SUBMARINES COME IN FROM THE COLD
By Barrie Sadler, Combat Systems Business Director, DML Group
The role of the Royal Navy’s hunter killer class submarines (SSNs) is changing, seeing them less likely to operate in their traditional ‘silent and alone’ mode and increasingly likely to be involved in collaborative planning, and shared intelligence and situational awareness with surface units in support of a joint or coalition task force. There is also a growing recognition that insertion of Special Forces, a traditional submarine role, is less risky with improved communications and shared intelligence.
As the submarine role widens there is a necessary change both in the volume of information SSNs are required to handle (which has risen dramatically in the coalition and strike environments, and with planned use of SSNs as key elements of future network-enabled capabilities), and in the way that information is used. This in turn has driven a corresponding need to transform the way in which the information is presented, handled and distributed.
In line with the need to fully network-enable submarines, giving them greater message-handling capacity and permitting more rapid technology insertion, the RN’s seven Trafalgar class submarines are being fitted with an open system-based communications architecture, under the Communications Coherency for Submarines (CCSM) programme. The programme, led by through-life defence support specialist DML Group, provides a COTS open architecture-based solution to support message handling and distribution, and lays the foundation in terms of infrastructure for inter-operability across the battlespace, including the ability to use and share information efficiently.
CCSM has developed from earlier studies looking into future communications office requirements and the need to address a Major Warfare Constraint, coupled with an urgent requirement to facilitate more effective, efficient and faster capability insertion.
While the need to enhance SSN communications is being addressed on multiple fronts, including INMARSAT capability under Enhanced Submarine Information eXchange (ESIX), use of the Advanced DAMA Waveform (ADW) and interoperability measures such as SMC2, an internet protocol-based systems allowing the UK to remain interoperable with the US, these separate and specific requirements have traditionally led to independent modifications of the wireless telegraphy (WT) office, with each competing for the limited available space. This has resulted in an expensive, incoherent, and technically inefficient process, with technology insertions impacting on one another, as well as making configuration control both challenging and costly. Further, the process could therefore only be carried out during extended periods alongside. The result has been in effect a bespoke arrangement for each submarine, with limited opportunities to apply a systems approach to the overall design, and restricted scope for expansion for future capabilities.
To address these issues, the concept of an open architecture message handling and distribution environment was developed under the Naval Integrated Communications Management (NICM) applied research programme (ARP), with associated concepts further developed under Project Seikan to test the viability of a COTS-based open architecture and inform a collection of studies known as the Seikan External Communications System Initiative (SECSI). Following successful concept and assessment phases and proposals for the selective pull-through of technology and concepts developed under NICM, the project evolved to become CCSM.
By bringing together previously independent systems into a single system architecture, incorporating sub-systems across the frequency spectrum (VLF to AEHF), cryptographic equipment, modems, information dissemination, and end-user applications, CCSM achieves a coherency in external connectivity. It also addresses a number of capability