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Feature Article

Deepwater Command, Communication, Sensor Electronics Build Enhanced Operational Capabilities

By Hunter C. Keeter

“C4ISR is critically important to today’s Coast Guard,” said Rear Adm. Ronald J. Rábago, program executive officer, Integrated Deepwater System. “Maritime border security, law enforcement and disaster mitigation missions all have gained emphasis in the post-9/11, post-Hurricane Katrina era, and require even greater levels of interoperability and maritime domain awareness. Today’s missions are more complex, and require the interaction of many assets and partner agencies; Deepwater command, control and communication systems will facilitate that.”

C4ISR covers a broad array of equipment among many projects. Collectively, these equipments may be thought of as comprising the Deepwater C4ISR network architecture, the goal of which is to deliver the sensors, communications and data processing systems that enable information dominance for the operating force in every domain –ashore, on the surface and in the air. An important program goal is to enable the interoperability of all Coast Guard mission assets and capabilities with those of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense, as well as those of state and local governments.

Deepwater is providing the men and women of the Coast Guard the systems and the capabilities they require to collect, process, integrate, analyze, evaluate and interpret mission data more efficiently and effectively, according to Capt. Gordon Weeks, the program’s C4ISR domain lead. Data is only as useful as the information and knowledge products that may be developed from it. The network architecture now standing up across the Coast Guard is aimed at strengthening those products and capabilities, Weeks added.

As it becomes operational, the C4ISR network architecture will enhance and enrich the information links the Coast Guard’s operational forces have with one another, and also with the capabilities of other local, state and federal agencies –including the U.S. Department of Defense’s Secret Internet Protocol Network, or SIPRNET.

The Coast Guard’s enacted fiscal year 2007 budget includes $50 million for C4ISR acquisition. In the President’s Budget Request for fiscal year 2008, the Coast Guard has asked Congress for $89.6 million for C4ISR programs. With this funding and other project resources, the Deepwater program has built the foundation for the network –including installations of digital radios and satellite communications equipment, sensors and data processing servers aboard cutters and at shore installations.

For example, SIPRNET, commercial satellite communications and automatic vessel identification equipment has been installed on all 39 legacy cutters –including 14 210ft. and 13 270ft. medium endurance cutters; and 12 378ft high endurance cutters. The new national security cutters, the USCGC Bertholf and her seven sister ships, will arrive in the fleet with state-of-the-market C4ISR gear, including real-time target tracking; and classified & unclassified communications.

The Deepwater program also is enhancing the C4ISR capabilities of the Coast Guard’s aircraft fleet with new mission systems.

“We are putting equipment into the hands of the operators to provide them with capabilities they did not have before,” said Capt. Matthew J. Sisson, Deepwater’s air domain lead.

Aviation upgrades include the modernization of 16 HC-130H long range search aircraft, and the integration of mission systems on board six new HC-130Js. Modernization of the H-models, coupled with the new systems and capabilities of the Js, will improve the mission reach and interoperability of Coast Guard maritime patrol.

“On the HC-130Hs we are installing new displays that will present flight instruments and other information in a clean, digital format,” said LCDR Chris Kaplan, HC-130H project manager. “Digital moving map technology is a huge improvement in situational awareness for the crew. And a GPS landing approach technology will allow the crews to shoot instrumented landing approaches with far greater accuracy and safety.”

The Coast Guard’s legacy C-130 fleet is equipped with two types of surface search radars, including the AN/APS-137, a very powerful emitter that was developed by the U.S. Navy for submarine hunting aboard that service’s P-3 aircraft. Additionally, the 1500-series C-130s were equipped with the AN/APS-135 side-looking airborne radar (SLAR). The SLAR is capable of looking out 15 miles on either side of the aircraft, cutting a 30-mile swath to detect surface anomalies (such as icebergs, on International Ice Patrol missions).

The Coast Guard’s airborne radar surface search concept of operations teamed the APS-137 radar with the SLAR to deliver the full range capability –wide area coverage with the SLAR and high-resolution from the APS-137. However, the service is retiring its 1500-series aircraft, between 2008 and 2009. Meanwhile, the APS-137 radars are aging and becoming more challenging to maintain. These circumstances have led to requirements for more robust and state-of-the-market replacement radars.

“So we are putting in the Selex 7500 Sea Spray radar,” Kaplan said. “The Selex is a multi-mission, synthetic aperture radar as capable in the surface search mode as the SLAR and APS-137, and also capable of performing in air-to-air and weather radar modes, all in one system. The beauty of it is that the Selex system is not nearly as user dependent: the average user can still get the full capability, compared with the APS-137, which required great skill to use.”

The six new HC-130Js are equipped with EL/M 2022A(V)3 maritime surface search radar, and a nose-mounted AN/APN-241 color weather & navigation radar.

A new generation of more-capable maritime patrol aircraft, the HC-144A, is to be equipped with powerful communications, sensors and command & control pallets, also shared by the HC-C130s. The pallets are undergoing integration and testing at the Aircraft Repair and Supply Center, Elizabeth City, N.C. When approved for operational use, the pallets will include a robust communications suite; an electro-optical/infrared video sensor; the DF-430 UHF/VHF direction finding system; and the SAAB R4A airborne automatic identification system (AIS).

Deepwater is modernizing the Coast Guard’s HH-65C and HH-60J helicopters with advanced avionics and mission systems to improve air stations’ and flight-deck equipped cutters’ national defense, security, law enforcement, search & rescue, and environmental protection capabilities. For example, 42 HH-60Js are being upgraded to the MH-60T configuration. The project upgrades and extends the HH-60J’s service life with new avionics, new radar and forward looking infrared sensors; and an integrated traffic collision avoidance system.

Through another phased series of upgrades, the HH-65Cs are evolving into the Multi-mission Cutter Helicopter, or MCH, which will be designated the MH-65C.

“The intent of the project is to build upon each successive upgrade to produce, ultimately, the MCH,” Said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Campbell, deputy project manager for the MCH.

The first phase of the upgrade for the airframe installed two Turbomeca Ariel 2C2-CG turbo shaft engines, which provide approximately 40 percent more power than those they replaced.

“The next phases add enhanced communications equipment, and the airborne use of force package (including gun mounts and armor),” Campbell said. “The concept of operation is for a [maritime patrol aircraft] to detect a go-fast drug boat, and relay its location to the cutter. Within range, the cutter will launch an MCH.”

During the intercept, the communications equipment on board the cutter, the helicopter and the maritime patrol aircraft will enhance each asset and crew’s situational awareness and, via satellite communication links, keep the joint task force commander ashore informed of mission progress. Other radios –such as the Wulfsberg RT5000– help the MCH aircrew stay in touch with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, who also may be stakeholders in the mission’s success.

“The maritime patrol aircraft will hand-off the target to the helo, once it arrives on scene,” Campbell said. “The maritime patrol aircraft may then act as a communications relay for the helo, back to the cutter and ashore.”

The helicopter crews will use lights and a loud hailer to halt the target, or if necessary, use the helicopter’s 7.62 general purpose machine gun and .50 cal. precision fire weapons to stop the target boat. While all of this is going on, the MCH, linked to the maritime patrol aircraft, the cutter and command centers ashore, has effectively become a node in a network, which is built on what Sisson emphasized was shared situational awareness.

Ashore, Deepwater has modernized C4ISR capabilities at four facilities, including Communications Area Master Stations (CAMS) at Portsmouth, Va., & Marin County, Calif.; and the command centers at Miami and at San Juan, Puerto Rico. Additionally, Coast Guard Training Center, Petaluma, Calif., in March 2007 was equipped with Deepwater C4ISR systems, to train Coast Guard National Security Cutter crews as well as U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship crews.

In one example of upgrades being installed ashore, Deepwater funding for CAMS Atlantic adds to the station’s operational communications capabilities long range high frequency (HF) transmitters with automatic link establishment (ALE) systems. The HF-ALE systems automatically searches for clear radio frequencies and establishes the most reliable communications links, enabling Coast Guard operators to pass voice and digital messages to mariners more quickly.

The project also installs ashore and aboard cutters the enterprise communications wide area network (ECWAN) –a classified network providing SIPRNET access and including access to the classified common operating picture (COP) for legacy cutters operating Shipboard Command and Control System (SCCS), classified chat, web-browsing, e-mail and other tools for secure communication. The Deepwater program provided SCCS for WMEC-270 and WMEC-210 class cutters and SIPRNET connections to SCCS on 270’s, 210’s and the WHEC-378’ cutters.

Legacy cutters have been upgraded with the Automatic Identification System, or AIS –a marine VHS safety of navigation broadcast system that improves situational awareness by automatically exchanging navigational status, position, speed, heading and identification information among cutters and other vessels.

“The fleet cutter crews are really happy with the automatic identification system, which helps them to identify the vessels as they appear on the cutter’s radar,” said John Harris, legacy cutter upgrade project manager. “AIS is a system required for commercial shipping that provides information on the name of the vessel, its exact location (AIS is connected to GPS and the ship’s gyro), its heading and other information, perhaps the type of cargo it is carrying. This information helps the cutter’s crew decide whether to classify a vessel as a surface target of interest.”

The ECWAN system initially was installed with 64K communications pipes. Successive capability enhancements to the ECWAN included updating INMARSAT-B global mobile satellite communications doubling cutter crews’ data throughput to 128kpbs. According to patrol summaries, the satellite communications capability have been of great benefit to crews –so much so, in fact, that the upgrade has been requested for other classes, such as the 110ft patrol boats. Deepwater is continuing to analyze methods to increase the communications capacity of this operationally critical capability.

The 378ft High Endurance Cutters (WHEC) also received a law enforcement/marine digital selective calling mutli-band VHF/UHF radio. Fully meeting current DHS Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Project P25 requirements, these systems enhance the cutters’ crews ability to communicate with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Upgrades already have made a difference in real-world operations. For example, in March 2007, the crews of CGC Sherman and CGC Hamilton, and a CH-130H, made use of Deepwater-provided C4ISR capabilities, seizing a record haul of 42,000 tons of cocaine. The HC-130H identified and tracked the Panamanian-flagged motor vessel Gatun, off the coast of Panama, passing its location to the Sherman, whose crew prosecuted the search and seizure.

The Sherman’s commanding officer, Capt. Charley L. Diaz, noted that this largest drugs bust in Coast Guard history was facilitated by the cutter’s upgraded communications equipment.

When it arrives in the fleet, the first national security cutter, the Bertholf, will bring even more powerful C4ISR sensors and communications equipment, including X- and S- band surface search and three dimensional air search radars; the AN/SPQ-9B fire control radar; the Mk46 electro-optical/infrared sensor; the AN/SLQ-32 electronic warfare system; a suite of HF, VHF, UHF and digital radios; and radio direction finding equipment.

The NSC also will be able to launch, recover, service and replenish the multi-mission cutter helicopters (MH-65Cs) and medium range recovery helicopters (HH-60Ts). The sensors and communications capabilities of these aircraft will extend the effective radius of their host cutters, providing extended reconnaissance and, if necessary, armed use of force capabilities in support of the cutter and its small boats.

The NSC is capable of carrying two boats, including the long range interceptor, or LRI. These new cutter boats will be powerful C4IR platforms, with radios and sensors capable of supporting over-the-horizon operations.

Collectively, the C4ISR network architecture may be envisioned as a web, connecting the men and women of the Coast Guard’s operating force with the platforms and materiel assets, the tools, they use to accomplish their missions –ashore, at sea and in the air. Thus linked, the network of aircraft, cutters, shore command centers and partner assets, becomes a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Our traditional missions –such as maritime safety, security and stewardship– are now part of the broader homeland security and national defense mission context of protecting the maritime borders of the United States, and of pushing the nation’s layers of border security far away from its shores,” Rear Adm. Rábago said. “Success in the new mission context requires a comprehensive awareness and understanding of the environmental conditions and activity throughout the marine environment; and Deepwater C4ISR equipment helps to get us there.”

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Last Modified 10/28/2014