Science and Technology News

Thursday, June 25, 2015

NAVIDFOR Ensures Shipboard Systems Interoperate



By George Lammons, NAVIDFOR Public Affairs

SUFFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- When multi-unit groups deploy, Sailors and Marines can be confident in the interoperability of their computer and communications systems because a Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR) team ensures those systems work and are ready to go to sea.

Deploying Group System Integration Testing (DGSIT) process is a fleet-directed program to test interoperability of all computer and communications systems and networks on all amphibious readiness groups (ARG), carrier strike groups (CSG) and Marine expeditionary units (MEU). NAVIDFOR does the testing to support the fleet.

"All of these units have to talk to each other across numerous complex systems and system-of-systems," said Mike Caldwell, the DGSIT Atlantic program manager. "Through deckplate testing and mentoring, we make sure that all those systems integrate. We also coordinate rigorous follow-on actions, teamed with system commands and regional maintenance centers, to resolve as many interoperability issues as possible prior to deployment."

The DGSIT charge is to test, in a stressed operational environment, all the command, control, computer, communications, combat, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems - all of the Information Dominance systems - and to validate the C5ISR modernization efforts for the numbered fleet, Marine expeditionary force, deploying group commander and technical program office.

Consequently, testing teams examine the systems and software during pre-deployment work-ups.

"The best way to validate performance of C5I systems is to test interoperability and integration in a stressed operational environment," Caldwell said. "The systems and Sailors are under pressure because of the tactical exercise demands. It is probably the first time that collection [of Sailors] has worked together, and it may be the first time those ships have worked together. But the team is there to make sure everything works for both advanced training and deployment."

The stressed operational environment can mimic a deployment operations tempo, ensuring crews and systems can do their work no matter their operational demands and conditions. The test teams check the systems typically in a pre-deployment group sail at-sea environment. The team also tests MEU systems in a field training exercise as a precursor to at-sea testing of the ARG/MEU team.

Caldwell said the final integration test (FIT) teams are always customized by the core NAVIDFOR DGSIT team coordinators of five or six because each ARG, MEU and CSG is a unique composition of units and associated C5ISR configuration. Planning starts about six months before the test teams embark on units, and the entire process takes about eight months from pre-test planning to the final report submission. Caldwell said a FIT team consists of up to 70 system experts. Their underway testing period lasts about a week as they check key data and voice system paths on all the ships and units in the group.

"The whole process involves extensive coordination with units, staffs and C5I system program offices," he said.

Teams identify all of the hardware and software issues and build a hot wash report that identifies all interoperability issues and reports it to the appropriate program office. A Pacific team, based in San Diego, tests all the Pacific-based CSGs, ARGs and MEUs - including those homeported in Japan.

Caldwell said that on average the DGSIT groups find 60 to 80 C5I systems issues. The team members also make recommendations on-scene and mentor Sailors operating the systems who may be unfamiliar with a system's nuances. During the test period, team members are able to fix about half the problems they discover. They resolve nearly all of the remaining issues before the deployment.

The 8- to 10 percent of the issues that cannot be fixed, usually software-related, is reported to the program office, who may offer a work-around or a way to mitigate the issue.

The process is also valuable to the program offices because it provides feedback on how the systems work in "pressurized" operational conditions. Program offices can use these lessons-learned to improve hardware and software, training and system maintenance.

Caldwell has plenty of data to back up his statistics. He said the process is fleet-directed, so it has been followed for 20 years or more. Before the establishment of NAVIDFOR in October 2014, the DGSIT process was executed by a series of commands - Navy Cyber Forces, NETWARCOM, and before that by the Atlantic Fleet and Pacific Fleet commanders.

NAVIDFOR was established to improve the generation and sustainment of ID force readiness across the Navy under a single TYCOM. Since Oct. 1, NAVIDFOR has been consolidating and aligning missions, functions, and tasks previously managed by separate ID commands (specifically, Navy Cyber Forces Command, Fleet Cyber Command, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, and the Office of Naval Intelligence).

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