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GCN : April 2013
BROADBAND CASE STUDY GCN APRIL 2013 • GCN.COM 27 Navies have had meth- ods of intrafleet com- munications ever since the idea of vessels fighting as a unified force. Early on messag- es were conveyed via a system of flag signals, then flashing lights. With the advent of radio, wireless communication was enlisted. As time went on, the amount of information that could be relayed (the bandwidth) in- creased, but it fell behind com- mercial networks. As cellular phones and other mobile de- vices became popular, new commercial networks cropped up, and before long publically available bandwidth vastly out- stripped what most of the mili- tary had available. For the U.S. Navy, this has been an exceptional hurdle to overcome. And it's not just bandwidth; there are the secu- rity concerns that every branch of the military has when using a publically accessed cellular network. The Navy also faces the additional obstacle of not- surprisingly few cell towers in waters where the large warships are on maneuvers. When there is nothing above the surface of the water but the ships, the ships themselves have to be turned into the necessary relay points. SHIP-TO-SHIP STREAMING That is exactly what the Naval Air Systems Command (NA- VAIR) is in the process of doing. The command has been test- ing a pilot program in which two ships, the USS Kearsarge and the USS San Antonio, were equipped with a microwave- based wireless wide-area net- work (WWAN) to augment existing satellite-based com- munications. The Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network lets personnel on the two ships re- ceive real-time video streaming from air nodes mounted on heli- copters, which in turn allows of- ficers to make quicker and more accurate decisions based on what advance units are doing. "LTE allows the NAVY to le- verage all of the advantages of smart phones and commercial broadband," said Larry Holling- sworth, NAVAIR national direc- tor for avionics R&D. "NAVAIR is trying to address a critical requirement for the VBSS [visit, board, search and seizure] mis- sion, but in addition the sailors are already finding the network useful in their day-to-day work. This makes common sense, since as we all use smart-phone technology in our personal lives, it is not unsurprising that the sailors would extend that utility to their work." LTE allows the NAVY to tap all of the advantages of smart phones and commercial broadband for both search and seizure missions and sailors' day-to-day work. NAVY'S SHIP-TO-SHIP COMMUNICATIONS GOES 4G LTE BY GREG CROWE The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, left, approaches the cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary during a replenishment at sea.