Defence will overhaul the communications on its fleet of its Collins class submarines, replacing the existing Communications Centre (COMMCEN) and implementing a new External Communications System (ECS).
The ECS will also incorporate a High Data Rate Satellite Communications link, allowing connectivity to the Defence information environment and the Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network.
The satellite communications system will operate in the Super High Frequency band and allow the submarines to exchange data at rates more than 25 times faster.
The replacement of the Collins Class ECS will provide Australia’s submarine fleet with a modern communications architecture that will meet the future operational needs of the submarines.
According to Defence spokesperson, the project is part of the Communication and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program aimed at improving the electronic warfare and external communications systems fitted to the Collins class through the acquisition of a high data rate satellite communications capability, replacement of the existing communications centre and enhancements to the fitted electronic warfare capability.
The project should deliver a capability for the submarines to use Internet Protocol-based communications and contribute to the Defence’s vision of a network-enabled force, the spokesperson said.
“The current Communications Centre was designed and built in the 1980s and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the capability,” the spokesperson said. “Not only are the electronic components obsolete with replacement components long out of production, the architecture of the COMCEN does not allow the processing of contemporary IP-based communications.”
As part of the project, an IP-based LAN environment will be installed through the whole submarine, the spokesperson said.
“In order to make the transition from what is essentially a TELEX [telephone exchange] room into what will become the hub of a network where operators can interact directly with their colleagues requires that the communications capability extend beyond the COMCEN and into the submarine itself,” the spokesperson said.
“The submarines are currently not IP-based — at least as far as the COMCEN is concerned. Remote operation of some voice circuits is possible, but information is passed around the submarine in hard copy.”
The Communication and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program is expected to be completed between 2014 and 2016.