SAN DIEGO, Cali. Representatives from the U.S. Navy’s Tactical Networks Program Office (PMW 160) visited USS Porter (DDG 78) in Rota, Spain, September 4-7, as part of a first-time technology refresh to a Forward Deployed Naval Force (FDNF) warship and a new approach to training.
The technology refresh and training are for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Systems (CANES) that is managed by PMW 160. The program office initially installed CANES—the Navy’s afloat network providing critical network, computer and cybersecurity capabilities to ships and submarines—on USS Porter in 2014. PMW 160 is a program office at Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I).
When the refresh is complete, Sailors aboard USS Porter will have enhanced cybersecurity and upgraded capabilities including improved network performance and enhanced system management tools and storage.
“This refresh brings together tools and inputs from the Navy’s leading cyber command to make networks more secure and faster,” said Joe Acquafredda, PMW 160’s assistant program manager (APM) for production. “It’s also about better quality of life for the Sailors.”
For a stateside technology refresh, CANES personnel and their partners at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Fleet Readiness Directorate (FRD) and SPAWAR Systems Command (SSC) Atlantic normally have five to six months to deliver all the improvements, but in this first FDNF refresh, they have to do all the same work in less than 100 days. The first portion of the work finished a week ahead of schedule and involved switching out hardware on several CANES racks, doing an in-place modification rather than taking entire racks off ship then reinstalling them. The process is no mean feat. It demands working with equipment weighing hundreds of pounds and dealing with the multitude of systems that connect to CANES.
And that’s the easy part. Now, the team heads into the more complex part of the process—loading new software onto the CANES racks.
Mike Smith, PMW 160 deployment APM, said, “I feel comfortable about meeting deadline because we met and exceeded the time for the hardware. We can use every day we can get.”
The CANES team has prior experience with loading the software onto the new racks (including trying to do it in the shortened timeframe with a practice run stateside) but the team is preparing for unexpected hiccups. “This equipment did travel thousands of miles,” Smith said.
In part because of the challenges and opportunities inherent in this first FDNF refresh, Smith and the PMW 160 Program Manager, Capt. Kurt Rothenhaus, traveled to Rota to obtain first-hand knowledge on the project.
“This was a team effort from the very beginning,” said Rothenhaus. “We worked with the SPAWAR Fleet Installation Office, the Integrated Logistic Support team and the NIEF [Navy Integrated Engineering Facility] Atlantic to develop an executable plan to accomplish the work in the available window of opportunity. Our forward and stateside teams are doing tremendous work to execute this technical refresh on schedule and on budget.” Rothenhaus added that, “the expertise of the on-site team led by Mr. Dean L’hoste, along with the excellent support from the Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center were critical to the success to date.”
As part of the trip, Rothenhaus also visited with the five USS Porter information systems technicians (ITs) who received a new type of training for CANES the same week. The instruction will reinforce original CANES training and teach the administration and capabilities of the refreshed system. The ships ITs shared lessons learned with the program office and thoughts on how to improve the system further.
"This was a beneficial training for the ITs of USS Porter because it gave us an opportunity to get some hands-on training using the VHE [virtual hosted environment] to get a feel for the upgrade coming to our ship,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Harvey Gordon, one of USS Porter’s ITs who went through the recent training. “I think this will help give our ITs a head start on administrating our newly upgraded system."
Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Nattress, who also went through the training, added, “The VHE provided by SPAWAR's PMW 160, offered FDNF Sailors a unique opportunity to interact with a fully functioning CANES suite without the burden of having to send an entire team stateside. The VHE offered Sailors the chance to get hands on experience without risking damage to an operational system, making the training both fun and effective."
Normally, this type of training requires ITs to travel to San Diego or Virginia Beach, Va. Bringing the training to the ship’s location saves several thousand dollars and ensures all the Sailors who need the training receive it. The in-place training also baselines Sailors’ system knowledge and provides the whole team a uniform experience.
Nichole Sellers, PMW 160’s training APM, said, “We’re always trying to get the right training to the right people at the right time. Now, we’re adding a layer to that—in the right place.”
The changes are part of a high-velocity training effort that moves PEO C4I from a systems-based training approach to a capabilities-based training approach that includes the use of virtual training environments. PMW 160 completed similar training for USS Blue Ridge (LCC 10) in Japan; USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) in Croatia; and USS Chafee (DDG 90) in Hawaii.
In the future, more of this training will occur via the CANES Training Virtual Environment, an option that further reduces travel costs while providing the same level of instruction.