As the forward deployed arm of Team SPAWAR, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific's Far East command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) division in Japan ensures that ship and shore commands in the region remain operationally ready with superior warfighting capabilities.
Led by Officer in Charge Cmdr. Andy Gibbons and division manager Tom Mills, engineering and installation support is provided to U.S. Seventh Fleet and joint and coalition commands.
As well as being OIC, Gibbons is the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) strike force interoperability officer. He ensures combat systems are strike group ready and surge capable. Gibbons makes certain that C4ISR systems are integrated and interoperable within the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships based in Japan.
Installations of enhanced capabilities are closely monitored, and when issues are identified, Gibbons works with NAVSEA to determine the best resolution.
During a recent visit, SSC Pacific Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Kohlheim complimented the staff, "You're on the tip of the spear — but even more important — you're out here sharpening it … My hat is off to you."
Although there are only about 60 employees at the facility, it has a large area of responsibility including: Combined U.S. Naval Forces Korea and U.S. Forces Korea; Commander Task Force (CTF) 76 in Sasebo; Seventh Fleet, CTF 70 and 74 and U.S. Naval Forces in Yokosuka; U.S. Forces Japan in Yokota; and Defense Policy Review Initiative Futenma Replacement Facility, CTF 76 and III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) in Okinawa.
SSC Pacific's footprint extends to Thailand, Vietnam — even China. SSC Pacific personnel are permanently assigned to 7th Fleet and U.S. Forces Japan and Korea major concentration areas. Mission success is achieved through the teaming of military, civilian and Japanese foreign national employees. There is a status of forces agreement in place which allows Japanese citizens, paid for by the Japanese government, to work alongside their U.S. counterparts in professional roles.
Employees in the fleet engineering and shore engineering branches work together as Team SPAWAR's face to the fleet, interacting daily with operational commanders and their staffs with an aim "to be the world's best provider of integrated C4ISR capability to the warfighter."
The fleet engineering branch, led by Fred Buckley III, focuses primarily on installation of shipboard systems developed by SPAWAR, Program Executive Office (PEO) C4I, PEO for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) and NAVSEA. The branch also stands ready to provide fleet tech assists and casualty responses. The branch fields installations to naval forces in the Far East that include 11 ships in Yokosuka, members of the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Carrier Strike Group and six units in Sasebo which are part of the USS Essex (LHD 2) Expeditionary Strike Group.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is the compressed timeframe to complete installations. Ships are only available for installations during their ship's restricted availability (SRA) periods. During SRA periods, the ship's port time is split between modernization (continuous maintenance and Chief of Naval Operations-approved scheduled availabilities), training and inspections.
Buckley explained that a shore project may involve a year's worth of work to install electronics inside a building, but branch personnel have mere weeks to complete a series of complex ship installations.
"We generally have nine weeks to put the products on the ships. We usually do between 13 and 25 installations in that period, and all of them have to be integrated. Every installation I'm doing is a project, requiring all the same elements of project management."
While ships that receive upgrades stateside may remain in the local area for operations and are available for any follow-on work, upgraded ships in Japan immediately get underway following an SRA, which means newly installed upgrades are often put to use the day after delivery.
Occasionally, ships may be required to deploy on short notice in the middle of an SRA so branch personnel must be able to return the ship to an operationally ready state if required.
The fleet support team takes these limitations in stride.
"We say here in FDNF (forward deployed naval forces), we're not special, we're different. Our timelines are just compressed," Buckley said.
Jay Barlis, who is the ship superintendent to the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), was recently recognized with a SPAWAR Lightning Bolt award for his participation in fielding a rapid prototype for the Republic of Korea – U.S. Allied Enclave to the Global Broadcast System (GBS) for the USS Blue Ridge. The installation was the first allied security enclave in the AN/USR-10 GBS Afloat Receive Suite and greatly enhanced the capabilities for Seventh Fleet.
The branch also received several "Bravo Zulus" for performing upgrades to the USS Mustin's (DDG 89) Integrated Shipboard Network System which helped improve the ship's NIPRNET and SIPRNET services. The installations were performed with minimal interruption to the Mustin's daily operations and were accepted as operational without any discrepancies.
The division's shore engineering branch, led by Donnie Camp, focuses primarily on the installation of systems developed by SPAWAR, PEO C4I and PEO EIS. The branch also installs products sponsored or funded by other commands.
"If the project comes from the PEO via the installation management office (IMO) at SSC Pacific as a program of record, we provide a cost estimate, they provide funding, and we do the install," Camp said. "For other command-funded projects, we start from scratch, do a site survey, develop a proposal, gain customer and Fleet Readiness Certification Board (FRCB) approval, procure the material and perform the installation."
Shore facilities are critical to Navy communications. Camp explained, "To a large extent, Navy ships communicate via shore installations so many of our installs involve equipment for communications between ship and shore. Two ships, even if they're sitting right beside each other, cannot communicate without some type of shore facility in the middle. Not always, but in many cases." (This concept is illustrated in Figure 1.)
One of the projects of which Camp is proudest involved the homeporting of USS George Washington to Yokosuka in 2008. Constructing an ashore command center was a requirement to prepare for the carrier's arrival.
"We installed projectors and large screen displays and all types of communication equipment in a room on top of the headquarters of Submarine Group Seven," Camp said. Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Adm. Kirkland H. Donald inspected the facility and said it was "the best, the nicest they had, anywhere."
Camp's branch installs Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) local area networks for rapid communications between ship and shore facilities without a large supporting infrastructure, using low bandwidth. These networks allow computer-to-computer communication, chat and file sharing.
Several years ago, Camp's branch transitioned 18,000 users from the Global Command and Control System-Korea to CENTRIXS-Korea with Voice over IP capabilities.
A key branch project involves C4I planning, engineering and relocation assistance for approximately 3,500 Marines on Okinawa from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Camp Schwab located in northeastern Okinawa. This includes construction of a runway, airfield and approximately 125 host nation facilities.
This effort requires close coordination with Marine Corps Bases Japan, Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI), as it affects Okinawa, and the Joint Guam Program Office. A draft master communications plan is nearly complete for the Futenma Replacement Facility. Actual installation of the C4I infrastructure will occur once the building construction is finished at Camp Schwab.
The completion of the Futenma Replacement Facility is the major trigger that will enable the transition of 8,000 Marines from the III MEF located in Okinawa to Guam under the DPRI. Additionally, in support of PEO EIS and Naval Network Warfare Command, branch personnel are migrating more than 200 buildings to the OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network (ONE-Net) and providing the required infrastructure.
ONE-Net provides centralized control authority for Navy and Marine Corps shore installation users from Europe to the Far East. This effort supports the theater network operations and security center in Yokosuka and nine local network service centers across the region.
The numbers are impressive; since project commencement, almost 13,000 seats (96 percent of those required) have been migrated.
SSC Pacific Technical Director Carmela Keeney emphasized the importance of SSC Pacific's on-site presence and ability to meet immediate fleet needs. "We know the Far East fleet and shore commands consistently rely on your support — because of your outstanding efforts and collocation with the fleet — this is often where the real work gets done."
The division's mission is a constant reminder of the critical importance of the team's work — ensuring that our partners in the Pacific Far East maintain C4ISR dominance over all possible threats.
Ann Dakis is a staff writer for the SSC Pacific public affairs office.