Electrifying the Navy’s Next Generation of Carriers, Destroyers and Frigates

January 3, 2023

Reducing the Navy’s Reliance on Fossil Fuels With Naval Platform Electrification

January 2023 — There are several factors that are affecting the Navy’s drive towards platform electrification. One main reason is the need for more electric power for payloads, sensors, and weapons. For example, the Navy is pursuing directed energy weapons, mainly lasers, that require significant power that only an all-electric fleet can provide.

Cruise ships went to integrated electric propulsion decades ago, driven by cost of equipment and fuel. A cruise ship’s hotel electrical consumption can be as much as one-third of the propulsion power. In a conventional system, the propulsion power is separate from the electrical power. In an integrated system, the propulsion and electrical power share the same combined system. This reduces the number of engines and improves fuel consumption.

With increased power needs for electric payloads, sensors and weapons, the Navy is in the same place cruise ships were decades ago. If you’re wondering what this might look like aboard a Navy carrier or destroyer,

Leonardo DRS builds purpose-built solutions; custom designed to fit and adhere to the specific needs of the forward-deployed ship. For over 100 years, we’ve designed and manufactured electrical equipment on every USN combatant.

Today we continue to design and manufacture high performance permanent magnet (PM) motors, rugged, military specification power converters, and motor drives to provide the power control of the PM motors, mil-specification switchgear and we also provide the controls to make all this, and other, equipment, work harmoniously. Simply put, we support the entire electric and propulsion lifecycle aboard our Nation’s fleet.

The Navy and shipbuilders understand that it’s difficult to retrofit existing full electric drive into ships because it affects too much equipment in an existing space. However, hybrid electric drive can be retrofit.

The challenge there is simply space. Permanent magnet motors make this much more practical because they are much smaller and can be fit onto the shaft or the gears.  The Navy developed and tested prototypes for a hybrid electric drive system for backfit onto the DDG51 class destroyers.

There are also forward fit opportunities for hybrid drive into existing ship designs that are still in production, but inserted during the ship construction, versus after the ship is built.  This is much easier than back fit; however, there are still space limitations from given engine room designs.

As the Navy looks to build more ships, there are no technology barriers to adopting electric drive. Electric drive is ready and proven, as evidenced by use among commercial marine organizations.

Despite electric drive becoming common in the private sector, The Navy needs rugged, power dense solutions, not commercial equipment.  The Navy should not abandon the Navy Industrial base in favor of commercial suppliers. Commercial suppliers are inexpensive, fickle, and inexperienced in Navy requirements. Not to mention, they’re quick to lose interest in developments which don’t support a larger customer base.  The Navy Industrial Base must develop the means and approaches to adapt commercial technology to Navy requirements. At Leonardo DRS we are committed to collaboration with our Navy partners to maximized leverage of ever-improving commercial technology.

Navy suppliers, like Leonardo DRS, are committed and loyal to the Navy. We understand what it takes to deliver on the mission. And what we deliver is reliable, proven, and cost-efficient solutions that are available today.


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