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CHIPS Articles: CENTRIXS-Maritime: connecting the warfighter

CENTRIXS-Maritime: connecting the warfighter
By Ann Dakis - July-September 2011
The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific's C4ISR department is working to make information dominance a reality by providing integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems to the U.S. Navy and coalition partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We are a key part of SSC Pacific's interface to the fleet," said Brad Carter, head of the maritime C4 systems engineering branch. "We interact daily with operational commanders and their staffs — they are the ones that give us requirements and tell us what's coming down the road operationally."

The Pacific C4ISR department provides the full spectrum of support services, from engineering to deployment, for Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System efforts in the Pacific area of responsibility. CENTRIXS is a collection of classified coalition networks, called enclaves, that enable information sharing through the use of email and Web services, instant messaging or chat, the Common Operational Picture service, and Voice over IP. CENTRIXS supports combatant commands throughout the world, including the U.S. Pacific, Central and European commands.

"We support eight enclaves, each with a particular mission and particular set of coalition partners that participate in it," said Daryl Ching, head of the network engineering branch. "Two are bilaterals, CENTRIXS-JPN between the United States and Japan, and CENTRIXS-K, between the United States and Republic of Korea. The rest are multilateral among specific communities of interest, for example, CENTRIXS Cooperative Maritime Forces Pacific links the U.S. with Australia, Japan, Singapore, India, Korea and many other nations with Pacific navies."

CENTRIXS networks are used to supportcoalition interoperability among partner nations in antiterrorism, antipiracy, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations throughout the world. CENTRIXS is also used extensively to support exercises like RIMPAC, or Rim of the Pacific, which can involve more than 14 countries.

Ching is responsible for the design and sustainment of CENTRIXS Network Operations Centers (NOCs) for the Navy. He ensures that the infrastructure at these shore stations support U.S. afloat forces and also integrate with coalition NOCs around the world. Ching is involved in a military construction project called P-173 with Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific in Wahiawa, Hawaii. He explained the significance of the project, "P-173 will be a new communication center supporting all Navy communications in this region, and we're on task to move the CENTRIXS Pacific Region NOC over from the old building."

This project includes the relocation of seven coalition network enclaves, each consisting of routers, switches, servers, desktop computers, computer network defense systems, circuits, modems and cryptographic devices.

The CENTRIXS portion of P-173 allows Ching's engineers to improve the system design and gain efficiencies through virtualization. Each CENTRIXS network enclave will be redesigned to have improved performance, redundancy and future growth potential with an overall reduction in the server footprint. Through virtualizationtechniques, the physical server count will be reduced from 88 down to 24, which will also reduce the demand for space, power, cooling and ventilation in the new building.

The new CENTRIXS NOC will allow coalition countries improved access to the various networks through the use of the Internet and allow watchstanders improved monitoring capability through increased workstation access. The improved CENTRIXS NOC system will also be used as the baseline system for the Unified Atlantic Region Network Operations Center located in Norfolk, Va.

Ching is also working with the CENTRIXS Battle Force Tactical Network (BFTN) program, an effort to design a fail-safe system to maintain coalition networking communication in a satellite denied environment. The BFTN and CENTRIXS-M programs teamed up to focus on providing the warfighter with coalition interoperability in the event of loss or reduction in satellite communications.

"Traditional communications are hub and spoke, with the NOC being the hub and ships being the spokes," Ching said. "In the event that connectivity to the hub is lost, ships still need to communicate and interoperate with each other."

The BFTN group focuses on the physical hardware and communication devices for line-of-sight (LOS) and over-thehorizon (OTH) capability, while Ching's CENTRIXS-M engineers focus on the software applications and ad hoc networking environment.

"The ad hoc network environment is created when U.S. and coalition ships join in LOS or OTH communications," Ching said. "This creates an interesting challenge as the routing architecture and software applications have to adjust to this constantly changing network environment. In addition to the routing architecture, the computer network defense architecture has to adjust to this as well."

In the past, the NOCs were the perimeter defense for ships providing computer network defense. With LOS and OTH communications, a U.S. Navy ship has the ability to directly communicate and establish a network connection with a coalition ship.

Carter oversees the design, configuration and deployment of both portable and permanent CENTRIXS capability for coalition partners. In this regard, fly away kits are provided to partner nations that do not have a deployable or permanent CENTRIXS capability to rapidly support a coalition operation or exercise.

The kits provide the temporary connectivity required for countries to participate in the event, and hopefully, entice them to have CENTRIXS permanently installed. The kits have the capability to connect quickly and securely to a variety of widearea circuits for communicating with other CENTRIXS units. For example, the fly away kits have interfaces to Inmarsat-B, Fleet Broadband, Ku-Band, Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), VSAT, Iridium and Fleet 77 satellite systems.

The kits also support the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), regular telephone lines, and tunneling via the Internet to link into the proper CENTRIXS enclave. The Pacific C4ISR department developed many of the networking standards and settings for these different configurations, which have been shared and propagated to other combatant commands. This standardization results in a globally scalable maritime design enabling seamless connectivity from almost anywhere on the planet.

"At any given time, we have anywhere from five to 15 kits deployed," Carter said. "Each one requires quite a bit of preplanning and testing because it has to be configured to work with the designated country's shipboard design and onboard systems. In addition, we are constantly making modifications to the kits to take advantage of new technologies."

The fly away kits led to the successful installation of permanent CENTRIXS capabilities in various countries in the region, for example, in Singapore and Malaysia.

The department maintains a secure laboratory, known as the Technical Development Center (TDC), where equipment for temporary and permanent CENTRIXS installations for coalition partners can be staged, configured, and tested end-to-end using a country's specific circuit paths. The TDC's extensive capability results in a tremendous improvement in efficiencies for CENTRIXS deployments and installations in coalition countries.

Efforts that previously had to be done weeks in advance can now be done in only a few hours saving considerable time and money while increasing warfighting effectiveness. The rapid deployment enabled installations on units within one day of getting underway, greatly enhancing interoperability.

"We successfully installed kits on Indian navy ships scheduled to participate in Malabar 2011 in one day, and similar efforts were used to deploy more than 25 kits in supporting units participating in RIMPAC 2010," Carter said.

The maritime industry is transitioning to the next generation of satellite systems, and the Pacific C4ISR department followed suit for the Navy to take advantage of cost savings and increased services. Transitioning from Inmarsat-B to the BGAN satellites allowed fly away kit holders to move from paying by a perminute rate to a per-megabyte data rate. The large reduction in cost for connectivity enabled the kits to stay continuously connected, allowing coalition partners to greatly increase situational awareness and participate full time in collaboration at sea.

"CENTRIXS has become more prevalent in recent years because of growth in the need for secure coalition networks that allow partner nations to work more closely in their operations," said CENTRIXS lead engineer Dr. Russ Grall. "But a second reason is efficiency. By standardizing network designs we've addressed problems that have existed in the past where countries build their own systems then try and interface with the U.S. and cannot because of protocols or standards."

Permanent CENTRIXS installations also reduce U.S. naval costs because partner nations pay for the connectivity, and U.S. personnel do not have to continually prepare, deploy and recover fly away kits. One of the most significant developments has been the capability to access certain CENTRIXS enclaves via the Internet.

"Rather than have countries pay thousands of dollars to put in a dedicated classified circuit, they can use the Internet as a transport to get to CENTRIXS which costs a few dollars a month," Grall said.

Carter and Ching's branches are working together to expand the presence of CENTRIXS over the Internet to additional enclave networks. They work together on many efforts to ensure consistency in the design and performance of products.

"Improvements to the hardware that is deployed, reductions in equipment size, efficiencies in long haul connectivity, the wide area circuits that connect countries to the U.S. NOC, as well as tunneling over the Internet, have all helped facilitate further CENTRIXS growth and successes because these are capabilities that countries want and are willing to buy," Grall said.

The efforts of Carter, Ching and Grall in Hawaii are critical for allowing the U.S. Navy to interoperate with coalition partners within the joint community. Their familiarity with partner nation platforms, requirements and operations ensure that the future of coalition information sharing remains strong.


CENTRIXS is a collection of classified coalition networks, called enclaves, that enable U.S. and coalition information sharing through the use of email and Web services, instant messaging or chat, the Common Operational Picture service, and Voice over IP.

Ann Dakis is a staff writer with SSC Pacific's public affairs office.

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific’s C4ISR department personnel provide
integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance systems to the U.S. Navy and coalition partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific’s C4ISR department personnel provide integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems to the U.S. Navy and coalition partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
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