Defense Department acquisition officials are expected, this fall,
to reveal new details of what could be a multi-service version of
the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability.
CEC is a sensor-netting technology designed to defend naval battle
groups from incoming aircraft and cruise missiles. The Navy touts
this technology as the cornerstone of the Defense Department’s
plan to develop a “single integrated air picture,” or
SIAP, for joint commanders.
An April memorandum by Undersecretary of Defense Edward “Pete”
Aldridge calls for a future competition for the development of CEC
Block II. Aldridge suggested that the Defense Department would prefer
that the next generation of CEC be joint, so all services could
share the air picture. The CEC technology currently only in operation
with the Navy.
The Pentagon’s director of interoperability, V. Garber, said
that, even though the SIAP is a top priority, it is not realistic
to expect all the services to accept a Navy technology that was
not conceived to meet everyone’s requirements. “CEC
is very appropriate for operations in the battle group,” Garber
said in an interview. “It’s the only place where we
are really fusing in real time all the sensor data. We’d love
to take data from that output and use it in other areas.”
Aldridge directed the services and the Joint Theater Air and Missile
Defense Office to develop, by this fall, multi-service requirements
for CEC Block II. An industry competition could begin in 2003.
Raytheon, the incumbent CEC contractor, will be facing formidable
A rival technology, called the Tactical Component Network (TCN)
will be proposed as the next generation of CEC, for all the services.
A small company in Laurel, Md., named Solipsys, owns the TCN technology
but is looking to team with industry giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop
Grumman and Boeing for the CEC competition.
The “CEC or TCN” choice is equivalent to having to
decide whether to use Microsoft Windows or Apple Macintosh, said
Vice Adm. Timothy W. LaFleur, commander of the U.S. Pacific Naval
“CEC and TCN are very comparable,” LaFleur told reporters
during a July roundtable. But, in his opinion, TCN is easier to
use. “CEC is pretty complex. It was the best in its time.
... TCN is simpler to operate, has a simpler language and operating
Asked whether he thought that the Navy should convert from CEC
to TCN, LaFleur said, “We have to figure out where ... does
it make sense to stop all the investment with CEC and move to TCN
or whatever other system.”
Whatever system the Navy chooses, he said, should have an “open
architecture that allows you to reload your mission with software
upgrades, instead of changing the hardware.”
Having invested at least $2 billion in its development, the Navy
fully is behind CEC. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) nevertheless
awarded Solipsys more than $70 million in contracts recently to
demonstrate the TCN technology at sea, with the Navy’s 7th
These contracts will help to “investigate TCN not just as
an alternative to CEC but also as a sensor networking solutions
that the joint services have been looking for,” said Warren
Citrin, president of Solipsys Corp.
Citrin was one of the original developers of CEC, when he worked
at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. The lab now serves as
a technical advisor to the Navy’s CEC program office.
Under a $49.7 million, five-year contract, Solipsys will test TCN
in the 7th Fleet. The company also received a $21.5 million 18-month
contract for the design, development, and testing of TCN servers
for SPY-1 and APS-145 radars on two East Coast Aegis cruisers and
on an E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.
These tests will “prove that TCN can meet the CEC requirements
and SIAP requirements,” said Citrin.
The $49.7 million contract, he said, also will show the application
of TCN in a global network hub.
“Conceptually, the TCN is made up of two pieces: the global
network and the local network,” said Citrin. The local network
looks like CEC — it uses radios and communicates with the
members of the battle group nearby. The global network uses Iridium
satellites for real-time sensor integration among combatants all
around the world, using a hub-and-spoke structure. “Ships
can be a mile apart or 10,000 miles apart and it doesn’t make
any difference. They can share information.”
During the 7th Fleet Foal Eagle exercise earlier this year, said
Citrin, combatants were able to integrate their sensor data to create
a single picture, regardless of their relative locations. Sensor
data received from a given combatant was processed and routed back
out to other TCN-equipped combatants. The 15,000 mile round trip,
including hub processing time, was typically less than one second,
since the Iridium constellation of satellites is in low orbit, he
Lockheed Martin is under contract to Solipsys to integrate TCN
into the 7th Fleet’s Aegis cruisers and Northrop Grumman was
contracted to install TCN in an E-2C aircraft, in a CEC-like network.
Citrin is confident that TCN will have a chance to win the CEC
Block II award, because it has wider cross-service appeal than CEC.
“The Air Force completed rejected the current CEC construct,
for many reasons,” Citrin said. “They have purchased
a number of TCN components for the NORAD [North American Aerospace
Defense] contingency suite for homeland defense.”
TCN has found more favor with the Air Force and Marine Corps than
with the Navy, he said. “The Navy is invested in CEC.”
One of the reasons that ONR became interested in TCN, he said,
is that it appears to be a “more acceptable structure to the
Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing have expressed interest
in teaming with Solipsys for the CEC competition, in a consortium
that will bid the TCN against the Raytheon/APL team, said Citrin.
“Solipsys does not plan to choose just one partner. Our feeling
is that the best result will come from a team that includes as many
participants as possible.
“Buying a network foundation is different than buying a radar
or a ship. For a network, you ultimately need agreement among the
different players that this does not upset their business interests
and that it’s an acceptable standard for Boeing’s AWACS,
Lockheed’s Aegis, Northrop’s E-2C,” he added.
“Our intent is to form a consortium with all three large firms.”
Raytheon is under contract to deliver up to 60 more CEC shipboard
units during the next two years, said Clifford Clegg, the company’s
director of business development. That would bring the total number
of CEC units deployed to about 120, he said. Assuming that the Defense
Department awards a contract for Block II in 2004, deliveries of
the new system would begin in 2006.
As far as Block II goes, Clegg said that Raytheon plans to make
CEC hardware “smaller and lighter” for the Army and
the Air Force. An airborne suite for CEC today weighs 800 pounds.
“That’s too doggone heavy for the Air Force,”
Clegg said. “It should be less than half.”
Gecan stressed that the potential changes that CEC would undergo
for Block II will remain nebulous, at best, until the Defense Department
defines its needs. “Everybody likes smaller, cheaper, lighter.
... Beyond that, it’s hard to say what they will require.”