Navy app unites commanders
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Oct 12, 1998
The Navy has developed a tool that will help the services plan and coordinate joint
theater air and missile defenses against ballistic and tactical missile attacks.
The Area Air Defense Commander module is designed to provide a single, integrated
picture of the battlespace so that a joint commander can quickly gather data on air and
missile attacks and defend against them. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is developing AADC for the Navy.
We have taken all of the data in the theater and put it into a single
console, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Marvin Covault, a senior adviser at the lab.
You do not have information overload because it is sorted and used simply.
AADC tracks all aircraft and missiles in the area, providing vital friend-or-foe data
as well as information on range, speed, type of asset, trajectory and projected points of
impact, Covault said.
The system gives commanders a 3-D air picture of the theater of operations with clearly
identifiable icons, such as military aircraft, commercial planes and missiles, and plots
their positions on a digital map, Covault said.
AADCs real-time collaboration and war-gaming capability is embedded, so that
every potential course of action and outcome is demonstrated before it is executed, he
The planning tool is invaluable to a joint commander because it allows him to operate
in both the tactical and operational levels, he said.
It used to take 10 to 15 people hours or even days to generate air defense plans; it
now takes a computer minutes to analyze the plans and come up with the best one.
Once a commander selects a course of action he can monitor events as they unfold,
reacting to new threats and changing situations as they arise.
AADCs centralized planning, based on shared situational awareness of the
battlespace, will replace decentralized and limited battle awareness, Covault said.
During Operation Desert Storm, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf operated by using informed
guessing. But AADC removes the doubt, Covault said.
The more you know, the better off you are, said retired Navy Adm. Leighton
Smith, a consultant helping to develop AADC.
What this capability does is give the joint force commander a hell of a lot more
information in a much shorter period of time. Right now, we are flooding our commanders
with data and damn little information, Smith said.
A new combat system called the Cooperative Engagement Capability is expected to play a
critical role in supplying AADC with improved situational awareness. CEC is a high-speed
network that exchanges and fuses radar data from various elements of a carrier group,
including aircraft. The data is combined to create a wide, over-the-horizon view of the
But software interoperability problems aboard the Aegis cruisers USS Vicksburg and Hue
City recently forced the Navy to delay CECs production until 2000. That will give
software developers time to fix the problems, a Navy official said.
AADC users share data through the Common Operational Modeling Planning and Simulation
Strategy, a Navy application that lets stovepiped command and control systems, databases
and modeling and simulation systems interoperate.
The COMPASS middleware consists of both government and commercial software in a
COMPASS whiteboard feature, provided by Sun Microsystems ShowMe, exchanges
pixel-based text, graphics and screen snapshots. GlobalChat by Quarterdeck Office Systems
Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif., provides real-time text exchange between participants in a
AADC also uses Netscape Navigator to share information over the Secret IP Router
Johns Hopkins technicians wrote more than 800,000 lines of C++ code for AADC; the AADC
software runs on Silicon Graphics Inc. workstations.
AADC is powered by five Origin 2000, four Onyx2 and six Octane servers from SGI that
help run high-end applications, said Ed Lee, AADCs project manager. The
supercomputer array is capable of 56 billion instructions per second, he said.
AADC draws from a voluminous database of geographical areas, such as the Middle East,
Southeast Asia and Latin America, that includes a detailed digital catalog of more than
80,000 cities worldwide.
The AADC prototype will be installed early next year aboard the USS Shiloh, the first
of 12 Aegis cruisers to receive the system. The system can also be used by joint
commanders on land, but because Navy ships are often the first on the scene, Aegis
cruisers are a good platform, service officials said.
The Navy tested AADC in May during Fleet Battle Experiment Charlie off the East Coast.
The Johns Hopkins lab served as a virtual AADC site for a small, joint air defense
planning staff during the experiment.
If you can do it from here [in Laurel], you can do it from just about
anywhere, Smith said. All you really need is the connectivity.
The Navy has spent $13 million developing AADC. Partial funding is being provided by
the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.