IT-21 supplies smooth sailing
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Feb 22, 1999
SAN DIEGOHigh-speed asynchronous transfer mode LANs, secure e-mail and Web
capabilities aboard shipsall made possible through the Navys 2-year-old
Information Technology for the 21st Century initiativeare dramatically improving
Naval operations, service brass said recently.
Despite the usual growing pains, the payoffs of IT-21 were immediately apparent
in the areas of morale and operational capabilities, said Adm. Jay Johnson, chief of
The service has installed large ATM LANs on the USS Enterprise and USS Kitty Hawk
carrier battle groups, as well as USS Belleau Wood and USS Nassau amphibious-ready groups.
The Navy in November deployed the Enterprise and Belleau Wood groups to the Persian Gulf
as part of Operation Desert Fox, which included four days of air strikes against Iraq in
Simply ask sailors whove been on ships with IT-21 capabilities,
theyll tell you about its dramatic impact on their quality of life, Johnson
said at last months West 99 conference sponsored by the Armed Forces
Communications and Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute. Its
been a major boost to morale and efficiency on long deployments.
During the Desert Fox deployment, air campaign planners aboard the Enterprise and other
ships in the battle group cut their target identification times, increased the speed of
mission planning, and vastly improved the command and control of forces, Navy officials
To handle network-centric data traffic, ships in the Enterprise battle group had a
minimum data transmission rate of 128 Kbps. But carriers, C2 ships and amphibious-assault
ships required additional speeds of 1.5 Mbps to accommodate high-resolution imagery and
The increased bandwidth also supported electronic messaging over the Defense
Departments Secret IP Router Network, as well as access to secure Web pages and a
common tactical picture of the area provided by the Global Command and Control-Maritime
system. IT-21 capabilities such as SIPRNET e-mail and real-time video replaced the
Navys usual data-sharing method: voice communications.
Adm. Archie Clemins, commander of Pacific Fleet, released the Navys IT-21 Network
Centric Warfare Study at the conference. The study found that networked ships reduced from
43 minutes to 23 minutes the average time to detect and respond to an attempted enemy
infiltration, cut the number of forces that breached the defense perimeter by a factor of
10 to 1 and launched 15 percent fewer attack assets.
The study also found that IT-21 tools boost cooperation among Naval forces. During
1995, Navy forces in the Gulf conducted 80 operations to identify ship traffic in the
region, Clemins said. That number jumped to 644 such queries in 1998, reflecting a greater
level of coordination and connectivity among Navy vessels on patrol, he said.
The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier battle group, which served as the pilot for IT-21 LANs,
has a smaller ATM LAN than the Enterprise and Kitty Hawk and handles only classified
traffic. Nevertheless, the Lincoln also returned recently from a successful deployment to
the Gulf, Johnson said.
Rear Adm. Bill Putnam, former commander of the Lincoln carrier battle group, had a
number of ships with significant IT-21 capability, Johnson said.
Putnam reported that speed and ease of planning fundamentally changed what he was
able to do, Johnson said. The time required to receive and process lengthy
files, like the dreaded air tasking orders, was no longer a factor.
An ATO, which can consist of several hundred pages of text, is a planning document that
lists every aircraft sortie and target for a given days air operations. During the
Gulf War in 1991, paper copies of ATOs had to be flown to aircraft carriers on a daily
basis; now they are transmitted electronically, Johnson said.
All future battle groups will deploy with IT-21 capability that is at least the same
level as that enjoyed by the Lincoln, Johnson said.
The C2 ship USS Blue Ridge has completed installation of an ATM LAN as part of the
forward-deployed Naval forces that accompany the Kitty Hawk and Belleau Wood. The USS
Coronado, another Navy flagship, is scheduled to receive an IT-21 LAN this year.
The USS John Stennis carrier battle group and the USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious-ready
group are next in line for IT-21 installations.
Over the past couple of years weve asked ourselves, Can we afford to do
this? Johnson said. Thats an outmoded question. Better we make the
statement: We cant afford not to do this.
The Navy has budgeted $298.9 million this year and $476.9 million for fiscal 2000 to
install IT-21 systems aboard ships. But the service is facing a $135 million funding
shortfall next year that could jeopardize the fielding of some IT-21 capabilities, Navy