The federal government has given the go-ahead for $55 million so the Australian Navy can buy broadband satellite terminals for five Anzac-class frigates and one guided missile frigate.
The new satellite terminals, combined with an integrated communications architecture will help in setting up wide area networks at sea via broadband satellite.
This, according to the Department of Defence, will let the Navy forward data - such as tactical information, communicate with headquarters and allies - across ships. It will also give able seamen better Internet access capabilities to contact loved ones via e-mail.
The upgrade falls under the SEA 1442 program, announced in May 2004 as a way to provide the Royal Australian Navy with a maritime communications and information system to meet the Australian Defence Force's requirements for a maritime operations system beyond the year 2015.
The project, which is worth $45 million, is now in Phase 3 and is being managed by ADI limited.
Phase 3 involves replacement of the message handling system and switchboard tweaking for the Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network (MTwan) to interface with existing shipboard LANS over an IP based packet switched infrastructure. MTwan hardware involves network infrastructure, cryptographic devices and modems and network management devices.
According to a Defence 2000 whitepaper, this upgrade is critical to supporting Australian operations in the immediate region and is also a "significant" step towards network-centric warfare.
ADI was chosen as preferred tenderer because of ADI's co-parent (Thales) experience with European and US communications systems development; a similar system is currently being implemented for French naval units.
Additional satellite communication terminals will be negotiated with BAE Systems and the project will also be open to Australian small to medium enterprises to develop and support the system.