IT-rich USS Belleau Wood heads to East Timor

The Navy's 7th Fleet has deployed the USS Belleau Wood, a flat-decked amphibious assault ship equipped with one of the service's most advanced shipboard information technology systems, to support U.S. forces assisting U.N. peacekeeping operations in East Timor.

The Sasebo, Japan-based Belleau Wood, which last week successfully completed a 10-day Year 2000 systems validation exercise with other ships in the 7th Fleet, features a high-speed, 155 megabits/sec fiber-optic network backbone installed under the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century project. This backbone supports the operation of 10 classified and eight unclassified networks, with 240 terminals on the unclassified networks and more than 100 on the classified networks.

These networks in turn tap into Defense Department networks worldwide via 64 megabits/sec satellite links, providing the crew with new and innovative ways to manage information and their mission.

Capt. Peter Hayes, commander of Amphibious Squadron Eleven headquartered on the Belleau Wood, said in an interview during a deployment to the Persian Gulf this year that the IT-21 networks have resulted in a "significant change" in how he and his staff do business. Hayes' cabin is equipped with a network drop and a switch that enables him to easily switch from the classified to unclassified networks, giving him instant access to information that used to come "in a big bundle of paper," he said.

The 7th Fleet said the Belleau Wood will operate in the Timor Sea and will provide heavy-lift logistics support to the U.N. peacekeeping troops in East Timor with its embarked helicopters.The U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Hawaii-based senior command in the Pacific, late last month deployed a mobile command post to Darwin, Australia, in support of the East Timor peacekeeping operation.

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