Bandwidth squeeze imperils Navy's C4 goals
Navy internal memo cites concerns about inadequate satellite communications
- By Bob Brewin
- Dec 04, 2006
The Navy expects to struggle to achieve some of its command, control, communications and computers (C4) objectives in 2007 because of inadequate shipboard satellite systems and too little bandwidth, according to an internal message obtained by Federal Computer Week.
The message outlines the service’s top C4 goals for the year, with international interoperability and the development of end-to-end networks at the top of the list.
Coalition and multinational interoperability remains the No. 1 fleet priority, according to the September message the Navy issued after a conference of fleet network and communications commanders this summer.
Capt. Robert Zalaskus, director of enterprise architecture for the Naval Network Warfare Command, said the major focus of the message is on networks that can support U.S. and coalition forces and provide an environment for data sharing.
The message calls for continued development of the end-to-end Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (Centrixs) to support communications with allies. It urges the use of low-cost communications systems to support that system.
Because some allies’ navies cannot afford satellite communications, the message states, the Navy should tap a technology it all but abandoned more than 30 years ago — high-frequency (HF) radio communications — to handle Centrixs traffic with coalition partners.
Bob Stephenson, chief technology officer for C4 and intelligence operations at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar), told attendees at the AFCEA International Asia-Pacific TechNet conference in Hawaii last month that using HF radio to move Centrixs traffic would allow the Navy to exploit a low-cost technology that partner countries already use.
Earlier this year, the Navy successfully tested HF to transmit IP traffic from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier at a data rate of 19.2 kilobits/sec, Stephenson said. Centrixs’ terminals are inexpensive, and developers can build them using computers purchased in any country, including Cameroon, where Spawar recently assisted a Centrixs installation, he added.
The message states that unreliable satellite systems operating in the super HF and extremely HF bands impede end-to-end communications to deployed Navy forces. Poor antenna reliability and a lack of available spare parts aboard ships cause frequent and lengthy outages for seaborne crews.
The Navy also faces severe bandwidth problems for some communications. The message states that throughput to deployed units is “marginally sufficient to support the warfighter’s needs and woefully insufficient” for other requirements, such as distance support; the Sea Warrior integrated manpower, personnel and training system; and Navy Knowledge Online.
Zalaskus said the Navy is working to augment military satellite capacity for ships with commercial satellites, including those that operate in the Ku-band and the
The Navy also plans to use military satellites to send data directly from one ship to another, rather than transmitting via shoreside network centers, Zalaskus said.
Retired Vice Adm. Herb Browne, AFCEA’s president and chief executive officer, said the Navy could resolve its satellite and bandwidth problems by pushing development of small, low-cost tactical systems rather than expensive, behind-schedule and over-budget systems, such as the Wideband Gapfiller Satellites.
To ensure development of standards-based end-to-end systems, the Naval Network Warfare Command will be responsible for standardization, performance and development of all C4 procedures and doctrine. The command will align the Navy’s C4 visions and concepts into an integrated architecture, Zalaskus said.
A former Navy flag officer with years of experience in the C4 field, speaking on condition of anonymity, said putting the Naval Network Warfare Command in charge will not resolve the standardization problem because the command does not have acquisition authority. That resides with the Spawar program executive office for C4 and space.
The former flag officer said that although the Spawar office for C4 and space has the money, it lacks the clout of the network warfare command because an admiral does not lead the office. The Navy must put standards, policy and acquisition in one organization led by a flag officer if it wants to achieve its C4 goals, the former flag officer said.