Navy cruises on with ATM

Navy cruises on with ATM

Under service's automation program, networks will run core ship systems

By William Jackson

GCN Staff





All the Navy's CG-47 cruisers, beginning with the USS Ticonderoga missile destroyer, will get ATM fault-tolerant control networks under the Smart Ship program.


The Navy has begun automating mechanical controls on its Aegis cruiser fleet, starting with an asynchronous transfer mode network aboard the USS Ticonderoga, a Tomahawk cruise missile destroyer.

The Ticonderoga is the first of 27 CG-47 cruisers to be refitted under the Navy's Smart Ship program. The Navy expects shipwide area networks, or SWANs, to reduce by up to 10 percent the number of sailors needed to run the cruisers.

'We're moving toward more complex, distributed automated systems,'' said John Dolan, supervisor of the communications and networking group at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Carderock, Md. 'The focus is integrating commercial systems.''

The refits are moving ahead despite a software snafu that left the first Smart Ship, the USS Yorktown, dead in the water for three hours after a database error crashed the Microsoft Windows NT network operating system [GCN, Dec. 14, 1998, Page 39].

Dolan said the possibility of a Smart Ship network going down still haunts the program. 'The worst thing that can happen is you have to go back to your manual control,'' he said.

Motivating factors

The automation program is driven by the Navy's need to reduce personnel requirements, improve operations and reduce lifetime system costs. The ATM networks will run core ship systems but not weapons systems. The Ticonderoga's new SWAN will handle machinery control and damage control systems, integrated condition assessment, fuel and ballast control, and the integrated bridge system.

'The basic outcome is an automated ship,'' Dolan said.

According to the Smart Ship program office, the crew needed on the bridge of a combat vessel could drop from the conventional 12 to three, and the crew needed for the engineering watch station could be reduced from 11 to four.

CG-47 cruisers carry a variety of weapons platforms. They can support carrier battle groups and amphibious forces or operate independently.

Alcatel Corp. of Calabasas, Calif., installed the Ticonderoga's SWAN through a $6 million subcontract from Litton Industries Inc. of Woodland Hills, Calif., which is doing the refitting. The network will be built around the OmniSwitch from Xylan Corp., which Alcatel bought in April.

The core of the SWAN, five OmniSwitch nine-slot switches, will link on a 622-Mbps OC-12 backbone with 10/100-Mbps Ethernet to workstations. The switches will have a fully meshed star configuration for high availability.

'Because of the mission-critical nature of the network, it can't go down, period,'' said Mike Paluzzi, Alcatel's director of federal systems.

The switches' Private Network-to-Network Interface routing protocol can dynamically reroute packets. Alcatel's Dynamic Input Buffered Output Control causes failover to an alternate path in 0.4 of a second with no data loss, Paluzzi said.

'We can lose major segments of the network and not lose control of the ship,'' Dolan said. 'We're finding the technology reliable. I think the real setback is cultural.''

The 1997 Yorktown incident made the Navy cautious about committing vital ship controls to an NT network. The culprit was an early version of the Standard Monitoring and Control System used to troubleshoot the ship's propulsion, auxiliary, fuel and electrical systems.

An entry of zero in a data field caused the network to crash, and it reportedly took two hours to reboot.

The Navy corrected the fault in later releases of the software.

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