter, additional users could include analysts and engineers for data visualization, testing, evaluation, modeling and simulation. The HaSPAT is a first step toward changing insights into the different ways for the warfighter to modify mission planning and increase survivability using HK and SK platforms.
“Users may also set up different force battlespace configurations for area and self-defense experiments,” said Steven Leon, an engineer on the project. “The tool incorporates information about weapon effectiveness to support weapon assignment and scheduling. The simulation produces analytics and performance metrics to inform the user of possible risks associated with battlespace configurations.”
It is also compact enough to be used as a stand-alone application with multiple tools on a single laptop, accessible through a modern user interface. As the USS Bunker Hill continues its deployment, the crew will examine the prototype’s functionality and give feedback for more updates. This increases the likelihood of combined HK and SK planning as an operational capability fleet-wide within the next decade.