L3Harris is showcasing the SPEIR system for the first time at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) 2023 National Symposium currently held near Washington DC.
The U.S. Navy plans to begin fielding the system from Fiscal Year (FY) 2027. Guided missile destroyers, carriers, frigates, and amphibious ships are all slated to receive SPEIR installations.
L3Harris was last April awarded a $205.9 million contract by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to perform engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) for the SPEIR programme. Options for low-rate initial production (LRIP) could, if exercised, bring the total value up to $593 million.
The L3Harris team – which also includes BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin – is developing a technical solution, known as SPATIAL, which capitalises on research and technology demonstration previously performed under the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Combined EO/IR Surveillance and Response System (CESARS) Future Naval Capabilities (FNC) effort.
The navy’s SPEIR requirement identified the need for a panoramic system able to field an integrated wide field of view (WFOV) capability for shipboard situational awareness and threat detection; and an enhanced, high-resolution narrow field of view (NFOV) detection and cueing capability for anti-ship cruise missile defence, counter-fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft, counter-unmanned aerial system, and force protection applications. It further identified the need for a modular open systems architecture (MOSA) to enable the insertion of additional functionality and/or new technology – both hardware and software – to meet longer-term capability requirements.
Above decks, the SPATIAL system has been designed around two separate camera systems and associated mountings. The ‘staring’ WFOV system uses three mid-wave infrared cameras and three colour visible cameras mounted on a single three-axis stabilised pedestal. Each ship fit will comprise a minimum of two WFOV pedestals, the exact number being dependent on the vessel size and ship fitting constraints.
The NFOV camera system, which will slew to cues, has three different payloads – a mid-wave imager, a colour visible camera and a laser rangefinder. Again, there will be a number of NFOV systems on each ship.
L3Harris (then L-3 Communications Cincinnati Electronics) previously designed, developed and tested large focal plane array mid-wave infrared and visible spectrum panoramic imagers as part of the Shipboard Panoramic EO/IR Cueing and Surveillance System (SPECCS) component of ONR’s CESARS FNC programme. Technology matured for SPECSS – which was primarily designed to perform WFOV target detection and tracking – is now being pulled forward into SPEIR/SPATIAL.
The other major building block is the below deck processing suite. Described by L3Harris as a scalable and rapidly reconfigurable all-purpose platform, this is designed to expand image processing capabilities by hosting special-purpose algorithms for applications such as turbulence mitigation, automatic target detection and tracking, image stabilisation and image enhancement.
Adopting a MOSA approach will allow the processing suite to host third-party algorithms, according to L3Harris. This will enable the navy to exploit innovation from tech labs, universities, and small business research.
BAE Systems, as partner to L3Harris, is applying image processing knowledge acquired from SPECCS to the SPEIR programme, including an automated image processing detection capability to reduce operator workload. Lockheed Martin meanwhile, is bringing combat system interface experience to ease integration into existing ship systems.
Under its contract with NAVSEA, L3Harris is required to deliver two full engineering development models (EDMs) – one for formal qualification test, the other for a land-based test site. A third partial EDM will be delivered for environmental testing.
SPEIR EMD activity under the base contract is expected to run till November 2025. LRIP contract options, covering up to 21 SPEIR systems, will see work extend till March 2031 if all contract line items are exercised.
Naval News understands that SPEIR will initially deliver to DDG 51 Flight IIA guided missile destroyers, providing a passive situational awareness and weapon cueing capability that will integrate into Aegis, and complement the AN/SPY-1D(V) and AN/SPQ-9B radars. Planned spiral development will build on the MOSA architecture to address longer-term capability requirements to include periscope detection and discrimination, and mine-like object avoidance.