Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two-Way Submerged Communications

For all those guys who ever thought it was a pain in the butt to have to spend so much time at PD when doing Battle/Strike Group ops, check out this article:
The Navy has developed systems using floating radio antennas and buoys that will provide submerged submarines with two-way communications for the first time in history, a top official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center said at a news briefing on Tuesday...
...SPAWAR's Communications Speed and Depth program will use floating antennas to provide two-way communications to submerged submarines over high-frequency radio systems adapted to handle Internet protocol traffic as well as floating buoys to communicate with military and commercial satellites, said Capt. Dean Richter, program executive officer for the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence's submarine integration program.
Richter said the Navy completed an operational test of the High Frequency Internet protocol system in December 2007, allowing the USS Montpelier attack submarine to exchange two-way message traffic with eight ships in the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group at a date rate of 9.6Kps.
Even at roughly one-fifth the speed of a standard 56Kpbs dial-up modem, the system allowed the submarine to be fully integrated into strike group operations and Navy networks to share situational awareness, plan collaboratively and execute missions with joint forces, Richter said.
SPAWAR also has developed floating buoys that connect to submerged submarines by fiber-optic cables to provide two-way satellite communications, he said. The buoys can exchange data with the commercial Iridium satellite system at a rate of 2.4Kpb and with military ultra-high frequency satellite systems at 32Kpbs, soon to be boosted to 64Kpbs, according to Richter...
...The Navy plans to install the High Frequency Internet protocol and buoy systems on attack and guided missile submarines. Ballistic missile submarines will be equipped with buoy systems, and all 73 boats in the fleet will get two-way communications in one form or the other, Richter said. The program is fully funded with installations to continue through 2015, he said.
SPAWAR also has Sea Deep, a project to equip manned and unmanned aircraft with lasers to penetrate the ocean depths and beam high bandwidth information to submerged submarines. Sea Deep can transmit data at 1Mpbs, Richter said, and he views it as the holy grail of submerged submarine communications. SPAWAR plans to demonstrate Sea Deep in an exercise later this year, he said, but added that the program is not funded.
The "fully funded" part is what's exciting to me. As far as "Sea Deep", I'm not sure how the laser is going to be able to actually find deep submarines without knowing where they are to start with, and how it wouldn't give away the sub's location if they did find them. ("Hey, look, that airplane is randomly shooting a laser into the ocean! Those crazy Americans!") I don't see myself running out to invest money in that one...


Blogger Chap said...

Don't get too excited yet, shippie; the "comms at speed and depth" thing has been a long term goal for a long long time. Lasers don't go through water that well (high speed comms using blue lasers have been promised "real soon now" since before I enlisted), tethered comms buoys have been around for a while, and it's not as though we've not seen an untethered one. Acoustic comms have been interesting but still subject to the laws of physics.

I'll get excited when they say "Ship X really liked this gadget during their recent deployment". Until then, once burned twice shy...

3/06/2008 6:13 AM

Blogger Chap said...

Oh, and. Every emission from the area around the sub op area spends stealth. Every single one, even if it's limited in range or time. This is not the reason why you have a sub. You'll still have those long periods of being incommunicado.

3/06/2008 6:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it.. We were DF'ing the bad guys HF comms years ago. Did you really think we only kept track of their boats with SOSUS and submarines? Chap's got it right

I'm all for removing the main power fuses from any equipment that can Xmit. We did that for years,

3/06/2008 8:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there's either a typo or misunderstanding in that article. 9.6 kps is not one sixth the speed of a standard 56 kbps dial up modem. 1kbps != 1kps

3/06/2008 9:17 AM

Anonymous P3Puke said...

Sure would be the crap out of ASW LDR though.

3/06/2008 2:33 PM

Blogger Jay said...

Anyone who's ever worked with a submarine in strike group ops knows that communications is the biggest problem with integration of the submarine into the task force.

In SG ops, the sub must come to PD at some interval to provide status reports, get intel and commander's intent, and manage waterspace.

The surface navy takes for granted instant comms and they have to change their thought process for submarines.

Even if these IP-based technologies were only mostly one-way, with the predominance of chat and messaging as a command and control methodology today, it would provide a vast improvement, freeing the submarine from the need to coordinate PD excursions for cueing, status reporting, etc, and allowing them to stay on-station, to detect and track the bad guys and make their reports only when there was something to actually report.

The days when all we did was go out and perform independent ops are long gone, although those missions still remain. The sub force has sought for years to become an integrated part of the carrier, or expeditionary strike group. Comms has always been the number one inhibitor of that integration. These technologies will go a long way to maximizing the submarine's potential in the TF.

Heck, guys, these days we even use active sonar.

3/06/2008 11:38 PM

Blogger Chap said...

I'm not arguing they're unuseful, just arguing that the tech isn't there yet despite the breathless nature of the press releases over the last decade or two, and that you spend stealth not give it away.

The key to a sub being more useful than a surface ship is its ability to hide from the bad guy. That's why we don't worry as much about talking or emitting on many occasions when the role of the boat is in direct support of a strike group, or about low-probability-of-intercept comms around an adversary which has no capability to see anything about us other than the explosions. However, if you talk all the time, or someone talks at you all the time in a way that can reveal where you are, you become as stealthy as a surface ship but much much more expensive. Spend stealth to gain advantage; don't waste it.

3/07/2008 6:49 AM

Blogger Jay said...

I hope no one is suggesting that submarines become surface platforms, nor that they give up stealth in missions that require it. Having the additional communications capabilities doesn't mean it always makes sense to use them. Subs are still going to have missions that require 100% stealth, and they will continue to carry out those missions.

HOWEVER, a problem with submarines, when operating in direct or integrated support of task groups, is comms, pure and simple. From the TG commander's perspective, the submarine's usefulness to the TG is minimized by our inability to talk to him 24/7.

If nothing else, having the capability to reliably pass intelligence and ROE changes to the sub now, rather than time late (when he's at PD for a comms window), make him a much more useful asset. It also actually helps him stay on mission, particularly if that mission is ASW.

I think the statement, "The key to a sub being more useful than a surface ship is its ability to hide from the bad guy" is only partially correct. In the current world, the ASW capabilities of our adversaries is very limited, so hiding from the bad guy is not a difficult task for the submarine. A much more difficult task is finding a diesel submarine operating on batteries. But, that guys not a threat to our submarine (he's a threat to the carrier though).

So, I would say, the key to a submarine being more useful than a surface ship (against another submarine) is its ability to perform ASW, something submarine crews train on still pretty much 24/7 (or at least when they're not working up for ORSE's or shooting Tomahawks).

I just don't want us, in our romantic view of the submarine as the lone wolf hunter killer, to dismiss technologies that can make the submarine more usable in other important and high profile missions.

3/07/2008 9:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The laser beam you are talking about point down to the water can be as thin as a human hair or as large as a pencil.

Either way you would have to be pretty durn close to see the thing.

In fact you may not even know its transmitting unless you were between it and the water

3/09/2008 7:21 PM

Anonymous Phyliss said...

This can't actually work, I suppose like this.

9/24/2012 3:59 PM


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