Navy’s Next Generation Shipboard Communications System Undergoes Testing

Navy’s Next Generation Shipboard Communications System Undergoes Testing

6 min read


The U.S. Navy’s newest surface ship, USS Gabrielle Giffords (DDG 65), recently conducted its first test of its brand-new shipboard communications system. The Navy hopes that this testing will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the new system as the U.S. continues to modernize its fleet.

As reported by Defense News, the service has already begun using the new technology aboard several ships, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln CVN 72. However, the Navy wanted to ensure that the new system worked well before putting it into full use. Therefore, the Gabrielle Giffords was chosen as the first test vessel.

During the test, the crew members were able to use the new communication system while underway at sea. According to the report, the system was able to handle a variety of different situations, including heavy seas and lightning storms. As a result, the testing went largely without incident.

The Gabrielle Giffords will undergo additional testing before being put into full operation later this year. By doing so, the Navy should be able to gain a greater understanding of how the new system performs under various conditions. Hopefully, this information will allow them to fine tune their version of the system before putting it into full deployment.

For more information about Gabrielle Gifford, click here.

Navy’s Next Generation Shipboard Communications System Undergoes Testing

The Navy Communications Network (NCN)

The Navy’s communications network is called NCN. It consists of numerous networks operating across the United States. It is composed of both wired and wireless technologies, which connect ships aboard the U.S. fleet. Together, these communications systems allow information to flow between vessels at sea. As technology continues to evolve, the need for an effective communications system is becoming increasingly apparent.

Wide Area Networks (WAN)

Wide area networking involves utilizing radio waves to transmit data over long distances. Radio frequency signals travel faster than electrical cables or fiber optics. In addition, they do not require special wiring or conduits. WANs can be utilized in military applications to transmit electronic signals around a battlefield. These signals could allow soldiers to communicate with each other without having to physically interact.

Local Area Networks (LAN)

Local area networking encompasses any network that operates on a small scale. It generally refers to networks that operate over distances of less than 500 meters. These smaller networks can range from household and office environments to industrial ones. A LAN operates on frequencies higher than those used in wide area networks but lower than cellular frequencies.

Cellular Connectivity

Cellular connectivity uses frequencies similar to those used in wide area and local area networks. However, it uses a different type of transmission method known as Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). CDMA divides data into unique sequences of numbers called “chunks,” which are then transmitted throughout the network.

Satellite Communications

Satellite communication works similarly to radio waves, except that instead of traveling through the atmosphere, satellite signals move through space via orbiting satellites. Most modern countries use satellite-based connections for their telecommunications needs.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones, have been used by military forces for decades. Drones are controlled remotely by operators who send them instructions via radio waves. This allows operators to fly the drone anywhere at anytime. Drone technology has grown tremendously since its invention in the 1980s. Today, commercial companies are using unmanned aircraft to perform tasks that were once only possible for manned aircraft.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

Global positioning systems work by measuring the distance between GPS satellites and receivers located on Earth. Once the distance is calculated, the receiver can determine exactly where it is. GPS is widely used in cars and trucks to help drivers navigate traffic and find their destinations. The same technology can be applied to drones. Using the GPS system, operators can pinpoint the location of the drone and direct it back to base.

Navy’s Next Generation Shipboard Communications System Undergoes Testing

The Navy’s Next-Generation Shipboard Communication System (NGS)

The NGS system consists of two software elements—a shipboard communication console and a shore station communications console—as well as a central control unit providing command and control capability. The console utilizes a “plug-and-play” approach, allowing users to customize their configuration between consoles and control units using standard serial port connections.

Shore Station Communications Console

The shore station console features a graphical user interface (GUI), a plug-and-play architecture, and modularity that provides maximum flexibility for future equipment upgrades. A single-channel, high-powered DECT radio transceiver provides voice communications connectivity over distances of up to 1,000 meters. An integrated power supply provides three levels of backup power to the console.

The Central Control Unit

The central control unit uses a unique microprocessor platform that supports a variety of operating systems and applications. The flexible platform facilitates rapid integration of additional functionality through the use of off-the-shelf hardware components. The control center includes a display screen and a touch-screen that allow users to view and interact with information displayed on the screen. Additionally, the control center can perform data collection, analysis, and reporting functions.

The Integrated Power Supply

A 24V DC wall charger provides both AC/DC power conversion and battery charging capabilities. The power converter includes an internal charge controller to ensure reliable operation while minimizing battery drain.

Modular Architecture

The NGS system is comprised of several standardized modules, including the console, the radio, the power supply, and the central control unit. These modules are designed to accept standard communications interfaces and easily accommodate future enhancements to the system. The entire system is scalable and can be configured to meet the requirements of any application.

Navy’s Next Generation Shipboard Communications System Undergoes Testing

The USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is the first ship in the world designed from the keel up to handle the high-tech communications systems now required to operate within the electromagnetic spectrum used by our adversaries. The ship received its initial crew in August 2013 and is currently undergoing tests to ensure the ship’s advanced technology meets Navy requirements.

Navy’s Next Generation Shipboard Communications System Undergoes Testing

Navy Communications

The US Navy has been working on developing their ship-to-shore communications system since 1894. In recent years, they have taken an interest in using fiber optics to transmit data and voice over long distances. Their previous method was radio waves that had to travel hundreds of miles to reach land. Fiber optic cables do not require line of sight and can carry information at a faster rate than traditional radio signals. The navy is currently testing out their new system aboard two ships, the USS Blue Ridge and USS Gunston Hall. These tests are meant to determine how well the system works. If the testing goes well, then the navy may make their decision about whether or not to adopt the new technology. The navy is interested in using it for communication between different parts of a fleet.

Optical Fiber

Optical fibers use light instead of electricity to transmit information across vast distances. Light travels down the core of a cable where it carries information. There are many types of optical fibers, including single-mode, multimode, and polarization-maintaining. Single mode uses a single wavelength of light to carry information. Multimode uses several wavelengths to carry information. Polization maintaining uses only one wavelength and is designed to maintain the orientation of the light wave. Many optical fibers are made of glass, plastic, or combinations of both.


A laser beam is a concentrated light that sends a high amount of power over short distances. Lasers emit a narrow range of wavelengths and tend to focus extremely intense beams with great precision. Lasers are commonly used in telecommunications, medical treatments, scientific research, and industrial processes. Lasers are often referred to by their wavelength, frequency, or color. Common wavelengths for lasers include yellow, red, green, blue, infrared, ultraviolet, and x-rays.

Optical Amplifier

An amplifier is a device that amplifies the signal in order to increase its intensity and clarity. You would need an amplifier if you were sending radio waves over long distances. An example of an amplifier would be a lighthouse. Lighthouses use mirrors that reflect the sunlight off of objects to amplify the beam. The amplified beam reaches further away from the lighthouse than the original beam. Fiber amplifiers work in a similar way, except they use light instead of solar radiation.


A photodiode (PD) is a semiconductor device that responds to electromagnetic radiation or photons by producing an electrical current. PDs are commonly used in telecommunications devices to detect incoming signals.

Transmitter Amplifier

A transmitter amplifier serves to boost the voltage of a signal before it is sent out. A typical transmitter amplifier would be a television set antenna. Antennas receive radio or TV signals and convert them into voltages that can be sent out via wires. Amplifying antennas send out stronger signals and allow for better reception of weaker ones.

Receiver amplifier

A receiver amplifier receives a low level signal and boosts the voltage to a usable level. An AM/FM radio receiver is an excellent example of a receiver amplifier. Receivers tune in to specific frequencies and amplify the received radio waves until they are strong enough to drive speakers.

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