Experimental NRL C4I Suite Deployed in War on Iraq

7/28/2003 - 34-03r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

Command and Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) key to flexibility

An experimental high-speed vessel (HSV), a catamaran jointly leased by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Army as a test platform for emerging technologies and pressed into service during the war in Iraq, was outfitted with a state-of-the-art satellite communications system and an interoperable C4I operations center designed and installed by a team from the Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

The Satellite and Wireless Networking Section of NRL's Information Technology Division used commercial Ku-band satellites and cutting-edge networking technologies on the ship, Joint Venture (HSV-X1), to support standard military communications channels as well as advanced data, voice and video applications. The group was also responsible for developing the land-based hub terminal and network at a naval station in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Flexible, reliable C4I systems for naval battle groups support time-critical operations and offer the possibility of an at-sea Joint Operations Center (JOC) in theater. High-data-rate, over-the-horizon communications used commercial Ku-band because of the minimal electromagnetic effect on existing shipboard communications and radar systems, the small terminal size required for high data rate links and the ample coverage of littoral regions by Ku-band satellites. Bandwidths greater than 6 Mbps have been demonstrated over the 1.2-meter antenna onboard Joint Venture.

The JOC uses an interoperable collaborative communications and computer architecture. Voice access units are used to simultaneously monitor and use the telephony, intercom, and radio systems in the JOC. Nine multi-function workstations allow operators to access any of the over 30 computer assets as well as ship video sources, navigation computers, and GBS video feeds. Three common large screen displays provide situational awareness in the JOC. The Line of Sight communications system utilizes the Joint Combat Information Terminal (JCIT), developed by NRL's C4I Branch of the Naval Center for Space Technology. The JCIT provides four independent software radio functions that each can operate over the HF, VHF, or UHF RF bands upon operator command. The JCIT also supplies the JOC with Global Positioning System (GPS) time and position, as well as Global Broadcast System (GBS) reception. The JCIT is the first multi-band multi-channel software radio to be operationally deployed.

The HSV project is a cooperative effort exploring the concepts and capabilities associated with commercially available advanced hull and propulsion technologies integrated with advanced communications technology. Joint Venture participated in last year's congressionally mandated joint experiment Millennium Challenge 2002 in an evaluation of the vessel's potential as a multi-mission ship. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Joint Venture served as an afloat forward staging base for Navy Special Forces.

Mr. Guy Purser, Chief Engineer for NWDC, had specific goals for the type of C4I suite to prototype on the Joint Venture. "We wanted a state-of-the-art complement of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems that provided an integrated workstation for applications, voice, and radio whether the application or transmission was local or long haul. Joint Venture has demonstrated the efficacy of this COTS design in actual combat conditions with a high state of reliability."

Joint Venture is a 315-foot-long, aluminum-hull catamaran that can travel 3,000 nautical miles at 35 knots without refueling and can reach a top speed of 48 knots while lightly loaded. It is highly maneuverable and has a maximum draft of only 13 feet. It also has the ability to launch and recover various military helicopters and small boats.

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