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CHIPS Articles: Hull Swap – a Sea Story

Hull Swap – a Sea Story
SPAWAR personnel install critical shipboard software upgrade
By Sharon Anderson - January-March 2013
In April 2012, the big-deck amphibious assault ships USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), and USS Essex (LHD 2), stationed in Sasebo, Japan, completed a hull swap during which the crews worked diligently learning the differences between the network systems and software applications installed on each of the ships.

The Challenge

Hull swap, or ship rotation, is part of the Navy’s long-range plan to routinely replace older ships assigned to the Navy’s Forward Deployed Naval Force with newer or more capable ships. In a hull swap, ships switch places, but crews and families remain in their homeport.

Initially planned for one month in duration, the timeframe for the hull swap between Bonhomme Richard and Essex was reduced to two weeks due to the fleet’s tight operating schedule. The compressed schedule allowed the forward deployment of Bonhomme Richard to ensure the ability of Commander U.S. 7th Fleet to fulfill the U.S. government’s commitment to the defense of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East in support of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

Critical to the success of the hull swap was the deployment of an automated solution to transition Naval Tactical Command Support System (NTCSS) personnel data between the two ships. Personnel from the Navy’s Command and Control Program Office, PMW 150, under the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I), led the effort by gathering requirements and planning and coordinating efforts with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centers Atlantic and Pacific. The team consisted of 20 employees from PMW 150, SSC Pacific and its detachment in Yokosuka, and SSC Atlantic. Their combined actions resulted in a seamless transition of maintenance, supply and administrative capabilities between the ships and enabled the hull swap to be successfully executed as scheduled.

The SSC Atlantic team’s contribution involved designing and engineering the automated solution to transition NTCSS personnel data between the two ships. One of the major differences between the applications installed on the ships was the NTCSS software version used. Essex had the legacy CY04 version of NTCSS, whereas the Bonhomme Richard used the newest release, Patriot, which is two releases ahead of the CY04 version. Working with two different versions created unique challenges for the team. But swapping NTCSS versions on the ships was not an option due to the complexity of the software configurations and underlying hardware platforms and network components unique to each NTCSS version.

In addition, the solution had to be ready for testing, installation and validation by SSC Pacific personnel in the compressed 13-day window — April 9 to 21 — with training also completed for both ships’ crews to allow Essex to deploy to San Diego for a much needed shipyard overhaul and repairs. The only viable option was to develop an automated database routine that could quickly download personnel data from the Essex and upload it to the Bonhomme Richard. Also, the Bonhomme Richard’s Patriot R-ADM database had to be downgraded to the CY04 version and loaded on the Essex.

Naval Tactical Command Support System

NTCSS is a multi-application information system that provides standard information resource management to afloat and shore-based fleet activities. NTCSS was created by the merger of three longtime key programs: the Shipboard Non-Tactical Automated Data Processing Program (SNAP), the Naval Aviation Logistics Command Management Information System (NALCOMIS) and Maintenance Resource Management System (MRMS).

NTCSS provides a full range of standardized mission support automated data processing hardware and software to support management of logistics information, personnel, material, equipment maintenance, and the funding required to maintain and operate ships, submarines and aircraft in support of the Navy and Marine Corps. Major NTCSS components include personnel data stored in the Relational Administrative Data Management (R-ADM) application, one of the primary NTCSS applications, and in NTCSS ORG, an application containing the ship's organizational structure, for example, code information, such as the department, division and work centers where personnel are assigned. NTCSS also includes Relational Supply (RSupply), Organizational Maintenance Management System New Generation (OMMS-NG) and NALCOMIS.

R-ADM is the authoritative database for afloat activities that use the NTCSS suite, and it is designed to capture individual level unit training, personnel qualification standards (PQS) and certifications. R-ADM also tracks training exercises and enables creation, management and maintenance for watch bills.

RSupply is a real-time interface into the Defense Automated Addressing System for status processing (both incoming and outgoing) and requisition submission. RSupply uses a real-time cumulative transaction ledger which provides users with explicit details of the transactions processed thus providing a tool for tracking and researching transactions.

OMMS-NG provides Navy maintenance personnel with quick, convenient access to the maintenance information they need to ensure warship readiness. Such information includes information concerning configuration items, work candidates and ordering parts for equipment.

NALCOMIS is an automated information system that provides aviation maintenance and material management with timely, accurate and complete data on which to base daily decisions. It is a single, integrated, real-time system that supports workers, supervisors and managers. NALCOMIS features an automated source data entry device for simplifying and improving data collection, while also furnishing a means to satisfy the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program requirements.

The NTCSS Patriot release encompasses improved security, including enhanced protection for personally identifiable information (PII); it eliminates non-essential data and allows encryption for Social Security numbers, essentially making the migration of data to an earlier NTCSS version much more complex.

From the two different release platforms, the SSC Atlantic team had to identify all the personnel data that needed to be migrated from the Essex, then determine whether the data was encrypted and if it existed on the Bonhomme Richard, and then identify the R-ADM database table structures of the ships’ platforms. After determining these items, using Perl, a high-level, general-purpose, dynamic programming language, personnel performed database analysis, wrote the conversion script and designed and developed the data packages needed for each ship. The team’s efforts eliminated countless labor-intensive hours in manual data entry for more than 1,000 crew members and helped ensure that the ships’ departure schedules were met.

SSC Pacific Detachment Yokosuka, along with Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMNAVSURPAC) and SSC Atlantic personnel, worked tenaciously running various software scripts to extract databases and complete the Integrated Shipboard Network System (ISNS) Common PC Operating System Environment Program (COMPOSE) and NTCSS users migration for both ships in a timely manner.

The SSC Atlantic team delivered the data packages to the SSC Pacific team April 6 in time for SSC Pacific employees to assist the crews of both ships in transferring data between the NTCSS databases, train the crews on the differences between the two releases and then complete the actual hull swap.

Military personnel from SSC Pacific’s NTCSS team in Yokosuka and San Diego, provided training guides and devoted 66 hours of training to the crews to ensure that crew members could successfully operate NTCSS and generate required reports and financial records. Team members worked across multiple geographical locations and time zones to keep the project on track. They maintained continuous communications with shipboard and COMNAVSURPAC personnel in preparation for the data migration and training via regularly scheduled briefs.

Fleet First

The combined cooperation and teamwork of PEO C41/PMW 150, SSC Pacific NTCSS Fleet Support and the SSC Atlantic In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) enabled the task to be successfully planned, managed and completed from start to finish. In recognition of the team’s NCTSS Team outstanding performance, each member was recognized with SPAWAR’s prestigious Lightning Bolt Award. The team is now busily making plans for future sea swaps using the lessons learned and successes of this first effort.

SSC Atlantic is the central design agency to PEO C4I’s PMW 150 program office, providing NTCSS systems and software engineering, implementation, technical support, help desk services for software-related trouble calls, and installation and training for East Coast NTCSS hardware installations. SSC Atlantic meets the nation's demands for uninterrupted vigilance, fail-safe cybersecurity, adaptive response and engineering excellence by delivering secure, integrated and innovative solutions to naval, joint and national agencies.

PEO C4I acquires, fields and supports C4I systems that extend across Navy, joint and coalition platforms. This includes managing acquisition programs and projects that cover all C4I disciplines: applications, networks, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems for afloat platforms and shore commands.

SSC Pacific provides West Coast NTCSS software installations, training, help desk services and other technical assistance. SSC Pacific delivers naval, joint and national knowledge superiority through quality research, development, acquisition, test and evaluation and full life cycle support of effective C4ISR, information operations, enterprise information services and space capabilities.

NTCSS Team Members and SPAWAR Lightning Bolt Awardees


  • Rocco Sgro (contract support)
  • Michael Wickstrom (contract support)

SSC Atlantic

  • Jane McNaught (team lead)
  • Mohamed Al-Aghbari
  • Michael Artegian
  • Oscar Gonzalez
  • Robert Konu
  • Patricia Rarick
  • Clare Tucker
  • Jason Womack

SSC Pacific

  • Glenn Peterson (branch head for NTCSS implementation & fleet support)
  • Otis Glover
  • AZCS Adolfo Ramirez
  • Cedric Peery (contract support)
  • Richard Simpson

SSC Pacific Detachment Yokosuka

  • LSCM Arlene Carter (team lead)
  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Marklyne Chery
  • LSCS Ronald Cruz
  • LSC Lito Fuentes
  • ENC Manuel Jamosmos
SAN DIEGO (Oct. 24, 2012) The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) is moored with the assigned messing and berthing barge at Naval Base San Diego . Essex is at the beginning of an 18-month planned maintenance period. The U.S. Navy is reliable, flexible, and ready to respond worldwide on, above, and below the sea. Join the con versation on social media using #warfighting. U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specia list Joe Kane.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Lightning Bolt awardees: AZCS Adolfo Ramirez, Cedric Peery, Glenn Peterson, Otis Glover, Mike Wickstrom and Rocky Sgro.
SSC Pacific Det Yokosuka Lightning Bolt awardees: LSCS Ronald Cruz, ENC Manuel Jamosmos, LSCM Arlene Carter, LSC Lito Fuentes and Staff Sgt. Marklyne Chery.
SSC Atlantic Lightning Bolt awardees, front row, from left: Robert Konu, Jason Womack, Oscar Gonzalez, back row, Mohamed Al-Aghbari, Clare Tucker, Jan McNaught, Patricia Rarick, Michael Artegian. Photo by Heather Rutherford/CHIPS.
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