The Future of Naval Communications

Effective and secure communications have always been a basic requirement for the navy, with modern navies relying heavily on radio and satellite technology. And with the growing development of a network-oriented environment in the military, capable voice and data networks are becoming even more important.

In order to be able to work safely and effectively for the interaction of modern command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance and intelligence systems, today’s systems must operate not only at all times, but also during intense military engagements. They must also ensure secure and stable connectivity as well as interoperability between a number of different types of platforms in different physical environments, from submarine to surface, land, air and space, as well as between joint and coalition forces. In addition, they need to be robust enough to cope with the ever-increasing amount of data transmitted and the growing number of different actors, such as unmanned arena vehicles.

The satellite challenge

Existing networks of communications satellites in space, either owned by the military or leased commercial, are the backbone for controlling and connecting naval platforms around the world that rely on different radio frequencies to intercept their messages. But can they cope with the demands of the future? Military experts say even the most capable communications satellites will become bottlenecks in the future as voice and data traffic increases due to low transmission speeds.

It is assumed that to avoid these difficulties, the navy can switch from electromagnetic waves to laser beams. This can increase the bandwidth by a factor of 1000. However, the first components for precise tracking, routing and acquisition must be developed and installed in underground, surface, air, ground and space assets.

This approach has already been tested by the US Air Force for its One One transformational satellite communications program, but had to be canceled due to rising costs.

“Today’s systems must work not only at all times, but also during intense military engagements.”

On the surface

Superficial communication links offer a challenge for future communications. These connections can offer a much higher bandwidth, as well as the ability to work in a collaborative and multinational environment with their different equipment and standards. They are also safe and resistant to jam. In addition, a number of different methods already exist that can be implemented in single software-defined radio stations (SDRs) that can cover different waveforms and functions.

The US Department of Defense bases its Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) on this premise. It is expected to work with existing military and civilian radio stations and systems. Ultimately, it should be able to operate on many different waveforms, such as the tactical data links Link 11,16,22 or the tactical communication system of the UK Bowman with three services, VHF and UHF. JTRS is built on an open architecture software communication architecture.

The JTRS air and sea / fixed station (AMF JTRS) should reach its initial operational capability in 2014 and will eventually connect more than 100 platforms, including these aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, UAVs or helicopters of the Marine Corps and fixed wing aircraft using a secure tactical network similar to the Internet. By connecting all of these areas to the future Internet of the U.S. Military Global Information Network (GIG), AMF JTRS will be able to provide invisibility, broadband, clear communication, easy upgrades, and interoperability.

Today’s SDR technology capabilities can now be seen with General Dynamics C4 Systems’ digital modular radio (DMR), which has reduced the number of old radios on board various surface ships and submarines of the US Navy with a single system by up to more than 50% . Software-defined DMRs communicate with ultra-high-frequency satcom, SINCGARS and visibility and high-frequency radios.

“Existing networks of communication satellites in space are the backbone for managing and connecting naval platforms.”

SDR laser transmitters can also become a way to connect terrestrial, surface water and air platforms. Optical space communication links (FSOs) provide high-bandwidth communication that is difficult to jam or detect, although it may be disrupted by weather conditions.

Laser technology enables data transmission between ships of a naval unit with high data transmission speed and interception security. While the direct mode between two transceiver terminals offers a very high bandwidth, the reflector mode has minimal power requirements and is burdened with active routing or tracking. The German company Carl Zeiss, for example, has developed a laser communication system for networks that provides bandwidth from 1Gbps to a visibility distance of 50 km.

Underwater communication

While efforts are moving elsewhere, submarines are still a particular challenge for fleets around the world. Most solutions so far are based on buoys and are usually one-way. Considering factors such as speed, depth or stealth of the boat, the developers are trying to integrate modern satellite communications, higher data rates and two-way networking capabilities in submerged communications.

The German navy will receive a two-way tethered buoy, Callisto, for the second batch of its 212A class submarines. This will add SHF satcom as well as Battle Force email, Link 11 and Link 16 to the already available UHF satcom.

The American company Raytheon has also developed a technique for real-time communication with a submarine of classified speeds and depths (called Deep Siren Tactical Paging (DSTP)). Uncooked buoys can be launched from a submarine, airplane or surface ship. The devices then convert satcom messages into a robust and secure, low-speed underwater acoustic signal that allows the operations commander to transmit messages to the submarine in real time.

“SDR laser transmitters can become a way to connect terrestrial, surface water and air platforms.”

As part of the U.S. Navy’s Speed ​​and Depth (CSD) communications program, which is looking for ways to integrate submarines into the GIG, an industrial team, including Lockheed Martin, is also developing three types of floating buoys.

They have developed two submarines, self-stretching, moored buoys with real-time data transfer via iridium and UHF satellites and an unconnected acoustic-to-radio buoy gateway to connect to an iridium satellite or via UHF to a nearby aircraft, which can also to release this buoy. Using underwater acoustics, it provides two-way communication over short distances as well as one-way communication over long distances.

However, the use of buoys may become obsolete in the future. Based on technology developed in the 1990s, the United States has launched a tactical relay information network (TRITON) research program to develop a blue laser underwater communications system to connect sunken cruise ships to nearby aircraft. The companies were asked to develop a prototype for evaluation during the Rome-Pacific naval exercise in fiscal 2012. If successful, coordination between aircraft and SSN for ASW purposes and communication with SSBN could be significantly improved.

Computer networks

Modern surface and submarine ships still have a number of different computer networks on board. If they can be transformed into a common home computing environment throughout the fleet, this can free up communication resources.

The Consolidated Floating Networks and Corporate Services (CANES) program is a step towards a consolidated tactical cloud network. It will consolidate network hardware and centralized software to make them accessible to users at sea and on land. It will modernize networks mounted on US warships, bring them together and consolidate them based on modern IP infrastructure. The main goal of the CANES program is to build a protected surface network needed for naval and joint operations. At the same time, it will integrate servers, workstations and network systems with the next-generation shore-based corporate network of the US Navy and GIG.

Communication equipment

A number of communication technologies designed for the future will require large transmitting antennas, which can create various problems. In addition to the simple need for a mounting location, they can increase the cross-section of the ship’s radar or cause electromagnetic interference and even mutual blocking, affecting each other by electromagnetic radiation due to their close proximity. These issues should also be monitored as part of the growing bandwidth requirements, multiple bands and low visibility for satellite communication.

“Modern surface and submarine ships still have a number of different computer networks on board.”

The solution may be to combine the antennas and sensors of most warships into one. To achieve this, Thales Netherlands has launched its integrated sensor and communication package, which should bring together the identity of a friend or foe, radio and data communication systems, radar and electro-optical subsystems.

The company claims that this reduces maintenance costs and reduces cooling and power systems in one large unit, reducing electricity consumption, weight and space. The single structure with its clean lines also reduces the cross section of the radar.

The US Navy is looking for a scalable family of electronic warfare, radar and communications capabilities to support multiple classes of ships and other naval platforms. He also plans to reduce the upper apparatus of today’s ships by using integrated, multifunctional multi-beam gratings. In 2009, the US Navy awarded 18 contracts to develop technology for the integration and control of radio frequency radars and communication functions on future naval platforms. The advanced multifunction radio frequency concept aims to integrate radar, electronic warfare and communications into a common set of devices with signal and data processing, signal generation and display hardware.