Tomahawk Hardware Team lauded for design-to-deployment innovations

April 30, 2020

In 2004, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) engineers Thomas Emmerich and Mark Monaco designed a workstation color printer prototype for the Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS) after the program office requested a more affordable printer than the $20,000 one proposed by a contractor.

The pair’s design would produce a printer costing just $2,500, and Emmerich and Monaco assumed the program office would pass their design to a contracted company. Instead, the program office asked the two to become the exclusive design agent for the printer—and all its future iterations.

That printer design eventually became the first in a series of in-house design and fabrication projects the TTWCS Hardware Design Team now leads at NSWC PHD.

“The hardware engineering team has increasingly gotten bigger and bigger hardware design projects from the program office because of its constant success,” said Vagarshak Ovakyan, hardware engineering branch manager at NSWC PHD.

One of those projects recently earned the group the prestigious 2019 Lt. Gen. Thomas R. Ferguson, Jr. Systems Engineering Excellence Award from the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

Humble beginnings

Emmerich and Monaco spent 20 years supporting Tomahawk hardware in the fleet as in-service engineering agents, but aspired to do more designing.

“We always had ideas on things that the designers could have done differently to make the hardware more affordable and easier to maintain, but our inputs were always too late in the process,” Emmerich said.

When asked in 2004 to give early input on a way to make a workstation color printer less expensive, they jumped at the chance. Emmerich and Monaco were delighted when after submitting their design for the lower-cost printer, they were asked to take charge of the printer’s production from fabrication to deployment.

“We were very surprised, but excited at the opportunity,” Emmerich said. “We built more than 100 units, most of which are still installed on ships. When production completed of the then-current version of TTWCS, the program office decided to hand over design agent status to NSWC PHD, not just for legacy hardware but for future hardware.”

That was just over 12 years ago, and their small team has grown dramatically since becoming the official hardware design agent for TTWCS. In fact, an entire new branch was created to accommodate the production aspect.

Production was a part of hardware engineering until it became its own branch about five years ago.

“We initially only needed to design small retrofit kits, but that quickly grew to major updates and production of new suites for the DDG 51 class,” Emmerich explained.

Counting the printer, the team has designed and produced three projects, and currently is deep into its fourth—another hardware version upgrade—scheduled to be released to the fleet in 2023.

“The hardware engineering leadership with Tom and Mark has allowed the command to take on major design projects, where government engineers are picking every nut, screw, piece of sheet metal and commercial off-the-shelf hardware to meet the needs, requirements and specifications of the customer on major systems,” Ovakyan said.

The team’s third systems upgrade—TTWCS (V)3—garnered national recognition from NDIA.

NDIA award

NDIA established the Systems Engineering Excellence Award in 2003 to honor the memory of Lt. Gen. Thomas R. Ferguson, U.S. Air Force, for leadership said to embody the highest ideals in defense systems’ development and deployment.

The award is given to a team whose systems engineering contributions “have demonstrably helped achieve significant cost savings due to new or enhanced processes, procedures and/or concepts, increased mission capabilities, and substantially increased performance,” according to the description.

NSWC PHD assembled a cross-disciplinary engineering team in 2010 to design the next generation of TTWCS’s computing infrastructure, maturing it from the development phase to production and eventually, deployment.

The team successfully reduced the footprint of three electronics racks to a two-rack system, with room for expansion, and introduced maintainability improvements in four related computer consoles. The team also reduced the overall parts’ count by 33%, which translated to significant cost savings.

Production began in 2018; USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) in the second quarter of 2019 was the first ship to deploy with the new hardware.

According to the command’s nomination, the team’s diverse technical skills and engineering acumen were key elements to its successful design. Members included those from the design, integrated logistics and production teams, such as Emmerich, Tomahawk hardware product lead; Monaco, Tomahawk hardware design agent; engineers Christina Zamboni and Vay Vong; Andrew Goodwin, Tomahawk installation lead; Rey Jordan, mechanical engineer; and Ron Fong, technical project manager.

All members contributed experience from their different backgrounds. In addition, former Sailors who worked as Tomahawk maintainers and operators provided feedback directly to the development team, which translated into a more customer-centric design.

The government-owned design and technical data package allows the TTWCS team to update or modify the design without delay. As a recent example, the NSWC PHD team was able to design, prototype and deliver engineering development units of an obsolete component within two months and install it within three months.

According to Ovakyan, the Tomahawk hardware design agent team at the command currently is working on the future generation of TTWCS, which will support the Maritime Strike Tomahawk, and has also begun work on a new Mission Package Console (MPC) to replace aging consoles on Littoral Combat Ships.

The team started work on the MPC design in July 2019 by adapting the modular design inherent in the Tomahawk console, and currently is on track for the critical design review in June, with the first fleet delivery scheduled for November.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that every Tomahawk ship in the fleet now has at least some part of our design installed and in service,” Emmerich said. “We’re hoping our efforts to create a more affordable and maintainable system are realized by those that matter the most—the Sailors who operate and maintain the hardware.”