Silent No More
The Navy pushes forward with effort to provide
real-time communications for submerged submarines
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Closing the Information Gap
■ Testing is under way on mature technologies.
■ Two increments of higher capability are planned.
The Navy expects to select in September proposed solutions for the first increment of its
program to provide responsive tactical communications for submarines operating underwater at
high speeds and deeper depths.
In the interim, the service will be conducting at-sea trials of a tactical paging capability for communicating with
submarines, a technology developed as a partial solution
to the requirement for responsive communications.
The Communications at Speed and Depth (CSD)
program, sponsored by the Navy’s Program Executive
Office for Command, Control, Communications,
Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) Submarine
Integration Program Office, will involve a family of technologies to enable submarine commanders to establish
and maintain critical command-and-control connectivity with carrier strike groups. CSD will link submarines,
unmanned undersea vehicles and undersea sensors with
the world above.
The Navy’s submarine force, long known as the
“Silent Service” for its penchant for secrecy and stealth
upon which its survival and effectiveness depends, has
for years embraced the need for improved connectivity
with other commanders, but the technological reliability needed to achieve the desired capabilities has lagged
behind. Navy and industry officials now are working to
advance the technology to meet the requirements.
“Submarines have historically
operated with a long ‘
communications leash,’ with communications
windows that have varied from
every six hours to every 24 hours to
even weeks with only passive reception [no acknowledgements or outgoing messages],” said Brent Starr,
the Navy’s principal acquisition program manager for CSD at PEO C4I.
“The undersea environment is
very tough for communications
because of the characteristics and
variability of the sea,” said a former submarine commanding officer. “Adding to the difficulty of communications with submerged submarines is the fact that the
location of the submarine is generally unknown or
known only in general.”
The push for networked integration of the weapons,
sensors and platforms across a carrier strike group, of
which submarines and their torpedoes and Tomahawk
missiles are part, is driving the requirement for more
capable two-way responsive communications.
“The value of [CSD] is that it allows the submarine to
communicate without interrupting its mission or going
to [a shallow] communications depth,” said the former
submarine commanding officer. “In some cases, going
to communications depth could increase the possibility
of detection or losing contact with a target of interest.”
“By establishing a capability for the submarine or the
commander to reach out and pass time-sensitive information, we will have closed the information gap that distanced submarines from a strike group,” Starr said. “With
the submarine transferring tasking and mission data, the
submarine can now become a ‘short-notice shooter,’ reposition to improve the [anti-submarine warfare] picture or
even resolve combat identification concerns.
“The ultimate goal of CSD is to improve the operational employment of the submarine, freeing the submarine from lengthy or repetitive trips to periscope
The Navy is developing a family of technologies to enable real-time,
two-way communications with submarines at speed and depth.
■ Communications at speed and depth enable submarines to
become “short-notice shooters.”