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In Nuclear Crisis, Navy Would Use Aging Network

Mar. 12, 2013 - 03:10PM   |  
By BEN IANNOTTA of   |   Comments
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Talking to submarines isn't the only communications improvement that's dead in the water for the Navy.

In a nuclear crisis, emergency action messages from the president would travel to subs and Air Force bombers over a network with known problems regarding information assurance.

The network is collectively known as the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Hybrid Solution — “hybrid” because it includes computers and antennas belonging to both the Air Force and Navy.

For the Navy, that means the Fixed Submarine Broadcast System sites that deliver emergency action messages to subs, plus a network element called Nova. The Air Force uses its own equipment and software to get emergency action messages to its nuclear-armed bombers.

Work on a ground-up replacement to be called the NC3 Long Term Solution were canceled during deliberations over the 2013 Pentagon budget request.

The Air Force needed its portion of the money for a higher priority, according to a February 2012 budget justification document.

How is the Navy coping without a long-term solution? The Navy monitors the network “to address issues as they become known,” said Capt. Miguel San Pedro, manager of the Navy's Undersea Integration Program Office in San Diego.

Luckily, the Navy didn't put all its eggs in the long-term solution basket. In 2009, the Navy hired SAIC to modernize the computers and software at the Fixed Submarine Broadcast System sites. That program is called LBUCS, for Low Band Universal Communications System.

LBUCS “addresses several information assurance issues that were identified. It takes care of some obsolescence issues and refreshes the hardware to the state-of-the-art hardware that's available now, and it makes use of modern crypto,” San Pedro said.

He plans to start formal developmental testing on LBUCS equipment in March at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command lab in San Diego. If the equipment and software work properly, managers will ask Rear Adm. Jerry Burroughs for approval to procure and field it. That decision is expected in November.

That might be just in the nick of time. A color-coded Navy timeline document, dated March 2010, predicted that the Fixed Submarine Broadcast System would turn red — denoting “major issues” for product health —in mid-fiscal 2013. That would be about now.

San Pedro wasn't familiar with the document, but he said the Navy is monitoring the equipment.


Ben Iannotta is the editor of Deep Dive Intelligence (

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