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CHIPS Articles: Key tactical data link systems clear operational testing

Key tactical data link systems clear operational testing
NGC2P, MIDS on ship programs prepare for fleet introduction
By Steven A. Davis and Mike O'Gara - July-September 2008
The Navy's Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) announced the successful testing of two critical components of its planned upgrade to the Tactical Data Link (TDL) system aboard Navy ships.

The Next Generation Command and Control Process (NGC2P)/ Common Data Link Management System (CDLMS) and the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) on Ship (MOS) each achieved positive results in recent testing conducted by the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR).

The tests were conducted over several weeks and involved elements of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and NATO. The MOS system accumulated more than 430 operating hours over a 19-day period aboard USS Tarawa (LHA 1), both in port in San Diego and at sea in the local operating area.

The NGC2P/CDLMS system accumulated more than 100 hours over a five-day period aboard the cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) and destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70). Both systems were found to be operationally effective and operationally suitable.

"The effectiveness of our operating forces is largely determined by their ability to receive and process information, and then use that information to protect themselves and deliver their weapons accurately — 'put rounds on target,'" said Chris Miller, who heads the PEO C4I organization. "These successful tests are a major step forward in enhancing that capability for our warfighters."

Tactical Data Link

Tactical Data Link systems transfer information quickly and securely between military assets. Information can be sent via an orbiting satellite, an aircraft operating overhead or a system of ground links. These systems allow ground troops operating in Afghanistan, for example, to transmit near real-time information to a Navy ship operating in the Persian Gulf.

The existing TDL system is the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), a network radio system used by the U.S. armed forces and its allies to support data communications, principally in air and missile defense. JTIDS is one of the family of radio equipment that compose the JTIDS/TDL J system, commonly referred to as Link 16, a highly survivable radio communications data link that provides reliable situational awareness for fast-moving forces.

Link 16 data communications standards and technology were developed in 1975, with the first JTIDS terminals installed on Air Force AWACS aircraft and at U.S., U.K., and NATO ground-control facilities. Smaller Link 16 terminals, called MIDS-Low Volume Terminals (LVT), were developed to equip U.S. fighter aircraft, specifically the F/A-18 Hornet.

The MOS system is the next generation Link 16 TDL terminal and is designed to replace the older JTIDS terminals on newly constructed Navy ships. MOS was developed to meet the Navy's continued need for a Link 16 terminal. It is based on the MIDS-LVT Link 16 receiver-transmitter, but includes additional software to allow the system to interface to the ship's combat system.

The NGC2P/CDLMS system is designed to enhance the ability of Navy ships to be made aware of incoming threats. The system also allows Navy ships to strike targets over the horizon by providing improved connectivity, enhanced throughput and extended range of TDLs, including Link 16.

OPTEVFOR released the NGC2P operational test report Feb. 21, 2008. The report evaluated the NGC2P (version 3.4x), with Joint Range Extension Application Protocol (JREAP) C capability, to be operationally effective and suitable for fleet use on all U.S. Navy Model 5 combat systems-equipped ships.

JREAP-C enables Link 16 tactical data to be transmitted over digital media and networks not originally designed for tactical data exchange. Formatted tactical digital messages (J-series) are embedded inside JREAP messages as data fields within available commercial and government protocols using Transmission Control Protocol and User Datagram Protocol, both of which are the core protocols of the Internet protocol suite and are commonly used over satellites and terrestrial links.

NGC2P

NGC2P is the follow-on to the C2P program initiated in 1982 that converged three separate data links into a single system interface. That system is used today in the fleet aboard aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and large amphibious warships.

NGC2P employs a satellite data link for the exchange of information. The satellite link reduces the reliance on airborne link relays, and will relieve current constraints on battlefield deployment due to line-of-sight and network saturation limitations in large combat theaters of operations.

NGC2P leverages JREAP-C, which will provide forces greater range enhancements and improve the Navy's and Marine Corps' ability to operate with joint forces. The JREAP-C capability provided by NGC2P is also used by the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system as a mission-critical communication link.

Each system must clear a final hurdle before being introduced to the fleet. NGC2P is expected to receive full-rate production approval this summer and will then be installed aboard all Navy combatant ships by 2012.

The final step for the MOS system is the award of a production contract, also scheduled for this summer. It will be installed on new construction ships.

NGC2P is managed by PEO C4I's Command and Control Program Office (PMW 150), which oversees pre-planned product improvement of the C2P. The function of NGC2P is to enable platforms to accurately process and exchange tactical data with Navy, joint and coalition forces over any combination of TDLs to achieve a common tactical picture.

The NGC2P is designed to be extensible and flexible to meet the mission requirements of a constantly changing warfare environment. The NGC2P provides critical support to the Navy transformation elements by providing improved connectivity, enhanced Link 16 throughput and extended range to the TDLs.

Connectivity and extended range enhancements will be supported in current and future NGC2P builds incorporating Link 11, Satellite Link 11, Link 16 and Satellite Link 16 and through the incorporation of JREAP Appendix A and Appendix C, Link 22 and Link 16 line-of-sight Dynamic Network Management capabilities.

JREAP-C is a significant improvement supporting beyond line-of-sight and multimedia ultra high frequency (UHF), extremely high frequency (EHF) and super high frequency (SHF) Link 16 capabilities that are interoperable with joint services.

Testing is essential to success

Extensive developmental testing was conducted to ensure a successful operational test at sea aboard USS Milius (DDG 69) and in port aboard USS Lake Erie (CG 70) with support provided by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) San Diego Combined Test Bed lab over a three-year period. Testing events grew in both fidelity and complexity to include a variety of Navy ships underway supporting carrier strike group operations.

The successful CDLMS technical evaluation was conducted during the bilateral Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) '07. This weeklong exercise is designed to enhance the United States' and Japan's ability to better respond to the defense of Japan or any regional crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.

The evaluation was coordinated by the test team lead, Aaron Hubbard, in SSC San Diego Code 535, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and executed with contractor team members aboard USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Stethem (DDG 63).

The operational testing included risk mitigation testing and alignments by the Link 16 In-Service Engineering Activity and the CDLMS Software Support Activity in port onboard USS Port Royal (CG 73) and at sea onboard USS Hopper (DDG 70).

The operational test was conducted at sea onboard Port Royal, Hopper, with support by Tarawa, and the SSC San Diego Combined Test Bed lab.

Future enhancements to the CDLMS program include added ballistic missile defense improvements, implementation of Net-Enabled Weapons message processing capability and expansion of IP ports to communicate directly to Global Command and Control System - Maritime and the shipboard combat system.

This successful testing was part of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command's continuing effort to deliver effective capabilities to the warfighter.

"NGC2P enables platforms to accurately process and exchange tactical data with naval, joint and coalition forces over any combination of Tactical Data Links in order to achieve a common tactical picture," explained Paul Bobrowich, PMW 150 principal assistant program manager for tactical command and control. "It is designed to be extensible and flexible to meet the mission requirements of a constantly changing warfare environment."

For more information about SPAWAR and the PEO C4I, go to www.spawar.navy.mil.

Steve Davis is a media officer/security and policy review manager in the office of public affairs and corporate communications for SPAWAR.

Mike O'Gara is the joint test and evaluation team lead for tactical C2 systems at SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego and was test manager for both NGC2P and MOS.

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