Thoroughbred Boat Co. Building an Instant Classic

An exciting project which DLBA worked on for the Thoroughbred Boat Co. is nearing completion. The DLBA team created the vessel’s structural design and supported the development of the hull form for this updated take on the classic gentleman’s runabout.

DLBA worked with the Thoroughbred Team to refine the running surfaces, propulsion system, weight and balance to  optimize dynamic trim angle at speed, as well as support the development of the  overall craft structure.

The deck and hull molds as well as underwater running gear of the Thoroughbred Boat Co.’s project U-23 have all been completed, while Thoroughbred is now entering the process of fine-tuning the interior styling of this modern classic.

Designed with the recreational boating enthusiast in mind, the U-23 has the elegant lines of vintage powerboats and lake boat enthusiasts will recognize the iconic rumble of a powerful inboard engine.

Upcoming variants of the model will have a V-drive with a different arrangement, deck and helm configuration, with Thoroughbred estimating the first hull will go into build in late June/early July as virus restrictions lift.

Thoroughbred Boat Co.’s project U-23

Four Decades Later, the Gibbs & Cox Frigate Legacy Continues

The G&C designed FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry, now part of allied fleets all over the globe
The G&C designed FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry, now part of allied fleets all over the globe

In 1974, when Gibbs & Cox was awarded the contract to design the FFG-7, it came as evidence of our dedication to providing innovative, quality solutions to our customers. More than 45 years later, as part of the winning Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s FREMM team for FFG(X), we continue to deliver those same results. Our team is excited to have this opportunity to bring the new FFG(X) design to the fleet. With 24 classes of US navy combatants in our design history, we have remained on the cutting edge of technology and maritime innovation. Though many technological changes have occurred since our initial work on the FFG-7, Gibbs & Cox’s dedication to providing innovative quality solutions has never wavered, and our employees and company culture remain the key to our success.

As we begin FFG(X) detail design, we can’t help but reflect on what made the FFG-7 class the backbone of the US Navy for 30+ years. We interviewed several members of our team who began their careers working on the FFG-7 and who are looking forward to supporting the continued legacy. Their experiences and lessons learned from the FFG-7 and dozens of other projects are what set us apart from competition, and the passing of these experiences onto the newest generation of naval architects, designers, and marine engineers is what continues our legacy.

Rendering of the FFG(X), which will deliver the US Navy increased lethality, survivability, and improved capability
Rendering of the FFG(X), which will deliver the US Navy increased lethality, survivability, and improved capability

The FFG-7 design team consisted of highly skilled naval architects and engineers devoted to providing their best work, and we’re excited to bring the same level of expertise and devotion to the new design. Senior Program Manager Ed Topitz, a 46 year Gibbs & Cox employee, attributes much of the success of the FFG-7 program to the willingness of experienced personnel to guide new employees in growing their skills, a culture that remains prevalent within G&C to this day. Senior Principal Marine Engineer Michael Hulser, a 40 year Gibbs & Cox employee was a young engineer when he started on the FFG-7 and fondly recalls the mentorship and experience he gained on the program. He looks forward to “pass[ing] these experiences and knowledge to the current staff in the Engineering and Design Groups to provide a great design for FFG(X).” Principal Marine Engineer Fabian Canaval, another 46 year employee, noted that G&C has had to change to remain competitive in this highly specialized market but attributes our continued success to the company culture of “be[ing] “the best” at what we do.”

G&C Drafting Room, 1942
G&C Drafting Room, 1942

One of the most significant changes from the FFG-7 to the FFG(X) is the evolution of technology, not only in the ships themselves, but also in the design process. When Gibbs & Cox began designing the FFG-7, the architecture and engineering was all done by hand, requiring more in person group collaboration and several iterations of drawings. Assistant Engineering Group Vice Present David Rosenthal, a 36 year employee, gave us a further glimpse into the design technology of the past, saying that “the FFG used a 2D layer design control system using pen/ink on clear drawing sheets that where laid over each other. One sheet had all the structure and foundations, one had the arrangements and the third had the systems. Each system had a different color. All calculations and interference checks where performed manually.” This varies drastically from how we design ships today, and Mr. Hulser commented that we will design and engineer the FFG(X) exclusively with computers, CAD programs, and analysis tools. He noted that “G&C has kept current with these advances to remain competitive and at the forefront of the engineering and design process for the US Navy.”

 Major combatant design contracts are few and far between, and with the support of Gibbs & Cox’s design team the FFG-7 became one of the most successful and survivable classes of ships in the history of the US Navy, a legacy that will continue with the FFG(X). As the nation’s largest independent marine engineering and design firm, we have the resources necessary to provide outstanding service. Our tailored processes allow us to meet the specific needs of shipyard and government clients, and to deliver the best value and solutions to our client. Our designers and engineers are production-focused, applying computer-aided design, engineering, and analysis methods across all technical disciplines, delivering the highest-quality designs while ensuring affordable construction. Our knowledge and processes, honed with decades of customer alignment, ensure that G&C designs meet customer requirements while being cost effective and producible. We will leverage our expertise, past experience from the FFG-7, and our talented team to execute another successful design for the future US Navy Frigate. We have the right team and the right tools to deliver a top-of-the line ship, and all of us at Gibbs & Cox are looking forward to delivering the FFG(X) to the Navy throughout the 21st century.

The Future of Survivability

Maggie Nate Survivability Department Manager

By Maggie Nate

As the Associated Editor for Survivability of the Naval Engineers Journal for the past three years, it’s a bit of a role reversal serving as a contributor on these pages rather than working behind the scenes with the authors. As my editorial title suggests, my background is in surface ship survivability; a specialty field that I found myself in very serendipitously upon graduating nearly a decade ago. In my last semester of undergrad, a new minor in Naval Engineering was offered, which included a module on Survivability, and I thought “why not?” since I had a few spare technical electives to fill anyways. I had absolutely no idea at the time that this introduction to Susceptibility, Vulnerability, and Recoverability would end up having such a huge influence on my professional career. My very first full time job when I entered the workforce was as a Survivability Engineer, and that is the domain that I have happily existed in ever since.

Historically, designing for survivability has served to ensure the ship’s performance in extreme conditions while protecting the personnel onboard. As we review some common case studies from the maritime community in chronological order (from the Titanic to the Sheffield to the Costa Allegra and beyond), we can see that applying lessons learned in survivable design results in future reductions in loss of ship and loss of life. But with so many autonomous initiatives on the horizon, from cargo shipping to naval systems, one question immediately came to mind: how does the approach to survivability change when the human element is removed? The term “unmanned,” or perhaps more appropriately here “un-crewed,” is not a new concept. However, while unmanned vehicles still utilize a driver albeit remotely, autonomous vehicles are fully artificial intelligence driven. It was a recent visit I made to the George Mason University a few weeks ago to give a guest lecture that made me realize just how embedded autonomy has become in our everyday lives. As I was slowing down at a crosswalk, I noticed that mingled amongst the students heading to class were several autonomous robots delivering goods around campus. To me, this was a novel sight, but to everyone else, it was business as usual.

Maritime autonomous projects already exist, at varying stages of development, for applications such as: arctic research, ocean floor mapping, personal hobbyists, port security and humanitarian aid. Like any well-balanced design, autonomous vessels must continue to operate in extreme conditions. Additionally, most are economic assets to protect as well as environmental risks in the event of a casualty situation. Avoiding or surviving casualty conditions without the option of immediate human-in-the-loop interaction will require a very different approach to damage control. While the need for protecting personnel is reduced, so too is the contribution to situational awareness, casualty response and damage control that is normally provided by those personnel. As the need for space allocated for personnel accommodations and support facilities is reduced, more flexibility on overall vessel size and arrangement is available. However, there may be requirements for accommodations for personnel to provide routine maintenance or underway repairs. Similarly, security (both cyber and physical) is an important consideration to restrict unauthorized connectivity and tangible entry. I don’t yet have an answer to the question that I posed above, but I’m excited to see where the future of survivability goes from here.


Continuing to collaborate

Adapting to new challenges in order to overcome obstacles is familiar territory for our team – something which has proved fortuitous in the past months. Like many of you, our working environment has changed, and working remotely full-time for the safety of our staff and community is now the new normal for our DLBA team, as COVID-19 has spread. 

For the time being we’ve moved from hovering around drawing boards and computer screens, to video chats and screen sharing. Although we no longer have the creative and collaborative environment of our office we have quickly adapted to working from home, and we continue to serve our customers.

We’ve introduced new skills, tools, and procedures to maintain our level of creativity and efficiency, including online meeting tools and extensive communication plans. Obtaining additional licenses to allow all of our design leads and engineers to have instant communication via screen share and video conference was key to allowing us to maintain quick idea sharing.

Two daily 5-minute calls – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – provide frequent updates and engagement for our leaders to identify necessary collaboration. We have also restricted our weekly meetings so leadership is no longer presenting, but rather, listening. It is always important leaders listen to their troops, and this has been proven by the amount we’ve learned and shared during this time!