Undersea Forces Adjust Tactical Focus

February 2003
By Sharon Berry

Submerged order of battle changes.

Having established new procedures and incorporated new technologies for surface and air situational awareness, the U.S. Navy now is looking to extend that capability underwater. The sea service is working with the private sector to apply new data fusion techniques to antisubmarine warfare.

Nowhere is this need more acute than in the Pacific region. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s submarines capable of operating in the Pacific Ocean are now owned by nations not traditionally considered to be U.S. allies, and the U.S. Navy is collaborating with industry to address this new reality.

“Only about one-tenth of the vessels are ours [allies], and most of the submarines that are adversaries are diesel-electric boats that are small and very quiet,” says Barry Root, technical director, Commander Task Force-12 (CTF-12), Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “While we were concentrating on winning the Cold War, the undersea order of battle was changing. We don’t enjoy the numerical, acoustic or operational superiority that we once believed we had. In the future, undersea warfare is going to be hard and frightening, and any undersea battles are likely to take place near land in waters less than a couple of hundred feet deep.”

The Pacific theater comprises a water area that covers half the Earth, and the tool set and skills that the Navy currently uses to monitor this environment are inadequate, Root adds. “When we send a carrier battle group to sea on a mission, it carries the responsibility for its own antisubmarine defense within about 300 miles of its units. The rest of the problem falls to the theater undersea warfare (TUSW) commander. We look to research and development to provide the new tools we need, including better collaboration capability and better ability to survey, understand and display what is going on in this vast undersea area of responsibility.”

Orincon Corporation International, San Diego, is developing technologies that support the TUSW commander in the first of several initiatives that will fall under the company’s Adaptive Data Fusion for Maritime Surveillance program. The program is an outgrowth of work initiated through phases one and two of a Small Business Innovative Research contract that focused on the development of an adaptive data fusion architecture and buried mine detection. The phase-three work will be done under a $25 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract awarded by the Aircraft Division of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, and managed by the Office of Naval Research.

“Orincon is addressing some of the technology areas that are most in need of improvement if we are to have any hope of carrying out our complex mission,” Root states. “Specifically, we are working on an initiative to improve cross-platform, cross-community collaboration so that in any future undersea conflict, we have a system in place capable of providing the right information to the right individual.”

The TUSW program focuses on developing and building a collaborative software segment on the Global Command and Control System–Maritime (GCCS-M) and personal computer (PC) environment that provides connectivity between the Commander Submarines Pacific (CSP/CTF-12) and TUSW assets in the Pacific region.

Several core capabilities from the network-centric arena will tie the project together. These include enhanced data fusion, knowledge management and signal processing, mission planning, information fidelity and collaboration tools such as Web-based and chat technologies, bulletin board integration and real-time data post and archival features. The CTF-12 will work with Orincon to provide the theater undersea portion of the Navy’s common undersea picture. The goal is to implement a leap-ahead command center of the future for knowledge development, resource allocation and environmental analysis for undersea warfare.

“Initially we will create and integrate two sets of computer software developed in accordance with GCCS-M and IT-21 standards that contain required tool sets,” Root offers. The software will address the core capability of multilevel data fusion for more comprehensive situational awareness displays, including multisensor performance modeling. The resulting systems will be called C4I knowledge management terminals–maritime, also known as the CKMT-M, or Checkmate. The data fusion aspect incorporates a multihypothesis tracking and fusion engine that processes disparate data for the undersea commander.

One terminal will work on the existing UNIX-based GCCS-M local area network, and the other will work on the PC-based IT-21 local area network. Both will have connectivity with each other and to a multinode, Linux-based parallel processing cluster at the Maui High Performance Computing Center. According to Terry Magee, president and chief operating officer, Orincon Defense, the Orincon/Navy team plans to fully exploit computing power, especially the resources available at a supercomputer facility such as the one in Maui.

“The Navy has wanted to tie into this supercomputing power and see how it helps with network-centric operations by allowing tasks to be done much more quickly than they can be done in today’s environment on board ships and in command centers. The intent is to tie the forces into that either directly, if they have the bandwidth capability, or through a reach-back cell such as a command center that connects to the supercomputer.”

A reach-back capability will be established with the Maui facility to enable rapid data analysis, facilitate real-time collaboration among TUSW command and control nodes, and provide accelerated assimilation, synthesis and dissemination of tactically relevant data to the warfighter. This work will enhance operational capabilities and mission planning by effectively sharing data from many disparate sources.

The CTF-12 currently uses a unique antisubmarine warfare (ASW) workstation that provides a state-of-the-art tracker, which connects to the environmental databases through a special port at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, located in Monterey, California. However, access to a remote shore-based computer center for executing salient tactical decision aids for senior decision makers currently does not exist.

The CTF-12 command center will be the initial location for the CKMT-M workstation capability. This installation and testing will enable the theater commander to perform near-real-time “what if” drills to identify and optimize undersea warfare asset allocation. Navy-standard oceanographic atmospheric databases will be ported into the Maui center. Ty Aldinger, director of programs for Orincon Hawaii, notes that the Navy has spent decades providing standard models and databases. “These standard models, particularly in the ocean and atmosphere, are critical because you have to understand the environmental four-dimensional battlespace before you can begin to do anything with regard to weapons or sensors,” he says.

Efforts will initially focus on rudimentary connectivity and database hosting, manipulation, mining and display to create the theater-level segment of the common undersea picture. Eventually, in-theater installation of the workstation capabilities is expected to occur at the Naval Ocean Processing Facility Whidbey Island; CTF-74 Yokosuka, Japan; Tactical Support Center, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; and other GCCS-M portals. Orincon’s President and Chief Operating Officer Arthur P. Garner III shares that the technology will give the military the capability to plot, plan and position in seconds and hours rather than days and weeks because of the brute strength of pitting the supercomputer against some of the undersea scenarios. “One of the adjuncts that came out of the September 11 crisis is how we put the tools and information into the warfighters’ hands—tools that help them track information, fuse it and manipulate it on a real-time basis using a supercomputer,” Garner explains.

The TUSW program is a proof-of-concept effort to tie the Navy into the supercomputing power of the high-performance centers, Magee says. “When this concept is demonstrated, we’ll expand it to other domains. The program will increase everyone’s situational awareness and increase efficiency and resource allocation, use new capabilities as a force multiplier and give operators information that is consolidated and concrete for timely decisions. This will allow us to be proactive rather than reactive.”

One of the big challenges will be adapting to the various bandwidth capabilities of users and developing the flow of information so that it reaches high-bandwidth users such as command ships and shore-based centers and also lower bandwidth users such as submarines. But the team will not re-create a communications architecture to achieve its goals, Aldinger adds. “It’s one of the tenets of this project. We’ll be using the GCCS-Maritime backbone, essentially the SIPRNET, as the highway that the information will travel on.” The SIPRNET will be key in the team’s effort to achieve information assurance.

Secure communications also will enable the Navy’s airborne assets. “We hope that the maritime patrol aircraft in flight will be part and parcel of the success of the theater USW commander’s mission,” Aldinger relates. “Currently, their real-time connectivity to tactical support facilities is very limited in the classified data realm. One of the technological challenges is to press the communications envelope and increase the bandwidth and fidelity of secure data communications to the P-3 aircraft in flight.” Orincon is evaluating the Iridium constellation as a possible solution.

In addition to implementing data fusion technologies and exploiting processing power, project members are working on knowledge management technologies to give the warfighter a reliable, operational capability that develops situational awareness and real-time knowledge of the tactical battlespace. Knowledge management is especially relevant when distributed assets are involved such as those used by the TUSW and Marine expeditionary forces.

Part of knowledge management is relaying only task-specific information. When people use the term common operational/common undersea picture, it often comes with an implication that anyone, anywhere at any time can look at a screen and see the exact same picture, Aldinger relates. But from the theater commander’s perspective, a common undersea picture is not as necessary as a shared, integrated operational or undersea picture. “The information might be available, but the IUSS [integrated undersea surveillance system] community sees what the IUSS community needs, and the sea combat commanders see what they need to see. Instead of being everything to everyone all the time, it’s a common database where the particular information that you need for the specific part of your mission is available to you when you need it. We want to minimize buttons—the number of pushes—to get to the critical information.”

Orincon also will incorporate its Web-centric ASW network, called WECAN, to provide Web-enabled chat, bulletin board and archive features for information sharing among the right people in real time. Magee points out that developers have found that most operators, especially young ones, are very familiar with Web-enabled capabilities. “They’ve grown up with the Internet,” he says. “You can sit them down at a console, and within an hour, they’re fairly proficient at it. One of the nice things is that you don’t have to send people to long training schools. Most personnel have enough ingrained knowledge and practical experience to learn Web-enabled capabilities quickly.”

Work on the Navy’s TUSW initiative will be performed in Oahu and Maui, Hawaii, and is scheduled to be complete by June 2007. Orincon Hawaii will increase its technical staff in both locations to support the program.

“There aren’t too many true examples of network-centric warfare that are operational and provide capability to service data,” Magee concludes. “A lot of them are in development, but one of the innovations this program will be bringing is the application of true network-centric warfare principles directly into the hands of the warfighters.”

Additional information on the Theatre Undersea Warfare program is available on the World Wide Web at  www.orincon.com.

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