Navy Testing Battle Management Aid on Aircraft Carrier

November 26, 2020 11:40 AM
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Dec. 8, 2018. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s plans to test a Battle Management Aid on one of its aircraft carriers, as the service pursues a tactical data network to link up its sensors and weapons.

After years of working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network, the Navy this year plans to field a Battle Management Aid, known as BMA 2020, on USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities (OPNAV N9) Vice Adm. Jim Kilby said at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ virtual Combat Systems Symposium last week.

“We didn’t produce the battle management aids to allow our operators to effectively execute that. And it was only until recently – the last two years – we were able to get out of our own way in the Pentagon to organize between the air community and the surface community to produce a battle management aid that had a common site picture for the [naval flight officers] in the back of an E2D [Hawkeye] and the operators in the [combat information center] of Baseline 9 ship to understand where they had capability and that will field in Vinson in 2020,” he said.

“We call it BMA 2020,” Kilby added. “And I think that it is a step in the right direction to get at this battle management aid architecture, which will allow us to share data, plan and execute at a might higher level than we have in the past.”

Kilby pointed to NIFC-CA, meant to connect data between ships and aircraft, as a first step in the pursuit of the kind of data network the service envisions to conduct operations in the future.

“It’s an initial step, but creating this architecture where I can share multiple streams of data over multiple warfare areas to allow folks to be able to plan at the ship level, the force level, and the [maritime operations center] level,” he said of NIFC-CA. “So to me, those could be different levels of fidelity, but it’s the same architecture. And it shows the same picture. So [Battle Management Aid] 20 – step in the right direction, but we have a lot of miles to go.”

During last week’s symposium, officials across the Navy pointed to their work on the service’s recently launched Project Overmatch initiative, which is meant to create a network that would connect weapons and sensors.

“What is the vision for us to achieve the attributes that we’ve defined in our naval tactical grid, NICC — that’s a Navy integrated capability concept — how do we achieve that? And what is that way for us to build a program in the future? We’re going to have to make some decisions here and snap programs in to a common convergence,” Kilby said of Project Overmatch.

“So think about that common data layer, think about [communications] as a service. So we’ve talked about infrastructure as a service with integrated combat system – think about comms as a service where I have multiple data paths that I can send traffic based on precedence. And the system will route that data accordingly to get it to achieve the end state in that fire control loop because of the precedence, not because of some prescribed first in, first out, last in mentality,” he continued. “So to me this is a key idea of the naval tactical grid to allow us to have multiple data paths working at the time and route the messages to try to present options for those multiple sensors.”

The Navy’s top requirements officer said he is improving how he communicates with Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, N2/N6, about what kind of capabilities the service needs.

While the Navy last year came to a handshake agreement with the Air Force to pursue Joint All-Domain Command and Control, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday in a pair of October memos directed Rear Adm. Doug Small, the commander of the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, to spearhead Project Overmatch, an effort to map out a tactical data network to connect various platforms across different domains.

The Army, for its part, has its own effort, known as Project Convergence, to tackle this work. The services are pushing for synergy as they seek their individual initiatives meant to connect and share data that will ultimately feed into a battle network for the joint force, USNI News recently reported.

Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, during last week’s symposium said he’s also working on JADC2 because MDA’s Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) program is a stepping stone toward what the services are looking for as they work on these battle networks.

“The real problem isn’t as simple as, ‘Hey let’s just make sure it’s any sensor, any weapon.’ It is to really make sure that you’re getting the data that’s needed to the right assets, right. And sometimes it’s to the display console,” Hill said. “You know, one of our challenges that we’ll have if Navy ships are to be used in the [intercontinental ballistic missile] fight, is how do you ensure that [U.S.] Northern Command, who normally prosecutes our homeland defense missions, has that data on the table.”

Hill pointed to the recent FTM-44 test, where the MDA and the Navy used a ballistic missile defense ship to intercept an ICBM, as a template for how the joint force could share data for targeting.

“Part of our C2BMC effort – in addition to working with JADC2 – we’ve been working what we call a joint integrated fire control, very closely with the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability and very closely with the Army [Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS)],” Hill said.

“And if you go look at our program plans for C2BMC, you will see direct linkages to JADC2, direct linkages to CEC, direct linkages to IBCS,” he added. “And so we’re on board and in the center of that discussion and I think it’s an important one if we are to achieve the Navy tactical grid and then extend that to the joint community – I think it is the way to go.”

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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