Pentagon searches for COTS tech

NORFOLK Va. - Gesturing to the PCs and workstations crammed into the already tight spaces in the control room of the attack submarine USS Atlanta Fire Control Technician 1 Richard Parks summed up the essence of Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID) '97.

"The beautiful thing about this demo is it's all [commercial off-the-shelf equipment] " he said. "We are at the point where COTS can be used in a submarine with very few changes."

The Pentagon hosts JWID every year to uncover technologies that it can quickly move into the field. JWID director Navy Capt. Dennis Murphy said he is looking for emerging commercial computer and communications technologies that have the potential for quick insertion into units and commands worldwide. COTS equipment especially anything related to the Internet is a prime example.

JWID has upgraded the Atlanta's communications systems so the submarine can use for the first time the same kind of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol - used to communicate over the Internet - that anyone with a $9.95-a-month Internet account can tap into. Using ultra-high-frequency line-of-sight communications during JWID the Atlanta demonstrated the ability of submarines to easily access the vast storehouse of information available on the ubiquitous World Wide Web pages on military intranets.

"Using Netscape [Communications Corp.'s browser] we can go into a meteorology home page and easily pull satellite imagery " Parks said.

The easy-to-learn and use Netscape Web client software running on a PC in the Atlanta's control room represents a quantum leap in technological capability for the submarine.

Jim Naufel another fire control technician on the Atlanta added "Because it's COTS the learning curve is very quick and not very steep."

In another demonstration aboard the aircraft carrier USS Stennis Navy Lt. Phil Herzog an electronic warfare officer demonstrated the ability of the PC-based Common Operational Modeling Planning and Simulation Strategy system (COMPASS) to help him plan strikes with geographically dispersed units.

Collaborative planning tools from the COMPASS desktop are available at the click of a mouse button and include whiteboards audio versions of Internet Relay Chat software built-in video teleconferencing and the ability to tap into myriad map chart and imagery databases. Herzog is sold on the tools and capabilities of COMPASS and would like to use COMPASS day in and day out not just during JWID.

This kind of user feedback is exactly what Murphy is looking for. Planning for JWID '97 Murphy emphasized made user feedback paramount.

Based on that feedback Murphy said it looks like active-duty forces have potential uses for COMPASS as well as the Increased Compression Engine which was developed by Titan Corp. and uses wavelet technology to compress imagery at a 50-to-1 or better ratio with little loss of resolution. That means users on the long end of low data-rate circuits can access imagery without taking hours to download the image.

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