This spring, exactly a year and a half after the signature of the order for the four Egyptian Gowind® vessels, the first trials of the new combat system* on the quayside test platform will start. A veritable feat of scheduling and technical prowess that is necessary to be able to comply with the contractual deadlines, and made possible by the organisational and technical expertise of the teams in Lorient, Bagneux and Ollioules. The details from their “maestro”, Vincent Fabre, the programme’s CSE (Combat System Engineering) and CSI (Combat System Integration) manager.
What does your profession consist of and what are the current challenges?
“Today, my role is to ensure the coordination of the overall combat-system development, production and validation activity within the Gowind® Egypt programme. Previously, I was combat system architect for LHDs, then CSE-CSI manager on the Gowind® Malaysia programme. I have also participated in submarine programmes, both for export and French markets.
Over time, I have been able to observe different types of organisation and identify the best processes allowing us to gain time while at the same time ensuring product quality. And from this perspective, the challenge is a major one: designing and producing a corvette in 38 months is a first for DCNS!
To ensure that we are up to the challenge, as soon as I arrived on the programme we deployed the appropriate upstream and downstream organisation and engineering processes. This organisation relies on a team made up of weapons and sensors managers, CMS engineers as well as physical and functional integrators. The process is implemented according to functional chain, from design to validation, by a team structured in pairs of equipment and CMS-software specialists, working on the same platform for greater proximity.
As an example, the specifications are drafted jointly. We thus avoid information transmission errors or incorrect interpretation. Exchanges have multiplied and the communication mind-set is positive. Furthermore, I can observe a very positive emulation between young and more experienced team members. And today I can say that this team, from which we expect so much, is a real return on investment. This organisational reform has paid off, we are fulfilling our objectives: the team is confident!”
“The PSIM brings significant added value both for the combat system’s performance and the optimisation of the design and construction for the armed vessel.”
The Gowind® product line comprises an innovative corvette equipped with an effective combat system. What are its main advantages?
“We should above all highlight the PSIM (Panoramic Sensors and Intelligence Module) that DCNS is integrating for the first time in one of its programmes. It is a physical module in a single piece, produced in parallel to the vessel. It comprises the vessel’s single mast, containing the radars and sensors, the combat system’s main equipment, not forgetting the operational rooms including the Combat Information Centre and the Communications Control Room. This innovation brings significant added value both for the combat system’s performance and the optimisation of the design and construction process for the armed vessel.
On the operational front, the PSIM provides 360° coverage of the vessel’s environment, and improves the compatibility between the different sensors by superposing them in this single mast. As a result, there are no angular masks – or if you prefer, no blind spots.
Second major advantage: because it has been designed as an almost autonomous subsystem, the PSIM also serves as a land-based integration platform. As of March, six months prior to the vessel launch, our teams will be able to start the first combat system tests in Lorient as if they would be on board the moored vessel. Thanks to this innovation, we will be able to start the integration phase earlier for a significant part of the equipment. We will thus gain valuable time at the on-board installation and testing stage, once the platform has been completed.
Another advantage of this organisation for export clients such as Egypt, which will itself produce three Gowind® units, is that DCNS guarantees the integration of the critical components of the combat system and the mast, within constrained lead times. In effect, DCNS ensures the construction of the PSIMs in France and then transfers these to the hulls built in Alexandria.”
Any other differentiating advantages of the Gowind® combat system to be highlighted?
“Innovation is also addressed through the optimisation of system deployment. The key to effective operation, the Setis® CMS (Combat Management System**), which is based on the software equipping the FREMMs, offers human-machine interfaces with a highly innovative design and ergonomics. Specific attention has been paid to the graphical charter and composition of the screens. As a result, Setis® provides the Gowind® corvettes with a reactive and intuitive system for the control of a tactical situation and for the deployment of weapons systems. This is an important point given the exceptional capacities of this 2500-tonne vessel. Whether for the CMS, the detection systems or the weapons, this solution installed on Gowind® vessels ensures that they are complete vessels, designed and optimised in terms of crew, to ensure a veritable operational capacity in the frame of multi-role missions in all three areas of warfare (surface, submarine and air).”
“At the heart of the combat system, the Setis® CMS brings the modularity and scalability necessary for taking into account the specificities requested by each client.”
What message would DCNS like to send to foreign navies through the deployment of these innovations?
“Today, the cost/lead-time aspect is a determining factor. The geopolitical context is evolving. The needs of certain States can arise from one day to another, with ever shorter cycles. Previously, vessels were built in 90 months, then 60. DCNS now possesses the necessary operational agility to complete this within 38 months, from design to acceptance. Our ability to rise to such a challenge was made possible by the incredible skill and investment of the DCNS teams, not forgetting our industrial partners.
It seems likely that the Gowind® line of products will open new horizons for DCNS. Indeed, at the heart of the combat system, the Setis® CMS brings the modularity and scalability necessary for taking into account the specificities requested by each client. It is just the beginning of a great adventure!”