U.S.Department of Energy Research News
Text-Only | Privacy Policy | Site Map  
Search Releases and Features  

Multimedia Resources
News Releases
Feature Stories
RSS Feed

US Department of Energy National Science Bowl

Back to EurekAlert! A Service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science


Shaping future

Aircraft carrier operations

In its next-generation aircraft carrier, the Navy, with assistance from Sandia, is seeking to reduce manpower by 10 to 30 percent, but not by heaping more work on individual sailors. The goal is to use increased technology and improvements to carrier air wing flight operations, maintenance, and support functions to reduce the overall workload per sailor.

“We will be probing each of these areas to find ways to maintain or improve air wing performance while reducing personnel and making the remaining jobs more desirable,” says Jeff Brewer, Sandia engineer and project principal investigator.

“This will be done while simultaneously improving the air wing staffing decision-making process.” In the first phase of the project, Sandia conducted a four-month evaluation of current Navy air wing operations, structure, and improvement alternatives.

Now, in the second phase, Sandia is conducting a six-month, in-depth analysis of those alternatives. The actual carrier that will result in 2013 or 2014 will be designated as the CVN 78, the Navy’s 78th aircraft carrier.

“The idea is not to simply have fewer people on board who work harder than previous crews,” says Brewer, “but to enable organizational changes, technology improvements, and work practice changes to achieve the desired operational capability of the air wing and make jobs more desirable for the personnel in the system.”


The Sandia team is reviewing Navy documentation for aircraft currently in use and those anticipated to be in service in 2020. The team will review flight operations, maintenance, and other support operations both in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. Sandia will work with Navy teams that have developed computational models of how these operations are currently performed.

The team will work with the designers of the new aircraft carrier to generate substantial changes that may improve flight operations and support functions. Items of particular interest include the definitions and scope of the tasks and functions performed within individual jobs, and staffing levels for various types of jobs and tasks.

This includes formal schooling, on-the-job training, self-study, testing of skills involved to prepare people for those jobs, and the tools and techniques used to execute these tasks. Brewer says the actual execution methods for flight operations, support jobs, and the design of the spaces aboard current aircraft carriers where these tasks are performed will be analyzed. This knowledge will be combined with the designs envisioned for the next-generation aircraft carrier.

Sandia engineer Jeff Brewer uses a “system of systems” approach to help the U.S. Navy create the next generation of aircraft carriers.
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

The complexity of carrier flight operations and the associated support functions requires an unusually high level of system understanding and computational modeling to achieve optimal combinations of personnel, equipment, and procedures. “The concept of operations under which an aircraft carrier is asked to function can change rapidly,” Brewer says.

“There currently isn’t a detailed, rapid, and robust analytical tool for probing this particular complex system.”

System of systems analysis

Creating a “system of systems” analysis capability that enables greater quantitative understanding of the aircraft carrier environment is key to the project, says Brewer.

System of systems refers to a collection of systems that results in emergent behaviors that cannot be explained by individual system analysis. This includes monitoring system performance at a sufficient level of detail and enabling rapid “what if” or tradeoff analyses to aid in decision making by Navy leaders.

In this project, building a comprehensive system of systems capability to monitor and analyze carrier air wing operations may involve linking a number of computer models that have been developed independently.

In addition, new models may be built where necessary, and merged into a computational architecture that becomes a systemwide metric-based computational engine including a mix of discrete-event simulation and optimization algorithms.

“The hope is that we will be able to utilize a number of the modeling and simulation technologies developed for other major programs such as the Army’s Future Combat System and Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter program,” says Robert Cranwell, Sandia engineer and project manager for the Navy Manpower Study program.

“Use of these technologies has proven to be very successful in supporting these programs.”


Technical Contact: Jeff Brewer, jdbrewe@sandia.gov, (505) 845-0494

Media Contact: Michael Padilla, mjpadil@sandia.gov, (505) 284-5325


Text-Only | Privacy Policy | Site Map