The Navy’s sensor-networking technology known as “cooperative
engagement capability” will undergo this month its most rigorous
test so far, a test that could seal its fate.
But even if the operational evaluation—“opeval”
in Pentagon vernacular—is successful, the Navy’s long-term
plans for the program remain unclear, according to industry sources.
The cooperative engagement capability (CEC) has been in development
since the mid-1980s, and the Navy has invested nearly $2 billion.
It has been touted for years as one of the holy grails of joint
air warfare. Its sensor-netting software and hardware allows ships
in a battle group to share radar data on enemy air targets. CEC
merges the sensor data from ships and aircraft in a battle group
into a single, real-time, fire-control-quality composite track picture.
By distributing sensor data to ships that are part of the network,
CEC extends the range at which a ship can engage hostile missiles
beyond the radar horizon.
Navy leaders, during the past several years, have pushed the idea
that CEC should become the foundation for a Defense Department initiative
called “single integrated air picture,” or SIAP. It
is that notion that makes future CEC work a coveted prize to a contractor.
In this program, the race is not just about winning a production
contract, but, more importantly, it’s about who will “own”
CEC originally was conceived at the Johns Hopkins Applied Research
Laboratory, in Laurel, Md. In its early years, the technology was
designed to allow one Aegis ship to launch one missile against a
target, using radar information from another Aegis ship. At the
heart of the Aegis combat system is an advanced phased-array radar,
the AN/SPY-1, capable of tracking more than 100 targets. The first
Aegis system was installed in 1973.
For the past decade or so, the CEC prime contractor has been the
Raytheon Company’s Command, Control, Communications and Information
Systems, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The firm developed the 2.0 baseline
of CEC, which has been tested extensively in sea trials since the
early 1990s. If the opeval scheduled for May is successful, the
Navy would proceed with full-rate production of up to 215 CEC systems,
which would be fielded in destroyers, cruisers, large-deck amphibious
vessels, carriers and E-2C Hawkeye naval surveillance aircraft.
The Pentagon estimated that the unit cost will be $77.9 million.
Raytheon already was awarded four low-rate production contracts
for 48 systems.
In March, the Navy completed a technical evaluation of CEC, with
live missile firings. That test proved that CEC works as it was
designed, said Capt. Dan Busch, the Navy’s program manager.
In the opeval—to be conducted at a range off the coast of
Puerto Rico—the Navy will have to prove that the system is
suited for operational use in the fleet. The test bed will be the
USS John F. Kennedy carrier battle group.
But even though the Navy is focused on baseline 2.0 for the opeval,
it has funded a new baseline 2.1, now in development by Raytheon.
This baseline will be compatible with ship self-defense weapon systems
aboard carriers and amphibious ships. About two years ago, the Navy
also engaged another contractor, Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics
& Surveillance Systems, in Moorestown, N.J., to develop a 2.2
baseline of CEC, with capabilities to track tactical ballistic missiles.
The decision to bring Lockheed into the program sparked controversy,
because, to Raytheon officials, it meant that they now had a competitor
even though there had been no formal competition. According to industry
sources, the Navy agreed to award Lockheed Martin a development
contract for the 2.2 CEC baseline in the aftermath of the service’s
decision to include Raytheon in the DD-21 destroyer competition.
In that program, initially there was only one “dream team”
of Lockheed, Bath Iron Works and Ingalls Shipbuilding competing
for the DD-21 design and production. The Navy later decided to break
up the “dream team” and bring Raytheon into the competition,
so Lockheed and Bath would compete against Raytheon and Ingalls.
Lockheed Martin officials, however, said the reason the company
was asked to develop CEC 2.2 was that it provided the Navy an opportunity
for the introduction of “technology refresh,” said Julian
Warrick, program manager for baseline 2.2. “We recognize that
CEC is 15-year-old technology and, frankly, is in need of some element
of technology refresh,” he said in an interview.
Now, the Navy has a prime contractor for CEC 2.0 and 2.1, Raytheon,
and a prime contractor for 2.2, Lockheed Martin.
And then, there is TCN.
The tactical component network, or TCN, is a concept for composite
tracking that its creator claims can make a CEC network work like
the Internet. “If the Internet worked the way CEC does, when
I change my Web page, you would have to reprogram your computer,”
said Warren Citrin, president of Solipsys Corp., in Laurel, Md.
Citrin was on the original CEC design team at the Johns Hopkins
lab. He co-founded Solipsys in 1996. The firm has about 100 employees,
half of whom came from the lab.
In its early years, the CEC concept was aimed at the Soviet-era
threat, said Citrin in an interview. “The modern networking
technologies didn’t exist back then. It worked OK, but had
a number of shortcomings,” he said, particularly in handling
the complexities of joint warfare.
Solipsys built the TCN with its own funding, because the services
weren’t interested, said Citrin. It was introduced to the
Navy about two years ago.
Citrin said that TCN offers more flexibility and bandwidth efficiency
than CEC and he also claims that it can make all CEC baselines compatible
with each other. Last year, the Navy’s chief engineer, Rear
Adm. Kathleen K. Paige, sponsored a study of TCN, and an assessment
report was published in November 2000. Industry sources said that
Paige wanted to bring TCN into the CEC program, but she was not
able to garner financial support from the Navy. The funding for
TCN evaluation ran out in December 2000.
Privately, Raytheon officials complained that the TCN evaluation
was biased, because it was a simulation-based demonstration, nothing
like the rigorous testing that CEC 2.0 had undergone at sea.
In response to written questions from National Defense, Paige said
that it is premature to predict the future of TCN. “There
is no way that, even if we were done with the assessment, that I
could tell you whether or not that was a system that we were willing
to buy,” she said. “There are other issues, including
other technical, engineering and logistics aspects, as well as business
approaches, that must be analyzed first, and then those will be
evaluated against whatever other competitors have to bring.”
Don Mitchell, Paige’s technical director, is overseeing the
assessment of TCN. “The results of all government testing
on CEC as well as related technologies, such as TCN, are expected
to be available to all competitors who might compete for CEC contracts
in the future—within the constraints of security classification
and business propriety,” Paige said.
Citrin was expected to host a demonstration of TCN in late April
at his company’s facilities. He said, however, that only Navy
officials, and no contractors, would be allowed to attend, in order
to protect his proprietary technology. An export license application
for TCN recently was turned down by the State Department. “It’s
a little bit contentious,” said Citrin. The rejection, he
explained, was “due to Navy concerns.”
In a future competition for CEC, he said, “there is a good
chance that we will throw our hat into the ring. There are a lot
of advantages in going with a small business for this program.”
A public-relations agency representing Solipsys said in a news release
that the company “is making waves in the Department of Defense
and is challenging the traditional big corporate and laboratory
In an announcement published last March in the Commerce Business
Daily, the Navy unveiled its intention to conduct two concurrent
competitions for CEC. One would select a “system engineering
and integration agent” and the other would award a “design
agent and production” contract. A single company would not
be able to win both. But it appears likely that both Lockheed and
Raytheon will enter both competitions and will propose to set up
internal “firewalls” to isolate the system-engineer
shop from the design agent.
“It’s certainly feasible that one contractor could
have the [system engineer] contract, and another have the design-agent
role,” said Warrick. “I think that is what the government
is envisioning here. It is done on other programs.”
The developments of baselines 2.1 and 2.2 will continue as sole-source
An industry day was scheduled on April 23 to address contractors’
questions about the competition.
Citrin said he would prefer that Solipsys compete independently
of the “big guys.” If there were a teaming arrangement,
it would more than likely be with Lockheed Martin, which has endorsed
the TCN technology and, up until last year, was proposing that the
Navy incorporate TCN into CEC baseline 2.2.
He said he also is concerned that the Navy may reject TCN, because
it would imply there was “something wrong” with CEC.
“It’s a very difficult thing for the Navy at this juncture
to immediately change its course, because a lot of money has been
invested in CEC,” said Citrin.
Raytheon officials, meanwhile, said they are puzzled as to why
the Navy would be interested in TCN, because they believe that the
baseline 2.1, after planned upgrades are completed, will provide
the capabilities offered by 2.2 and TCN. One project currently under
way at Raytheon is a $35 million Navy-funded effort to improve the
communications capabilities of CEC. The company also is working
on a “low-cost” version of CEC.
“Our view is that 2.1 should be ‘the’ baseline,”
said Tony Gecan, Raytheon systems engineer. CEC baselines are complex
pieces of software that take time to develop, he said in an interview.
“You don’t just pop one of those out of the oven every
The Navy’s announcement that there would be two competitions
raises significant questions, Gecan said. The more important one
is that it does not make it clear “who has the ‘soul’
of the program.”
An intricate technology such as CEC is “more art than science,”
Gecan said. “Everyone has a copy of the code. But what can
they do with it?”
The Navy, said Gecan, “has to define who owns the program.
... We had envisioned a competition for a full-service contract.
It appears they are structuring it in two pieces. It’s not
clear to us what these pieces are.”
CEC is not like “competing a print job,” he said. “It
is vision, insight, rocket science in many ways. [They cannot] bundle
it into little pieces and throw it out in the street.”
Gecan’s long-term vision for CEC is built around a “joint
sensor network,” which would underpin the SIAP.
“There are no other programs out there that do composite
tracking in any of the services,” said W. Clifford Clegg,
director of advanced tactical programs at Raytheon. The “joint
sensor network” concept is not directly competing with TCN,
he said in an interview. “TCN hasn’t been proven or
tested in a battle group. [Even] if it showed promise, it probably
wouldn’t be available for several years.” Asked about
the possibility that the Navy could consolidate all baselines into
the 2.2 software, Clegg said he did not believe 2.2 would be ready
for many years. The 2.1 baseline, he said, will require another
18 months to two years of testing. It is currently not compatible
with the Aegis combat system, but it will be in the future, said
Lockheed Martin’s Warrick said that baseline 2.2 “would
be ready for a major test” as early as 2004.
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab continues to participate
in the CEC program as a “technical direction agent,”
said Conrad J. Grant, lab engineer. The lab oversees both Raytheon
and Lockheed work in the program, he said. “We will not be
a competitor. We do not compete against industry.”