Developed by the Navy’s Shore and Expeditionary Integration Program Office (PMW 790), this new system offers capability requested by warfighters to help them meet their operational needs.
“The ExCON is designed to give Navy Expeditionary forces the connections they need to better complete their missions,” said Kevin Washburn, expeditionary principal assistance program manager in PMW 790. “Our EOD experts have diverse and dangerous jobs that they often must complete in austere locations. With these new capabilities, they can better communicate with each other and their partners. Additionally, their missions will be supported in new ways with enhanced technology that provides the ability to make time-critical decisions that didn’t exist previously.”
The ExCON system provides Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)/Voice over Secure Internet Protocol (VoSIP) connectivity with Defense Information System Agency (DISA) or other tactical networks. It uses readily available commercial Ku-band satellite communications (SATCOM) links for secure, high-speed voice, video and data, enabling reliable transmission of voice and data at edge of satellite coverage.
PMW 790 partnered with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) to develop the ExCON. The effort resulted from a need to fill a capability gap identified by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Groups One and Two (EODGRUs 1 and 2) in September 2016. The EODGRUs detailed requirements for a platform-agnostic command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) capability to support Beyond Line of Sight secure voice and data services during coalition, joint and unilateral military operations.
The need for ExCON capabilities were originally identified to help exfiltrate unmanned underwater vehicle data over the air for post-mission analysis and real-time decision making in support of the Expeditionary Mine Countermeasure (ExMCM) mission. However, it has much broader applicability. Missions that the ExCON capability could support include, but are not limited to: mine countermeasures; very shallow water; tactical intelligence preparation of the operational environment; seaport of debarkation defense/clearance; and recovery operations. To support austere operational environments, the ExCON system is capable of operating ashore or onboard a Vessel of Opportunity to include an 11-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.
During AECE 19, Sailors and Marines from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit One (EODMU1) ExMCM companies successfully tested their ability to operate unmanned underwater vehicles and conduct ExMCM in very shallow Arctic waters. The exercise marked the farthest north their team has operated in the Western Hemisphere. It also is the first time Navy EOD personnel employed ExMCM companies to enable access in a simulated denied environment for Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s (MAGTF) amphibious operations.
Cmdr. Brian Rietter, commanding officer of EODMU1, said, "EODMU1 established secure voice and data communications from a remote and austere environment that has limited infrastructure and communication support. Utilizing this new (ExCON) system, Navy EOD was able to rigorously test their command and control capabilities and operational needs in a realistic training setting that mirrors adversarial environments.”
The ExCON system also provided a command and control capability to the Sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDSU-1), based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. MDSU-1 mobilized to Adak to conduct a salvage and removal operation of a stranded fishing vessel that was blocking access to a boat ramp that serves as the primary launch point for commercial and private fishing vessels in the area. Navy divers conducted surveys and inspections on the fishing vessel in May to gain a full understanding of the job and what personnel and equipment would be required for the mission.
Washburn explained that, “The abandoned fishing vessel prevented the local community from using the harbor to its full potential. Removing the fishing vessel not only removed a navigational hazard but also set the conditions for potential military training on Adak in the future.”
Following the successful testing, PMW 790 and NSWC PCD are delivering six ExCON systems to EODGRUs 1 and 2 through FY20 with an additional 10 systems scheduled for delivery from FY21 through FY23.
PMW 790 is part of the Program Executive Office C4I and Space Systems (PEO C4I and Space Systems).