Navy and industry designers look to COTS processors and software for CEC enhancements

U.S. Navy leaders say they are confident of clearing one of their final acquisition hurdles before starting production of the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) — a foundation component of the Navy's future vision of "network-centric warfare."

Aug 1st, 2001

By Edward J. Walsh

WASHINGTON — U.S. Navy leaders say they are confident of clearing one of their final acquisition hurdles before starting production of the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) — a foundation component of the Navy's future vision of "network-centric warfare."

Navy officials say CEC will enable appropriately equipped ships, aircraft, and ground sites to share radar data on airborne tracks over a real-time network. The system aims at extending the air-defense range of Navy battle groups and joint task forces by giving them access to target tracks beyond the range of their own sensors.

This "sensor-netting" capability creates a tactical option called "engage on remote" that allows CEC-equipped ships or land sites out of range of approaching targets to use the CEC track picture to cue weapons. The Navy plans to field CEC to aircraft carriers, Ticonderoga-class cruisers, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and Wasp- and San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships, as well as to E-2C Hawkeye maritime surveillance aircraft.

Navy and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) officials say that CEC will serve as the foundation not only for future Navy battle group air defense but also, when integrated with joint-service high-speed communications capabilities, as a real-time joint composite tracking network (JCTN).

The JCTN would generate a single integrated air picture — better known as SIAP — that will support wide-area joint-service air defense against threats ranging from anti-ship cruise missiles to theater ballistic missiles.

The JCTN will be a critical component of the Navy's vision of "network-centric warfare," in which networks rather than individual ships are the centerpiece of fleet operations. The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, which also plan to field CEC, have adopted the "network-centric" vision.

The Navy's program executive office for theater surface combatants (PEO TSC) is expecting a favorable review from the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force in the OPTEVFOR report, to be completed by late August, on a critical operational evaluation carried out in early May for the Navy's cooperative engagement capability (CEC). A passing grade on the operational evaluation will permit the Navy to proceed with its CEC acquisition plan.

A Defense Acquisition Board scheduled for November is expected to approve the start of full-rate CEC production, officials say. Navy leaders say they hope to release a formal request for proposals early next year for a two-tiered acquisition, in which one contractor would be selected to act as a systems-engineering and integration agent and a second for a design agent and production of the system.

In a major boost for the program, the Defense Department's strategic review of conventional defense programs, which is expected to decide the fate of many service programs, in June supported CEC as a Navy "transformation" system.

Enabling technologies
Raytheon's C3I business unit in St. Petersburg, Fla., acts as prime contractor and systems integrator for the CEC system that went through DOD evaluation. The baseline CEC shipboard hardware architecture, designated USG-2, includes a CEC processor (CEP), a jam-resistant C-band data distribution system (DDS), a high-power phased-array directional antenna, environmental control unit, and other auxiliary components. The CEP baseline 2.0 software for the evaluation system is written in C++. The DDS software is written in Ada.

Raytheon is under contract to deliver 35 USG-2 and USG-3 systems under low-rate-initial production contracts. Four Ticonderoga-class cruisers, two aircraft carriers, and the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp currently are outfitted with CEC.

Raytheon also won contracts last year to provide a system for a U.K. land-based CEC test site, and to develop an inexpensive planar array antenna that company experts say they expect to cut antenna costs by 50 percent and eliminate the need for a second CEC antenna on aircraft carriers.

Raytheon officials have proposed that the Navy and the other services adopt CEC as a joint-sensor netting architecture that would evolve into the joint-service single integrated air picture. The company says that the baseline 2.0 USG-2 system could be enhanced to serve as the comprehensive track-management architecture that would represent the SIAP.

The USG-2 CEP consists of a VME chassis that accommodates several different commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) processors, including 23 Motorola 68040-based single-board computers. The data distribution system includes COTS processors, a receiver-synthesizer, and a touch-screen display. The CEP and DDS are housed in one data-processing terminal cabinet.

Raytheon officials say they plan to introduce PowerPC technology for the CEP. Service officials say that they are looking at new 400 MHz Motorola 5100 boards that Motorola leaders say they expect to introduce later this year.

CEC software
CEC software consists of "adaptive layers" unique to the various shipboard and airborne air-search radars that provide track data to the system. CEC also features a software kernel that would remain relatively stable except to accept major system upgrades.

Raytheon experts currently are developing CEC software baseline 2.1, which will be integrated with the Navy's ship self-defense system (SSDS-developed by Raytheon Naval and Maritime Integrated Systems). Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems- Moorestown is acting as design agent for CEC software baseline 2.2, which will incorporate area theater ballistic missile defense.

Navy and Raytheon officials say the CEC team is continuously looking at new commercially developed processing technology through a CEC technology-refresh program. The shift to COTS-based components reduced the weight of the initial USG-1 shipboard system from 9,400 pounds to about 3,000 pounds for the USG-2. The USG-3 airborne system weighs about 800 pounds. Raytheon also is under contract to produce even smaller CEC systems by cutting the overall volume of the USG-2 by 33 percent and the airborne system by 15 percent.

Solipsys Corp. of Laurel, Md., founded by engineers who helped developed the CEP at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, has developed tactical component network (TCN) software. This COTS-based architecture, company officials say, could carry out the same data fusion and sensor-netting functions as CEC is intended to perform, while permitting networks to incorporate new sensors without increasing the bandwidth demands on networks that CEC imposes, and without the need for adaptive software layers unique to individual sensors.

Solipsys officials say that the "extensibility" of TCN comes from software applications called current observation-related estimates (CORE) that interface with weapons-control systems, radars, and processors. CORE enables a wide range of communications systems, in addition to the Raytheon-built CEC-unique DDS, to transfer accurate track files.

Raytheon engineers and some Navy and Marine officials say TCN could help extend situational awareness to users without a CEC-capable sensor. They add, though, that time-critical fleet and joint-service air-defense missions such as launch of SM-2 Standard missiles by Aegis ships, require the highly reliable real-time jam-proof data transfer provided by the DDS.

Systems integrators at Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems-Moorestown in early 2000 formed a partnership with Solipsys to propose the TCN for CEC baseline 2.2 development, as well as for the warfare-systems integrator for the Navy's next aircraft carrier, CVN-77, and for the future DD-21 land-attack destroyer. The Navy however directed Lockheed Martin to not to use TCN until after the Navy supervises an independent two-phase TCN assessment.

The first-phase of the assessment started in late 2000 and consisted of a series of simulations and live-replay events at the Solipsys laboratory by a Navy-industry test team. The team concluded that the simulations showed that TCN met or exceeded CEC requirements.

The remainder of the assessment will be in a fleet demonstration called the Modular Command Post, under sponsorship of the Office of Naval Research. The MCP will be evaluated aboard Seventh Fleet ships off Okinawa over several months this fall. Navy researchers say the TCN will be a "backbone architecture" for a COTS-based network that will provide real-time situational awareness for surface ships and aircraft. The demonstration at first will include five old amphibious ships, and later will include Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Burke-class Aegis ships not equipped with CEC.

Lockheed Martin officials this summer established a CEC lab at their Moorestown, N.J., site for development of the CEC baseline 2.2 software. The Navy is to provide CEC baseline 2.0 and 2.1 programs for the development. Lockheed Martin developers say they will continue to explore potential applications for TCN through the baseline 2.2 development work.

Marine Corps leaders seek to cut costs for their CEC program by testing TCN functionality extensively for the distribution of Navy CEC track data to enhance situational awareness for Marine users.

More in Computers