Full Steam Ahead for Next-Generation Shipboard Network
The Common Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program faces a busy 2014.
U.S. Navy officials expect to award a full-deployment contract for a new shipboard network this spring, and they plan to install the system on nine ships this year. The network provides commonality across the fleet, replacing multiple aging networks, improving interoperability and driving down costs.
The Common Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program represents a new business model for delivering capability to the fleet, Navy officials say. The program consolidates five legacy networks into one, which enhances operational effectiveness and provides better quality of life for deployed sailors. The approach allows the fleet to streamline logistics support, training and operating procedures. Additionally, CANES offers a common computing environment with continual hardware and software upgrades. Navy officials expect to update software every two years and hardware every four years. Furthermore, minor insertions will be executed on four-year cycles and major insertions on eight-year cycles to reduce obsolescence.
Dave Wegmann, director of maritime command and control within Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems sector, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, acknowledges that 2014 is a big year for the program. “This is a very important year for CANES with all the ship sets that we’ll be delivering. The Navy’s got its at-sea operational evaluation scheduled for this year. That’s an important milestone leading up to the program’s full-deployment decision, so it’s a very important year,” Wegmann says.
Then again, he indicates, every year is a big year when it comes to CANES. “The schedule is aggressive for installation. We’ve been doing our part on the production side to get these systems to the Navy, and the Navy’s got several installations in progress. We have delivered 16 systems to date. These systems are integrated and tested by Northrop Grumman prior to delivery,” Wegmann reports. Those delivered systems include a training simulator, 13 DDG destroyer variants and versions for an aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ship.
The Navy requested proposals in May 2013 for the full deployment phase and intends to award a contract in April. Service officials report having received multiple proposals, which they are evaluating.
CANES is expected ultimately to be deployed to more than 190 ships, submarines and maritime operations centers by 2021. Northrop Grumman beat out rival Lockheed Martin for the approximate $637 million limited production contract awarded in 2012. Northrop Grumman also has announced its intent to compete for the next phase. The actual installation of CANES is handled under a different contract. “The way the CANES program is structured, it has been a very intensely competitive environment,” Wegmann states.
CANES also reduces known cybersecurity vulnerabilities, Navy and industry officials say. For example, the regularly scheduled technology refresh cycle enables the fleet to better keep up with security threats. Wegmann lists three additional ways it improves the Navy’s cybersecurity posture. “Go back to the concept of CANES reducing the number of individual legacy networks into a more modern, robust, single system. Just the technical fact of combining these historically stovepiped systems into a more modern architecture by itself helps to improve the security posture. You’ve got that benefit right off the bat,” Wegmann maintains. “We’re also fielding the most modern commercial off-the-shelf products. So, you’ve got an upgrade in your security posture right there. Also, you’ve got this single CANES system that is common and scalable across all the different ship classes. The security features are common, so the crew training and their understanding of the cyber capabilities of the ship will increase over time.”
Additionally, network standardization eliminates up to 642 known legacy configurations, according to information provided by the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command public affairs office. CANES also allows the Navy to better meet rapidly changing warfighter requirements and it improves data, transport, voice and video services and systems management.
And the system allows efficient insertion of next-generation command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. “The future of maritime command and control becomes enabled by software updates and upgrades versus having to go physically onto the ship and install more hardware. In that respect, it’s going to speed up the fielding of new mission capabilities and also save costs,” Wegmann contends.
In November, the Navy completed installation of CANES on the USS McCampbell, the first ship to complete the process. The ship is forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan. The McCampbell conducted sea trials in early October to validate how CANES would function in an operational environment and received positive feedback, Navy officials say. The Navy’s first installation of CANES aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Milius began in December 2012. Installation is ongoing at various stages aboard eight guided missile destroyers, two carriers and one amphibious assault ship. The additional destroyer, USS Gonzalez, and the Amphibious Dock Landing Ship USS Carter Hall were scheduled for installation in January.
The Milius was the first ship to begin installing CANES, but the completion was delayed because of the ship’s availability. The Milius has been designated as the program’s initial operational test and evaluation platform. The test will inform the program’s full-deployment decision. Navy officials strive to streamline the installation process through lessons learned aboard each ship.
“Just a handful of ships have CANES, so today’s Navy ships mostly have an aging network infrastructure filled with literally hundreds of different variations of these legacy networks on these ships,” Wegmann explains. He adds that every mission application has its own network and computing infrastructure. “Over the decades, these infrastructures have aged to unacceptable levels, and the cost to maintain these individual systems has become very expensive in a budget-constrained environment. The whole purpose of the CANES program is to consolidate these legacy programs and to create a common, modernized and robust computing environment to run the many applications for the ships’ missions,” Wegmann maintains.
Cost savings is one of the major benefits cited by both Navy and industry officials. Wegmann touts Northrop Grumman’s Modular Open Systems Approach-Competitive (MOSA-C) process as one factor that has helped drive down costs in tough budgetary times. Northrop Grumman documentation indicates that use of commercial products often meets with limited success because integrators include their own proprietary technology with otherwise open architectures. MOSA-C is described as a business and engineering approach that fully achieves the benefits of an open architecture across the entire life cycle of the system. “Our team started this effort more than six years ago, and we built our solution and our processes on our MOSA-C approach, which is really unique to Northrop Grumman. What we’ve found is that we can enable competition across the entire market space,” he says, pointing out that CANES is a “nondevelopmental system” that requires already-mature and available technologies.
Lockheed Martin officials see another benefit of CANES: the convergence of command and control (C2) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) functions. “What we see in C2 and in ISR is a convergence not only of technologies but also in real-world operations of those two domains,” says Martin Jenkins, business development director, Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions. “In the past, because of the way systems were designed, you really had system-unique hardware, software, routers and transceivers afloat, and it really inhibited having different ISR or C2 systems actually relate to each other. It was almost prohibitive to get them to cross the two domains. CANES is really a step forward on a local area network afloat that merges those domains in the local area network infrastructure. One substantiation of that would be a converged C2ISR common operating picture, so operators are looking at a screen and can see both kinds of data with a point and click.”