First Use of Shipboard Option for Maritime Operations Centers Makes Navy More Expeditionary

July 5, 2019 – The Navy’s Shore and Expeditionary Program Office (PMW 790) recently demonstrated the viability of moving maritime operations center (MOC) capabilities and staffs to an expeditionary environment on ships of opportunity. The successful demonstration is a first step toward putting fleet commanders closer to operational activities.

Building from a Chief of Naval Operations’ task under the “Strengthen Naval Power at and from the Sea” line of effort in A Design for Maritime Superiority 2.0, PMW 790 developed the Adaptive Force Package (AFP) to deliver the C4I functionality for a MOC on ships of opportunity, which are vessels that traditionally do not have an operational command and control (C2) mission. Therefore, these ships, or in some cases shore stations, do not have the necessary command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) infrastructure and services available to operate a MOC.

The CNO task calls for commanders, U.S. 2nd and 3rd fleets to be expeditionary, with the ability to command and control their forces while forward deployed. PMW 790 worked with 3rd Fleet in this first instantiation of the afloat AFP, moving the MOC capabilities from a headquarters building in San Diego to a landing platform dock (LPD) ship. Previously, PMW 790 collaborated with U.S. Pacific Fleet and 3rd Fleet to deploy the MOC forward to a temporary location in Hawaii using another of the program office’s capabilities known as the Deployable Joint C2 (DJC2) asset. PMW 790 is part of the Program Executive Office C4I (PEO C4I), which delivers threat-based C4I and space system capabilities that enable the fleet to compete, deter and win.

“This recent demonstration was a huge step forward in making us a more expeditionary force ready to operate as a blue-water Navy, and it increased our ability to support the C2 needs across the expanse of the Pacific area of responsibility,” said Capt. Kyle “Chet” Turco, program manager, PMW 790. “We’ve received positive feedback and excitement from all our partners. What really made this successful was the collaboration between our office, 3rd Fleet, the ship’s force and our industry partners.”

During the pilot, personnel installed a tactical data center in the MOC battle watch area and 85 virtual desktop workstations throughout 17 locations on the LPD. Available applications included those for routine tasks such as email, chat, collaboration and office productivity, as well as C2, intelligence and fires mission applications. The exercise captured performance metrics that the Navy will use to inform future evolutions and additional AFP capability development.

“Any future fight we might find ourselves in would likely be fought in a contested environment,” said Vice Adm. John D. Alexander, commander, 3rd Fleet. “Command and control in such an environment requires flexibility and the ability to operate in an expeditionary manner. Having the opportunity to exercise our capability as an Expeditionary MOC on an afloat platform and employing an AFP provided us with valuable insight and lessons learned to ensure we’re ready to fight and win.”

The N6 at 3rd Fleet, Capt. Andre Rowe, added, “This is truly impressive and a great step forward in deployable networks. There are more steps to come, but we’re absolutely moving in the right direction for an expeditionary [MOC] capability.”

Having the opportunity to use the MOC in real-world conditions allowed project personnel to meaningfully verify functionality as well as to understand what adjustments are necessary.

“We wanted the fleet to have hands-on experience using the capabilities in an operational setting so we could get direct operator feedback,” said Kevin Washburn, the expeditionary principal assistant program manager in PMW 790. “Understanding and designing for usability, maintainability and scalability is key to the effort. Now that we have demonstrated the AFP concept and received early warfighting feedback, we will incorporate lessons learned into the next phases of this effort.”

The success of the AFP is only the first part of a larger project. Program personnel say the next steps will be challenging, but they will bring greater and more dynamic capability. Eventually, the plan is to deliver what they call the “C4I Arsenal” that will offer C4I-as-a-service, much like the concept of software-as-a-service wherein users operate a software but do not provision or maintain it. The C4I Arsenal embraces the Navy’s Compile to Combat in 24 Hours, commonly called C2C24, initiative that will enable C4I capability—in the form of software applications—to be rapidly loaded onto powerful small-form-factor configurations (think datacenter in a carry-on) that can be rapidly deployed afloat or ashore. The ship’s crew will be able to carry the system aboard and connect it to existing communication and network infrastructure, resulting in a floating, forward-deployed MOC or offering certain mission functions of the MOC as dictated by mission requirements.