Navy cruises with fiber optics

The backbone installation is complete on the USS Rushmore, an amphibious ship whose
home port is San Diego. Work on the USS Rainier, an oiler in Seattle, is in the design
phase, said Capt. Grey Glover, SmartShip program manager at the Naval Surface Warfare
Center in Philadelphia.

Along with the cruiser USS Yorktown, which received a shipboard LAN last year, the new
vessels represent SmartShip prototypes in three classes of ships. A review board soon will
consult the final report on the Yorktown and make recommendations for equipping more ships
in the fleet to meet SmartShip standards.

A SmartShip reduces crew requirements by automating and raising the efficiency of
operations. Five systems make up the core components: integrated bridge, integrated
condition assessment, damage control, standard monitoring and control, and Hydra wireless

Not all vessels will run all those applications, at least initially.

"We don't have the funding in hand to do the Integrated Bridge System" on the
Rushmore, said Tony Cieri, business manager for the SmartShip program.

However, Rushmore will boast a ballast control application that the Yorktown does not
have, Cieri said. The damage control system also will be an improvement over the
Yorktown's. The Rushmore got its 15,000-foot fiber-optic backbone in April and May, and
all systems are expected to be running by September.

Because these are mission-critical systems, the networks must be highly fault-tolerant
and redundant. Any of the Rushmore's 31 consoles can run any of the applications.
"The power is not in a single application but in the integration," Cieri said.

Keeping all the consoles identical reduces the inventory of spare parts and simplifies
network administration.

The fully meshed, switched asynchronous transfer mode backbone is supplied through
OmniSwitch switches from Xylan Corp. of Calavasas, Calif.

It initially will run at the OC-3 rate of 155 megabits/sec, but that can go up to
OC-12's 622-megabit/sec rate as bandwidth requirements grow. Each console or desktop
system will have two switched Ethernet links to the backbone.

The Xylan switches can expand the network with either ATM or Ethernet to the consoles.
"We're figuring to go ATM to the consoles because they are multifunctional,"
said Andy Mazzeo, technical integrator for SmartShip.

An ATM LAN can prioritize data delivery, which Ethernet cannot. If a console is pressed
into double duty in a crisis, real-time tactical functions can grab top priority, while
logistics take a back seat and less vital operations get third priority.

The Rushmore consoles are 200-MHz Pentium Pro systems with 256M of RAM. They run
Microsoft Windows NT applications with Microsoft's Windows Open Services Architecture
(WOSA) interfaces to functions such as Open Database Connectivity.

"We have to link to many databases," and quick integration depends on the
WOSA interfaces, Mazzeo said.

Although the SmartShips eventually will have satellite links to land databases, the
necessary databases currently must be replicated aboard ship, Mazzeo said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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