NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) Program Office (PMA-251) Recovery team is set to manufacture and test prototypes of upgraded components that control recovery operations on Nimitz-class ships. A $34.7-million contract for the Advanced Recovery Control (ARC) Block Upgrade prototype manufacturing and testing phase was awarded to Northrop Grumman on June 13.
Under the contract, Northrop Grumman will develop the ARC Block Upgrade to enhance the safety, efficiency, and modernization of Nimitz-class recovery operations. Capt. Mike Kline, ALRE program manager, emphasized the significance of this upgrade, stating, “The ARC Block Upgrade will ensure Nimitz class recovery operations will be safe, efficient, and modernized for years to come.”
The Nimitz-class recovery systems underwent their last major modernization in 2000. While they have proven reliable, the aging system poses challenges in terms of finding spare parts and implementing upgrades. Justin Homme, ALRE Recovery CVN Integrated Program Team (IPT) lead, highlighted the team’s efforts to maintain existing system capability while reducing maintenance and incorporating modernized components based on two decades of experience.
A key aspect of the development effort is the integration of “plug-and-play” technologies that will facilitate future updates, address obsolescence issues, and minimize the need for extensive upgrades down the line. Homme explained, “We want to bridge that gap to get us through the rest of the Nimitz timeline from a serviceability standpoint.”
Wayne Kovacs, ARC IPTL, brings over 40 years of experience with ALRE, including 16 years with the ARC team. Kovacs pointed out that the ARC upgrade will introduce significant changes in cybersecurity. The upgrade will include updates to operating software, circuit cards, power supplies, and other areas to modernize the system and facilitate future changes.
Kevin Chen, ARC Deputy IPTL, emphasized the team’s focus on flexible modernization, ensuring that the fleet benefits from enhanced capabilities for years to come. In adapting to the digital age, the team reevaluates workflow processes to make the upgrade, testing, and planning procedures more efficient.
Looking ahead, the team is committed to long-term goals and planning to ensure that ARC can serve the fleet until the last Nimitz-class carrier’s retirement, estimated to occur in approximately three to four decades. Kovacs highlighted the advantage of a long-term upgrade plan: “In that time, we’ve isolated any repeating issues with the legacy ARC system, and we do not see many new problems. It’s a good time to plan a long-term upgrade because we’ve captured and planned for most of them.”
The ALRE program will install the ARC upgrades on Nimitz-class ships in 2029. The team will commence prototype procurement activities this year to prepare for this milestone. Homme expressed confidence in the program, stating, “This program is going to help us with our most important goal; sustaining naval aviation dominance for years to come.” With the upgraded ARC Block, the U.S. Navy aims to ensure Nimitz-class ship recovery operations’ continued effectiveness and modernization.