Phalanx Close-In Weapons Detection System

The Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS is a fast-reaction, rapid-fire 20mm gun system for short-range defense against aircraft or missiles. Each mount consists of the track radar section, the gun (six barrels) and the magazine, situated below the gun. The gun is able to fire more than 3,000 rounds per minute. The tracking system is designed to intercept incoming projectiles and cut them out of the sky before their target is reached.

When Colmek met with Raytheon engineers in Tucson, Arizona, discussions centered around how to cost-effectively solve a major obsolescence problem. The Phalanx, a weapon system used on many U.S. warships, had a number of components which were becoming outdated. Many of these circuit card assemblies, back planes, graphics processors and chassis would not be supported by the original equipment manufacturers, which compounded the product management problem. Many of the components originally housed in the gun mounts had been moved to safer, more environmentally conducive areas of the ship, without developing a master implementation plan. An updated version of the system was being tested, and Raytheon needed assurances that parts and upgraded systems would be available upon fleet install and beyond.

Working closely with Raytheon, Colmek redesigned the VME chassis, developed a backplane which better suited the advanced processing capabilities of the new version of the system, and incorporated an advanced monitoring program which could be accessed via an on-board data screen or remotely by laptop computer. The new system incorporates a side mounted Forward Looking InfraRed(FLIR) radar, which enables the CIWS to engage low slow or hovering aircraft and surface craft.

Colmek re-configured the chassis designing a push/pull ventilation system to accommodate the need for additional heat-transfer given the updated CPU speed. Colmek also designed and produced a faster media converter assembly, effectively increasing system transfer rates by a factor of 10.

Throughout this upgrade process, Raytheon engineers remained concerned with the timing of delivery, as they needed a working system for their customer within 12 weeks after placing their order. By working closely with Raytheon, determining the critical design factors and which areas they viewed as cost-saving points of emphasis, Colmek was able to design a VME chassis to last several generations while lowering production costs and delivering on schedule. Design efforts were performed in-house, custom boards were produced in-house, or by local vendors, and the overall system was assembled and quality checked at Colmek’s facility in Salt Lake City.

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