When Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic delivered its first Common Submarine Radio Room (CSRR) in 2005, it was praised as a paradigm shift in the way submarine communications technology is procured, integrated and managed.
Fourteen years later, through more than 140 major installations and modernizations of five submarine classes, the NIWC Atlantic CSRR team has improved the program even more, saving money through combined procurements, process improvement and state-of-the-art training systems for Sailors.
The CSRR has evolved using a system of systems engineering and integration approach from initial procurement of equipment to deployment and sustainment. Using a common, modular, open systems architecture, the CSRR offers a standard baseline across all submarine classes, with flexibility for tailoring to unique platform characteristics of Ohio (SSBN and SSGN), Seawolf (SSN), Virginia (SSN) and Los Angeles (SSN) submarines. The open systems architecture combines and leverages its constituent systems to deliver capabilities not possible in an individual manner.
The CSRR program sponsor is the Undersea Communications and Integration Program Office (PMW 770) within the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I). At NIWC Atlantic, CSRR is part of the Fleet C4I and Readiness Department’s Submarine Integration Division, headed by Dave Bednarczyk. Joe Manzi is the Afloat Submarine C4I team lead and Bruce Edmund is CSRR production lead of a team of 100 government and industry personnel, including many former submariners.
The modernization effort presents unique challenges depending on the submarine class. In general, the production team builds alteration installation kits and provides them to the installing activity. The kitting process is used to minimize on-site install time and costs with an integrated kit fully prepped for installation. Kits include everything required for installation, even cable tags and tie wraps. The more accomplished in the controlled environment of the production facility, the less required shipboard.
The cables, connectors, mounting kits, etc., are assembled to the maximum extent possible to facilitate installation. The equipment, also part of the kitting process, undergoes rigorous configuration validation and pre-installation test and check out (PITCO). During PITCO, the equipment is integrated into the production test facility, preloaded and configured for operational use. The afloat team maintains an arbor which mimics the shipboard configuration of the radio room for each class or configuration of submarines.
In the lab, with the CSRR operating as it would on the submarine, approximately 85 percent of possible shipboard testing is accomplished using a simulation-stimulation interface, which saves time and money. This production quality assurance approach mitigates the risk of failures during systems operational verification testing shipboard.
“The integration and test area test bed is so important, especially in the new construction of the CSRR development,” said Edmund. “We are able to adapt, to change quicker, which helps us drive the latest product to platform. It costs less and is easier for the government to do.”
Once fully tested, the shipset is kitted and sent as a unit to the boat. Shipsets can go from Charleston to pier side anywhere in the U.S in three to five days. The alteration installation team installs the new room on board the submarine, then there is more testing to bring the system up and fully operational.
The biggest strength of NIWC Atlantic’s CSRR effort, according to Edmund, is the seasoned, knowledgeable team. That includes Steve Faith, Virginia and Columbia class new construction CSRR program manager; James Herndon, CSRR program manager for SSBN/SSBGN modernization; Jason Jansen, senior field service engineer for submarine radio rooms; and a host of technicians and subject matter experts who have worked on CSRR for years through four blocks of submarines and various increments and versions of software.
Faith, who has 38 years of submarine experience, has seen the CSRR program evolve from early on when new construction submarine radio rooms were built by electric boat using contractor furnished equipment. With USS North Dakota (SSN 784) NIWC Atlantic picked up procurement of the radio room and started using government furnished equipment. “We were able to adapt and change, and bring costs down with SSN 784. We have had the Virginia-class SSNs since 2012 – that’s 12 boats we currently have integrated CSRR into – that’s a great learning curve,” said Faith.
For new construction boats, funding begins five years in advance, which allows the CSRR team to spread out processes. “We are procuring equipment, building harnesses, testing equipment inside the lab environment, in test beds and working the bugs out,” Faith said. Now on its 16th Virginia class sub, the team continues to drive down costs.
“We’re saving $1.1 to $1.5 million on each hull, and that money goes back to the program office,” Faith added. “We’ve evolved to doing almost full interior communications support. We do all fabrication, testing for capability based in-service engineering agent, verification tests, lifecycle logistics support, and we have a training team,” he said.
Training takes place on the multi-reconfigurable training system (MRTS), a series of flat screen panels run by control software that replicates shipboard component interfaces.
Like the rest of the core group, Herndon has seen the benefit of experience and collaboration as the team has worked through challenges. “We have a very efficient model here,” Herndon said. “Why not share it with others?”
“We would go anywhere to support anyone, if we need to,” Jansen added. “Not just our program, but whatever the fleet needs. We’ll find a way to support them.”
“I think that’s what makes this team different,” Edmund said. “We have this great wealth of knowledge, and we are truly integrated as a team. There is a real sense of ownership in what we are doing.”
“It’s just a different group of people here,” Faith added. “We like what we do. No one wants to leave.”
Even so, the CSRR team is grooming the next generation to support the fleet far into the future. By leveraging dedicated, expert people with effective processes, the CSRR team will continue to accelerate capability deliveries that pay off in improved fleet readiness.
As a part of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.