Printer Friendly

Navy goes high-tech.


Today's United States Navy has hung up its trusty sextants in favor of satellites and computers.

The Navy is responsible for over 85% of day-to-day use of satellite data.

Much is collected and analyzed by naval forces worldwide. This support:

* helps ships pinpoint locations at sea,

* enables the Navy to do ship-to-ship communications across vast expanses,

* gives up-to-the-minute weather monitoring,

* and offers avanced surveillance measures.

Based in Dahlgren, Va., the Naval Space Command tracks all satellites in orbit and plays an active role in development of space systems.

With such vast management responsibility, good communications and administration are critical.

To meet the challenge, the Naval Space Command instituted its new Space Information Management System.

No run-of-the-mill computer network, SIMS was created especially for the Command, which needed:

* the power of a large computer,

* ease of use,

* data-communications capabilities,

* and security features.

"The problem was that no single vendor could meet all our specifications," says Richard Etter, supervisory computer specialist at Naval Space Command. "Our particular requirements dictated a smorgasbord of products."

Unify The Mishmash

Integrated Microcomputer Systems (IMS) Inc. won the SIMS contract in 1986 by offering to integrate equipment from a variety of vendors into one comprehensive system tailored for the Command.

SIMS is an integrated suite of office-automation and information-management tools built around a UNIX-based Harris HCX super minicomputer. It now supports about 100 end-user peripheral devices, including:

* graphics workstations,

* optical character readers,

* personal computers,

* plotters,

* video-display terminals,

* film recorders,

* and printers.

Harris computers support similar installations at three sub-commands.

Since communications is such an important part of SIMS, plans call for linking all SIMS sites to the Defense Data Network (DDN). That will allow efficient interaction and sharing of information among the Command, sub-commands, and detachments worldwide.

"Since the SIMS sites operate at system High Secret, the Department of Defense mandated a computer operating system graded at the C-2 level with B-1 labeling features," explains Etter.

Besides offering a good price/performance ratio, the computers' secure operating system can be configured for levels ranging from C-2 through full B-1.

SIMS includes Tempest (a government standard for minimal emanations of electronic signals from electrical equipment) features to avoid compromising security interests.

No Electro-Interference

Fiber-optic cable is used for the local-area network.

Fiber makes sure no electrical emissions can be picked up and tapped.

Ordinary coaxial cabling can act as a giant antenna, Etter says, making it easier for covert listening devices to home in on spurious signals radiating from devices on a computer network.

Another advantage of optical-fiber cable is that it is not susceptible to the radiations and electromagnetic interference that high-voltage transmission lines, diesel generators, and other electrically noisy machines can cause with conventional copper.

This is important. Command headquarters is on the same base as a Navy laboratory that uses high-powered electronic test equipment.

Fiber optics are also immune from lightning-induced voltages that damage other communications lines.

Although a large part of the SIMS network meets Tempest guidelines, SIMS is actually a hybrid of Tempest and non-Tempest components.

Because non-Tempest equipment is less expensive, it was used in non-critical areas.

Security was just one problem to solve in building the SIMS environment.

With so many different types of equipment at such widespread sites, integrating the pieces into one turnkey user-friendly system was another objective.

User Transparency

SIMS is a unique array of products selected to handle the Naval Space Command's unique needs. The host computer had to accommodate up to 128 users and have a secure operating system.

Network nodes had to be able to link with DDN.

Certain devices would be network participants and/or would connect directly to the host computer.

Besides these constraints, the Command wanted to take advantage of existing equipment contracts the Navy had with specific vendors.

"We have a real hodge-podge," Etter says.

"We wrote functional specs and said, 'Here's the functionality we want.' We didn't care how it was achieved; we wanted a high level of transparency for our users."

Since many SIMS users are computer novices, SIMS created simplified menus so most functions are available with just a keystroke or two.

This also custs down on the amount of training needed, which can be significant considering personnel transfers.

"The network itself is also more user-friendly," Etter adds. "Capabilities associated with PC networks--such as sharing printers and locating devices remotely--are not normally found with a plainvanilla government TCP/IP network, where a separate computer must drive each remotely located device."

Less Copy Inputting

Harris developed special spooling software so the host controlled all the devices.

For example, most optical character readers are physically attached to a PC.

"Before, if you wanted to get a printed page into your machine, you'd have to set up software in the PC, feed the page into the optical character reader, take a floppy disk out of the PC, go somewhere else, and eventually get it to where you want it," Etter says.

"Now, all you do is slap the piece of paper onto the optical character reader and presto, the hard copy is on the system so you can work with it."

Linking optical character readers directly to the host computer also allows documents to be included in electronic-mail messages.

Electronic mail has turned out to be one of the most heavily used aspects of SIMS.

The fiber-optic backbone links Naval Space Command offices and facilities in an adjacent building. This interbuilding link allows SIMS users to instantly send files and E-mail back and forth.

The gateway to DDN will ultimately provide even more capability by interconnecting all SIMS sites.

"Adidas" Network

"We used to spend inordinate amounts of time playing telephone tag," says Lt. Sandra Lawrence.

"Command personnel travel a lot, and sometimes it was virtually impossible to catch someone on the phone.

"And you're never sure that written messages don't get lost in the shuffle.

"Now, if the person doesn't answer the phone, we just leave an electronic message and the system automatically signals us when that message has been received.

"Basically, SIMS is a real productivity tool.

"Before, what little computer equipment we had was stand-alone and incompatible; there was no communications. We called it the 'Adidas' network; walking from building to building was how we transferred data.

"SIMS has definitely had a positive effect on internal communications, especially with projects that require more than one person's or division's involvement."

Increased productivity is SIMS' major goal.

"The Navy has only so many human bodies," says Etter, "and is looking at cutting back on manning levels at the higher echelon to get personnel back out into the fleet.

"If SIMS enables one clerical person to do the work of two or three, we feel the Command can achieve its end-strength objectives without adding staff."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:US Navy's Space Information Management System helps Naval Space Command track satellites
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Previous Article:Met Life buys growth insurance.
Next Article:Why we changed to VSAT: farm products distributor cuts costs, speeds response.

Related Articles
Satellite network gives sailors news, education.
Navy command engages in info warfare campaign.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters