Navy to navigate digitally by 2009

The Navy is launching a bold plan to navigate with digital maps by 2009.

The Navy announced last month that it will replace its paper nautical charts with electronic navigation systems across the service’s ship and submarine fleet. The new Electronic Chart Display and Information System-Navy will use Voyage Management System software that is used on commercial ships developed by Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine business unit. It will also use Digital Nautical Charts produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the company announced today.

The new system will provide enhanced situational awareness and improved safety at sea, said Capt. Zdenka Willis, deputy navigator of the Navy, in a statement.

Northrop Grumman held a media briefing today about the initiative.

“For centuries, the state of the art in marine navigation was defined by manual plotting of a ship’s estimated position on a paper chart by projecting its course and speed from the last known location,” Willis said. “With Electronic Chart Display and Information System-Navy, mariners can see their ship’s actual real-time precise position and movement superimposed on a highly accurate electronic chart display.”

In May, the Navy’s Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George became the first ship authorized to navigate with the system following an extensive safety certification process. Also that month, the system was approved for the service’s Los Angeles-class submarines and should get certified soon, according to the Northrop Grumman statement.

NGA’s Digital Nautical Charts comprise the base of the Electronic Chart Display and Information System-Navy. During the past eight years, agency and industry officials converted more than 5,000 paper nautical charts onto a database of 29 CD-ROMs, said Eddie Schantz, a nautical cartographic analyst at NGA, during a July 20 interview. Agency officials held a media day last week on the new charts.

The Digital Nautical Charts operate on Integrated Chart Engine Version 2.7 software developed by the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center and will allow for easier updates. Every 30 days, NGA employees will make changes to the charts in the form of software patches that the service’s navigators can download via a military network, he said.

“With Digital Nautical Charts, you know where you are now instead of where you were,” Schantz said.

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