The Canadian Department of National Defence is hoping to chart a course toward improved radio communications on board its seagoing vessels with the help of a deal inked last month with Halifax-based xwave.
The agreement involves the completed restructuring of the DND’s radio teletype ship/shore system (RATT S/S). Originally installed in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, the RATT S/S system was designed to automate the DND’s communication with military ships at sea. The system remotely controls all naval communications using high-frequency, low-frequency, voice, data and some satellite transmission to send signals from naval ships to military headquarters on land.
In 1999, as a cost-cutting measure, xwave was asked to partition the DND RATT S/S system on both coasts. According to the company, this involved moving the operator interfaces, databases and primary servers to local headquarter bases on each coast, leaving the receive and transmit facilities completely unmanned and remotely controlled over a WAN.
“When you switch to (a) remotely controlled (system), we are literally talking about hundreds of people on the East and West Coast not having to be out there in the antenna farms,” said John Croft, sales manager for defence and aerospace for xwave. “We are reducing the number (of people) down to handfuls.”
Raymond Vilbikaitis, project manager for xwave, added that the restructuring of the RATT S/S focused around tolerance of network interruptions. He said that the DND wanted a system that wouldn’t “fall on its face” if there were any outages. Vilbikaitis also stressed the need for another important factor.
“We had to make sure that security was not being lost across the WAN.”
Vilbikaitis said that radio transmissions are encrypted while they are broadcast over the radio waves. He said that once the transmission enters the system, there is no external access to equipment.
Lieutenant Commander Murray Hooper, directorate Maritime requirements sea (communications) with the DND, said that the RATT S/S system allows the Canadian Navy to send radio teletype messages and provides it with wireless connectivity in the high frequency spectrum.
“It is used every day,” Hooper said. “It provides the essential long-distance connection. What it does is allow for the unmanning of equipment that is at our respective naval sites. This is what it was taken on to do.”
Hooper said that the project is not yet complete, but completion is expected at the end of March 2002. He said that thus far, the RATT S/S system has done everything it has been asked to do in terms of remotely controlling the antenna farms at the radio sites in Halifax and Esquimalt base in Victoria.
“It is really in a trial period,” Hooper said. “(xwave) has delivered the majority of the functionality on time, as promised, and it looks like it is going to result in saving significant manpower and infrastructure costs for the future.”
Although the RATT S/S system is completely under the DND’s ownership, xwave has been contracted to support it.
“Maintenance allows us to go back and improve items, make adjustments or whatever (the DND) likes,” Vilbikaitis said.