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Notebook: U.S. Navy Lays Out Tight Schedule for Shipboard IT Upgrade

Mar. 22, 2012 - 06:34PM   |  
By BEN IANNOTTA   |   Comments
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Now that the U.S. Navy has chosen Northrop Grumman for the initial phase of a project to upgrade the network equipment on its ships and some shore sites, the challenge for the company will be to make up for lost time, said one industry official who follows the program closely.

The Navy wanted to pick a winner last year in the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) competition. But tests and engineering work were delayed by five months due to a funding shortage caused by a series of temporary congressional budget resolutions, Navy officials said at the time.

In February, the Navy announced it had chosen Northrop over Lockheed Martin for the first CANES production contract. Despite the selection delay, the Navy wants to stay on schedule to start work in September to install CANES equipment on two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the Arleigh Burke (DDG51) followed by the Milius (DDG69).

Before that can happen, the Navy must assess the Northrop system in its Enterprise Engineering and Certification laboratory, a step that would clear the way for a production decision, called Milestone C. The Navy expects that decision to be made “this summer,” the service said in a press release.

The Navy’s strategy calls for trying out the system on up to 10 percent of its fleet during actual deployments before deciding whether to install CANES on 180 ships, submarines and maritime operations centers by 2020.

Northrop has won the bid for the initial work, but the Navy underscored that it is planning “full and open competitions” for the full deployment phase.

“The CANES acquisition strategy is built upon a foundation of competition throughout the program’s life cycle,” said Navy Capt. D.J. LeGoff, program manager for tactical networks, in a prepared statement.

Lockheed has given no indication that it plans to protest the award. “We will seek an opportunity to understand the Navy’s position on this decision so that we may better serve them in the future,” the company said in a prepared statement.

The initial delivery order to Northrop is worth $37 million, but wider installations would bring the contract value to $638 million, according to the Navy.

The CANES effort began four years ago, when the Navy selected teams led by BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop to devise competing blueprints for a “common computing environment” for its ships. The Navy wants to replace today’s hodgepodge of computers, wires and software with systems that will be easier to upgrade and maintain.

In March 2010, the Navy narrowed the field to Northrop and Lockheed Martin.

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