US Navy tests next-gen command and control system DJC2 NGE at RIMPAC

U.S. Navy’s Shore and Expeditionary Integration Program Office (PMW 790) has developed the DJC2 NGE command and control system to support global operations with lower size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements.

The system was developed in response to demands from forward deployed commanders and is now debuting at the world’s largest maritime exercise.

The previous DJC2 has supported joint task force (JTF) and combatant commanders during real-world humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) operations around the world since 2003.

Operationally, DJC2 has been deployed extensively in support of HADR missions such as Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, the earthquakes in Haiti (2010) and Nepal (2015), the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan (2011), and the Ebola relief effort in Liberia (2014),” said Anthony Vanaria, PMW 790 joint expeditionary assistant program manager.

PMW 790 is now working with partners from industry and academia to create and test the latest configuration during RIMPAC.

“The NGE gives us an increased capability to support the multinational contingent present at RIMPAC, and it does so on a diet,” said Jake Rakestraw, DJC2 operational demonstration planner and subject matter expert (SME) from New Venture Research Corporation. “The ability to support the expanding needs of the RIMPAC HADR with a smaller, more efficient system is a milestone event.”

Diana Akins, of the Georgia Tech Research Institute, a DJC2 and Navy shore and expeditionary project command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance SME, explained, “We are working with PMW 790 to develop hardware and software solutions that move beyond interoperability and achieve true convergence into a common expeditionary and shore baseline supporting joint and Navy users for the foreseeable future.”

Despite the critical role DJC2 fills for JTF commanders as their forward-deployed headquarters, DJC2’s size and weight make it intensive to transport. Its standard JTF headquarters configuration is known as the core configuration and consists of five enclaves that combine to weigh well over a ton.

Each enclave is made up of individual components such as laptops, computer terminals, servers, peripherals, a networking suite and supporting infrastructure. Even a slightly scaled-down version, the early-entry (EE) configuration, with only three enclaves, is cumbersome to deploy, taking up 20 transport cases weighing 2,727 total pounds.

DJC2 already needed a technical refresh for its heavily used components as well as to incorporate the latest advances in cybersecurity. Like many systems today, technology advancements allowed DJC2 to be modernized so it can do more with less, meaning less bulk and more capability.

The necessary SWaP reductions and enhanced cybersecurity changes were suited to be explored simultaneously because expert personnel believed the upcoming system technical refresh could accomplish both objectives.

The vision for NGE was to reduce SWaP requirements while increasing the cybersecurity posture to reach levels comparable to the latest and emerging commercial technologies but with the ability to manage the system virtually, rather than requiring a large cadre of information technology (IT) support.

“It’s common practice for us to conduct technical insertion and technical refresh updates in order to modernize and avoid obsolescence of fielded systems,” Vanaria said. “We also continuously seek to enhance our products’ cybersecurity posture and reduce SWaP requirements, which should equate to lowered cost in fabrication, operation and sustainment.”

The effort to modernize DJC2 started in 2015 with research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) analysis of alternatives and proof of concept for hardware and software configuration changes.

Personnel working on the RDT&E effort determined multiple solutions, each with its own advantages, risks and barriers. The first consideration was to upgrade the traditional server enclave setup, but this did not provide the necessary reduction in SWaP. Another design consideration involved a converged infrastructure, meaning downsizing the compute, storage and networking capabilities to a single equipment chassis.

“What was most attractive about the converged infrastructure design was the reduced number of IT support personnel needed to maintain the system,” Vanaria said. “Unfortunately, a converged infrastructure does not support the SWaP reductions we were looking for and we therefore knew that solutions beyond a converged infrastructure design would need to be examined.”

Since the converged infrastructure was not a viable option due to the SWaP issue, developers next explored a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) layout. HCI accomplishes two major goals of modernization—virtualizing servers in order for them to operate as individual virtual machines dedicated to specific tasks and virtualizing data to enhance security.

Virtualization compartmentalizes servers and allows operators to access and store data on dedicated secure servers offsite, which helps mitigate the potential for loss of data if the system is compromised. The HCI also offers lowered maintenance requirements, which saves personnel and maintenance costs.

Although HCI provided all the bells and whistles the developers were looking for, the SWaP issue was not completely solved and developers therefore are exploring a solution beyond HCI for future iterations of the DJC2.

This next logical step beyond HCI is a fabric-based infrastructure (FBI), which has the advantages provided by HCI but also includes cloud or data center storage. These features enable virtual expansion rather than physical expansion, but FBI does not meet today’s cybersecurity requirements. Therefore, DJC2 personnel opted to adopt the HCI solution now, confident that SWaP goals will be achieved and that another DJC2 system technical refresh will occur in three to five years, well before HCI-based SWaP advances would be negated.

Procurement of the DJC2 NGE has begun, and fielding will start in fiscal year 2017.

“The three-enclave EE configuration will go from 20 transit cases with 78 racks to four transit cases with 16 racks that take just one and half hours to set up,” Vanaria said. “The five-enclave standard core configuration will have similar proportional SWaP reductions.”

PMW 790 also is procuring a DJC2 NGE for its Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Enterprise Tactical C2 solution. Additionally, the Navy’s Carrier and Air Integration Program Office (PMW 750) Tactical Mobile program has expressed interest in procuring NGE for its Tactical Operations Center and Mobile Tactical Operations Center solutions.