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We’ve all heard warnings about being careful about whom we talk to in a chat room. After all, you never know who’s on the other end of that instant message. But during Operation Enduring Freedom, NUWC Division Newport brought a chat room to a submarine thousands of miles away and started a highly successful distance-support capability for the Tomahawk weapon system.
It started in October 2001 with an overseas communication from an enlisted fire control technician who had been previously detailed to NUWC. He was now assigned to a deployed SSN supporting Operation Enduring Freedom
NUWC's Distance Chat Capabiltiy Gets Thumbs Up from the Fleet
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and had run into a problem with an onboard Tomahawk missile. It was a long shot, but he knew if anyone could help, it was the NUWC engineers who had the resources and corporate knowledge to provide troubleshooting and technical guidance.

Utilizing the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), NUWC contacted the boat and provided direct real-time feedback and chat-room capability. The problem was discussed, troubleshooting was conducted, and an All Up Round (AUR) was returned to service and later employed operationally.

The theater commander saw the immediate benefit of this chat-room access. Based on its success, the Submarine Tomahawk Action Board took the initiative and assigned NUWC to develop a chat capability for all deployed platforms in theater.

In response to a Type Commander (TYCOM) request for contingency planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom, NUWC implemented 24/7 chat capability over the SIPRNet with COMFIFTHFLT, COMSIXTHFLT, COMSUBLANT and COMSUBPAC. This capability was stood up in February 2003, and it is supported by all NUWC technical codes. The primary objective is to respond rapidly to any Tomahawk strike-capability issues on deployed platforms, while still allowing Fleet and TYCOM oversight.

Although bandwidth-limited, this communication channel provides two-way, real-time text communications with deployed platforms to assist in strike planning, exercises, and missions. It also reaches shore mission-planning activities and battle groups.

Since implementing 24/7 chat capability, NUWC has monitored and responded to emerging issues affecting combat systems, communications, launchers, and the Tomahawk AUR. NUWC, with support from other Navy organizations, has participated in over 30 separate chat sessions with eight forward-deployed platforms to resolve mechanical, electronic, and mission-planning problems with onboard missile systems. Using chat in the early stages allowed the boats to be groomed while on station and provided an easily accessible means of talking through problems.

NUWC’s chat capability was also used in three Babylon Express fleet exercises, to provide 24/7 technical support and e-mail to nine boats. Full operational manning by NUWC subsystem experts supported the exercises in working both real and simulated problems, while allowing NUWC, TYCOMS, Theater Commanders, and platforms to train in using the capability and to exchange guidance prior to the conflict.

COMSUBLANT later requested that NUWC implement full 24/7 manning by all subsystem experts to support strike tasking for Operation Iraqi Freedom. NUWC subsequently offered engineering expertise on-line to assist deployed platforms in resolving strike capability issues rapidly. The Newport Division provided technical concurrence for onboard troubleshooting, reinforced procedural guidance, and by resolving technical issues, allowed at least six Tomahawk AURs to be placed back in ready status for strike use. As of April 4, 2003, NUWC had documented over 45 chat sessions with deployed platforms in the Area of Responsibility (AOR).

In addition to direct chat support, the Division’s Submarine Status website at the Advanced Interactive Management Technology Center (AIMTC), http://aimtc. nuwcnpt.navy.smil.mil, was upgraded to support data retention of these chat-room support activities. Tomahawk Inventory Reports (TIRs), Indigo Firing Reports (IFRs), Casualty Reports, and related GENADMIN messages received by the NUWC DMS Message Center are automatically processed, entered into an AIMTC database, and displayed in a Tomahawk Scorecard that reports aggregate sums and individual status of all the Tomahawks onboard, launched, or failed, with dynamic links to retrieve history data for each missile and the IFRs. In addition to the scorecard, a chat-logger service continuously monitors and records the ongoing chat conversations, which can be accessed and searched from the Submarine Status website. Chat Summary Reports are submitted online following each session of NUWC technical support and can be searched by platform, ship class, or keyword from within the Submarine Status website as well. Any additional supporting material in a file format can be uploaded to the Submarine Status website to maximize data collection and retention.

Fleet feedback on the chat capability has been tremendous. The following comment from COMSUBLANT Strike is one of many positive reactions: “Overall, the support pro- vided by NUWC in chat was outstanding. [It] not only solved problems but helped the crews better understand various casualties and information provided by the Fire Control System (FCS). The overall effect was a number of missiles that were either returned to operational status and shot or verified to be out of commission. Either case helped the Tomahawk Strike Coord-inator (TSC) plan for future operations.”

NUWC continues to provide the operational Fleet with timely, dynamic support and ready access to its in-house expertise. Newport Division’s success in providing chat capability resulted from teamwork across the entire organization and is a source of great pride for all. Since the first phone call in October 2001, the NUWC team has provided outstanding support to Fleet operators by putting them only a chat away from the confidence they need to carry out their mission.

Robert Iriye is a Combat Control System (CCS) In-Service Engineering (ISE) Project Engineer, NUWC Division Newport

Photo caption follows Graphic of cycle of communication
The NUWC Division Newport in-service engineering team works a fleet issue in the war room.