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CHIPS Articles: SPAWAR FRD Improves Shipboard Combat Readiness

SPAWAR FRD Improves Shipboard Combat Readiness
By By Krishna M. Jackson, SPAWAR Public Affairs - March 6, 2015
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) integrated a system of systems operability testing (SOT) capability for combatant ships onboard USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), which just completed an availability and sea trial period utilizing the new SOT combat readiness testing, March 6.

SOTs are part of ensuring interdependent command and control systems work seamlessly. Combat systems command and control is referred to as C5I and encompasses everything C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) does, but includes combat systems. SPAWAR Fleet Readiness Directorate (FRD) along with associated Program Executive Offices (PEOs) oversee many of these C4I and C5I systems onboard Navy ships, including acquisition, installation and support for command and control of advanced military information technology (IT) systems. However, the process of modernizing and upgrading a ship's command and control system has proven challenging.

"I know that some of the discrepancies discovered would have taken months for the ship to finally realize, troubleshoot, find and fix on their own without system SMEs onboard," said Cmdr. Ryan Mahelona, SPAWAR FRD C5I SOT test director on the effectiveness of the C5I SOT aboard Curtis Wilbur. "As a forward deployed naval force ship, time is critical, especially when operational demands warrant the need to be ready."

The concept of a C5I SOT test was initially formulated in 2010 and was first implemented on a limited scale on a few force level ships. Since then, C5I SOT testing has evolved into the current format which has been largely driven by the fielding of the Navy's newest C4I system: Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise System (CANES).

"In recent years, the level of system to system interoperability has grown and the sophistication of software and hardware elements more complex," said Mahelona referring to CANES. "As a result, a higher level of system interoperability is required, which has led to greater concern in combat system interdependence on C4I systems."

CANES is the latest tactical network being installed on Navy ships. It consolidates five legacy network systems into one, increasing operational effectiveness and interoperability. It will influence the advancement of C4I and C5I testing processes and, according to Mahelona, influence the way the Navy looks at C4I and C5I.

"This all came about because of the gaps that existed with C4I testing and emphasis on interoperability," said Mahelona. "When we talk about asymmetric warfare, we need to look at how we deliver the ships to the fleet in the highest readiness form that we can. In order to do that, we came up with this concept of doing a systems of systems operability test, because the system operability verification tests (SOVTs) being done are specific to a particular system."

The FRD developed SOVTs to address operational efficiency and to validate the functionality of respective systems, but ships that receive modernized/upgraded installs like CANES often experience problems with interoperability. In addition, a lack of emphasis on C5I testing prior to a ship's basic training phase frequently resulted in discrepancies being discovered late in the training cycle, and in some cases, just prior to the ship deploying.

"This SOT is a level six and level seven test that tests systems of systems interoperability, which typically require higher level link testing," said FRD Installations Program Manager Capt. Allan Walters. "The SOT is primarily at the end of an availability to bring together legacy testing and new system testing. The ship will then have the confidence that the systems work properly prior to going into their workups."

C5I SOT testing currently is not a fleet requirement, despite increasing requests from the fleet. Since October 2013, C5I SOTs have been executed on eleven destroyers, one amphibious assault ship and two aircraft carriers.

"By design, the C5I SOT brings a C5I testing emphasis earlier into the training cycle and before the ship's basic training phase," said Mahelona. "Based on the ships we have done, we're definitely heading in the right direction."

As the Navy's Information Dominance systems command, SPAWAR designs, develops and deploys advanced communications and information capabilities for the warfighter. With nearly 10,000 acquisition professionals located around the world and close to the fleet, the organization is at the forefront of research, engineering and support services that provide vital decision superiority for the warfighter.

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WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (March 1, 2015) The Arleigh-burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) fires its 5-inch gun during live-fire drills. Curtis Wilbur is part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Hospital Corpsman Andres Santamaria.
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