- US Navy Office of Naval Research's Mission Planning Application is part of the Advanced Processing Build programme for submarines
- ONR hopes to demonstrate the software during a one-year demonstration on board the DDG 51 cruiser USS Mobile Bay, beginning in 2015
The goal of this demonstration is to improve situational awareness for surface ships, particularly in an air-defence scenario.
The software, developed by Dr William 'Kip' Krebs, a programme officer in the navy's warfighter performance department (Code 34), was initially demonstrated on board a Virginia-class submarine in November 2014. Following the demonstration, the Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) 5 (undersea systems) put the application into production as part of a programme of record for AN/BYG-1, the submarine Tactical Control System. APB-13 contained the first spiral of the Mission Planning Application. ONR has since delivered the software code for inclusion in APB-15.
The Mission Planning Application will be hosted on Mobile Bay 's Integrated Shipboard Network System (ISNS), which provides the backbone for Internet Protocol communications within the ship, Krebs told IHS Jane's .
Currently, mission planning is carried out with sailors relying on ring binders, paper documents, and several different software products, a combined approach that can slow the planning process, he added.
Decision-makingTo improve the process, ONR sought to minimise the need for manual entry of mission planning information. Instead, the idea was to allow computers to process the data and enable operators to focus on decision-making, Krebs said.
"The software has all the chart data on one side and a timeline on the other. You can specify any time and space on the chart where the ship is. I can understand all the activities that are [occurring] on board, and I can look at any time and space and see what I am going to be doing at that particular [moment]," he explained.
"It is pretty powerful in that respect because you are looking ahead in time at 'what do I want to plan', not just for navigation."
For example, if a junior officer is trying to pursue qualifications, the submarine's commander knows he has to have the boat at a specific location, conducting certain activities. He would also need to make sure that the junior officer involved is on board at that time to be able to accomplish those tasks.
The Mission Planning Application will also be integrated into the Royal Australian Navy's Collins-class diesel-electric submarines, Krebs noted. "The Collins class shares the same combat system as the US submarines."
Initially, one of the submarine requirements was having the ability to communicate off-board, Krebs said.
"One could envision [a situation] in the future where a submarine would want to be part of the overall network, the idea being that instead of a submarine [operating] alone in the battle, [it would be] connected to the rest of the battle," he said. "[If you] can distribute the mission plan or share the mission plan [you will] have a common situational awareness shared between a submarine and surface ship."
To achieve that shared situational awareness, ONR had to ensure it was able to develop the Mission Planning Application. Once that was accomplished, ONR had to be able to demonstrate an off-board communications capability, he explained.
"You could save an output of a file from the Mission Planning Application. For instance, if I add the SPY Sliderule overlay or KML [Keyhole Markup Language - a file format used to display geographic data] overlay of the air defence for Mobile Bay , they can then send that through a radio message to the submarine and the submarine could import it and deploy it on their Mission Planning Application and see those air-defence rings on their geo [chart].
"If everyone has the same software now you can share that back and forth and get a much better understanding of where everyone is and what they are doing."
Surface trialsAlthough the version being installed on Mobile Bay is similar to the submarine version in APB-13, there are some differences. For example, the network on a cruiser is different to that on a submarine. For the Mobile Bay demonstration, the Mission Planning Application will be installed on a laptop that can be plugged into the ISNS.
"We made a slight modification to the software. What [ Mobile Bay 's crew] were interested in was having the SPY Sliderule and PCIMAT [personal computer interactive multi-sensor analysis tool]. They were looking more at the air-defence threats and how to position a ship based upon air-defence issues," Krebs said.
ONR added the SPY Sliderule programme software and PCIMAT, so now sailors on board Mobile Bay will be able to draw circles around threat areas on geographic charts.
The SPY Sliderule software has been used to increase the AN/SPY-1's effectiveness against anti-ship cruise missiles, according to the USN.
Unlike the submarine demonstration, which led to the planning software becoming a programme of record, the trial on board Mobile Bay is a one-off activity, Krebs noted.
"We are working with the crew on how to use this application. Once we get the authorisation to operate [ATO], then it will be installed on ISNS and they can start using it."
As of 23 February, Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had not issued the ATO. Krebs said the centre is still reviewing the package.
He expects to begin the demonstration on board Mobile Bay in 2015 and hopes to use feedback as a stepping stone for a carrier strike group (CSG) operations demonstration. N2/6, the USN's office for information dominance matters, is sponsoring Krebs' future naval concept, named the Operational Planning Tool. This tool will be part of the Maritime Tactical Command-and-Control (C2) system, which is replacing the Global C2 System-Maritime, known as GCCS-M.
"They want to take this fleetwide so instead of taking this from a single ship or submarine, let's bring this concept forward for CSG operations. That starts in [fiscal year (FY)] 2016, and the goal is to demonstrate this capability on a CSG in the FY 2019-20 time frame."
Mission planningKrebs explained that each platform would have the Mission Planning Application software. "In today's system, the way they do it, they have all the planners spending many hours building that plan on a PowerPoint presentation. It is static, you can't change it; and from that PowerPoint you send it to a synchronisation matrix XL file then you send it out as a text file with a schedule of events."
Each ship receives the text file, informing them to be at a specific location at a specific time. However, that text file does not provide information on what other vessels in the CSG are doing, he noted.
"Now, if you have this Mission Planning Application, [not only] will you be able to see where all the other ships are, but you will also be able to see [what] everyone else is doing."