United States, Australia create WAN during exercise

ABOARD THE USS BLUE RIDGE—Innovative use of satellite technology has tied four Royal Australian Navy ships into a wide-area network that spans the Western Pacific Ocean, allowing the ships to exchange essential data with the joint Australian/U.S. staff aboard this command ship.

Royal Australian Navy Cmdr. Roger Boyce said the satellite-based WAN also links eight U.S. warships participating in the semi-annual "Tandem Thrust" exercise, in which joint air, ground and naval forces from the United States and Australia practice rescuing U.S. and Australian citizens from islands during a fictional crisis. The WAN allows the Australian participants in the exercise to exchange more wideband data than the ships were capable of exchanging during the previous exercise in 1997, when limited bandwidth restricted Royal Australian Navy vessels and staff to exchanging only e-mail, Boyce said.

Boyce, who deployed here from Royal Australian Navy maritime headquarters staff in Sydney, said the Australian ships use the WAN to grab large documents and files from the Blue Ridge, currently operating near Saipan, one of the Marianas Islands, through satellite dial-up links located in Hawaii.

The Blue Ridge transmits information cleared for release to Australian forces via its wideband commercial T-1 satellite circuit to a U.S. Navy computer and communications hub in Hawaii. Boyce said the four Australian ships then use newly installed International Maritime Satellite Organization terminals to pull the information at a rate of 64 kilobits/sec—not T-1 rates, but fast enough to easily download the graphics-intensive files produced aboard the Blue Ridge.

The U.S. Navy has made a strong commitment to "network-centric warfare," in which tactical intelligence and logistics information becomes as much a weapon for the warfighter as light arms or heavy armor. Last year the U.S. Navy installed a 155 megabits/sec local-area network on the Blue Ridge as part of the network-centric warfare push.

Boyce said the new satellite WAN allows the Royal Australian Navy "to interoperate with the U.S. Navy in the new way it does business" and provides him with the opportunity to learn from the U.S. experience. "It's good to watch the process because we're a couple of years behind,'' Boyce said.

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