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New Network Link Saves Time at Sea

Jul. 29, 2012 - 03:30PM   |  
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Sailors’ work aboard U.S. Navy ships will soon get easier thanks to new technology that synchronizes data automatically between systems, reducing time and effort.

Researchers at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have created a “network bridging system” known as Universal Gateway that moves data instantaneously between the combat system that controls weapons and sensors and the command-and-control network.

To transfer data now, a sailor has to copy information onto a CD and upload it to a different network.

“We don’t have the manpower to do it [manually] anymore,” said Wayne Perras, director of experimentation for ONR’s C4ISR Department. “We need to figure out ways to do it so, operationally, the data is available in the system when you need it, without putting the burden on sailors to move all the data.”

Universal Gateway is designed for carriers, cruisers and destroyers and should start hitting the fleet between fiscal 2013 and 2014, Perras said.

It was unclear at press time what ships would be first to receive it.

Here’s an example of how it might work: Sailors aboard ships with aircraft receive daily air tasking orders via their control and communications network that dictate takeoffs, landings and missile launches.

Sailors have to manually transfer this information to the combat network. With Universal Gateway, the transfer will happen automatically.

By eliminating the need for CDs, the system will also help make networks more secure, Perras said.

“If the sailor doesn’t scan [the CD for malware] and you bring it over to the combat system, you’ve brought that [malware] into the combat system,” Perras said. “We want to prevent as many of those possibilities from happening.”

Automatic data transfer reduces the potential to make errors and also avoids duplicate work. In the current system, when data is changed or updated on one network, a sailor may need to manually fix it on the other network as well, Perras said. With Universal Gateway, changes will need to be made only once.

Perras said researchers at ONR are also discussing expanding Universal Gateway to littoral combat ships and submarines.

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