Defence Industry

Design Review of Naval Platforms
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Issue Vol 25.1 Jan-Mar2010 | Date : 04 Mar , 2011

The existing system of naval platform (ship or submarine) design involves various iterations and stages with comprehensive inbuilt checks and balances in the entire design process. The specifications, drawings and mock-ups are all approved with due consultations of the ultimate user–operator and upkeep professionals so that there are no issues later during the exploitation and integration of the platform in the fleet. The decisions are taken considering the views of all who are concerned during the life cycle of the ship or submarine.

Even the interface aspects of weapons and sensors are worked out in collaboration with the respective supplier and integration specialists. However, some teething problems do crop up after commissioning, and predominantly, these relate to the inherent design deficiencies in the equipment and systems despite the elaborate procedures that exist. This paper emphasises on the need for institutionalising the formal design reviews so that excellence in design can be achieved.

The head of the design organisation realized that my review analysis was correct. At this stage it was not possible to change the steering gear equipment without enormous delays.

It is recommended that the design reviews be conducted at each specific milestone reached during the design process so that timely corrections are concurrently taken as the design progresses. This paper outlines the principles of design reviews for naval platforms. Who should conduct the design review is of great essence because induction of fresh talent and wisdom is critical.

Importance of Design Reviews

I was inducted in the design organization as a young commander immediately after a teaching tenure as a professor at Indian Institute of Technology. The then head of the design organization said that before he allocates a new project to me, he wanted me to carry out quick and independent review of the design of a naval ship which was about to go for sea trials in a matter of few days. I undertook this task very meticulously and on a fast track. My review and analysis revealed that everything including stability, structural integrity, speed etc., were in order except that the steering gear required a capacity of 25 t-m against 16 t-m as fitted in the ship. I narrated my findings to the head of the design organisation. He was very upset and refused to believe me. A few days later the ship sailed for sea trials and a signal was received that the rudder can not be rotated or turned more than 15 degrees port hard and 15 degrees starboard hard.

The head of the design organisation realized that my review analysis was correct. At this stage it was not possible to change the steering gear equipment without enormous delays. We decided to change the configuration of the rudder to reduce the torque. The new rudder was manufactured and fitted and this solution yielded the desired results. Had an independent design review been carried out earlier, this embarrassment could have been avoided. This is but one small example of the importance of design review.

Who Conducts the Design Review Matters?

When I became the Controller in the Navy, the design organization put up the design of a novel underwater vehicle for approval. I enquired if the design review had been carried out and the prompt reply was that it was not required since the team was confident. I refused to approve the design without the design review. The design review was carried out and the design was resubmitted for approval. I was informed that the design review has found no shortcomings and the design was perfect. I enquired as to who conducted the design review and I was proudly told that team consisting of senior professors from IITs, IISc and other leading institutions had done the review. I discovered that none of the members of the review team had any knowledge on the design, building and operations of the said naval underwater vehicle.

To realize the basic objective of the review process, the review team must have a collective technical competence greater than that of the designer.

The design review was ordered second time by including relevant specialists from both India and abroad who had the necessary knowledge and expertise in this field. The second review revealed that we had missed out one important aspect of how to maintain the specific depth for the underwater vehicle so that the mission could be undertaken. This gave birth to the sinker which was designed and interfaced with the underwater vehicle. The design was approved and built, and it was a great success. This small example shows that who conducts the design review matters.

Definition and Aim of Design Review

The design review is an essential requirement for independent evaluation of a project, providing an opportunity to the management to formally review all aspects of the design in order to ensure that the intended design satisfies the programme requirements. It is a systematised and disciplined application of broad technical expertise to the platform to ensure adequacy of the design and to minimize or avoid any errors. The essential features of a design review are technical adequacy and completeness of documentation. The design review ensures, safety and security aspects, creates awareness of interface and integration issues, confirms that relevant technologies are identified and the technical evaluation of the design is well documented for future reference.

The essence of the design review are system reliability by achieving increased awareness of safety, overcoming interface and integration problems, suitable application of technology and resolution of grey areas.

Essential Elements of Design Review

The essential elements of design review are quantitative expression of design expectations, composition of the review team, review frequency, data input, data output and continuity and follow up. One fact needs to be recognised that the design is fit for review only when the design expectations are expressed quantitatively, otherwise design reviews could be counter-productive due to subjective preferences. Naval design is a complex exercise in optimization and compromise of various conflicting requirements. Any review or evaluation is bound to reflect the subjective preferences of the evaluating authority unless the design performance parameters are specified in quantitative terms appropriate to the stage of the design and its review. The quantitative parameters should have compatibility with the staff requirements.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Vice Adm Rajeshwer Nath

Vice Adm (Retd) Rajeshwer Nath.

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