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The LPD 17 Ship Design: Leading a Sea Change Toward Collaborative Product Development

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In the summer of 2005, the lead ship of the LPD 17 Class was delivered to the US Navy. The LPD 17 is a highly capable amphibious assault warship, designed as a total ship system, which will provide significantly improved warfighting capabilities to support US Marine Corps and joint operations. Potential ship capabilities were initially explored as LX Concept Studies (1989–1990) and the final ship took form in the 1990s as Preliminary, Contract, and Detail Design progressed. Fabrication of the lead ship began in June 2000 and the LPD 17 was launched in July 2003. Currently, three ships have been delivered to the US Navy and five are under construction. The LPD 17 was the last contract design developed in‐house under the leadership of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) ship design group utilizing NAVSEA's highly experienced ship design workforce. Many new and innovative concepts and approaches were introduced into the LPD 17 design and acquisition process. The LPD 17 was the first surface ship design to experience the benefits of Total Ship Systems Engineering, Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD), Navy–Shipbuilder Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) collocated at the shipyard, and an Integrated Product Data Environment (IPDE). Such dramatic changes created many opportunities, hurdles, and even some pain. The Navy's Center for Innovation in Ship Design (CISD) championed a systems engineering case study of the LPD 17 ship design addressing all phases from requirements determination through detail design. This paper provides a retrospective of what occurred in order to document best ship design practices and lessons learned and to determine how the naval ship design process can be further improved. These lessons learned and best design practices will help transmit accumulated intellectual capital to other shipbuilding programs and future design leaders. The construction and delivery of ships is at a stage that provides a logical benchmark from which to make assessments. For example, the Secretary of the Navy recently received the US Marine Corps initial impressions of the LPD 17 Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL): “The Right Ship, The Right Size, The Right Capabilities.” Although a number of ship design process innovations contributed to a sound Contract Design technical package, it is now common knowledge that the LPD 17 lead ship was over budget and late. The authors conclude that the most significant best practice, or lesson learned in the case of LPD 17, is that there must be a tightly integrated, seamless, collaborative design‐build approach between the Navy and the Shipbuilder(s) throughout the whole design‐build process starting at the very beginning of ship design. There are new ship design projects like MPF(F) and CG(X) that could benefit from the innovations, best practices, and lessons learned of the LPD 17 Ship Design: leading a sea change toward collaborative product development.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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  • The Naval Engineers Journal is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE). ASNE is the leading professional engineering society for engineers, scientists and allied professionals who conceive, design, develop, test, construct, outfit, operate and maintain complex naval and maritime ships, submarines and aircraft and their associated systems and subsystems.
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