Email bridges Persian Gulf

Email from New Zealand sailors aboard Navy frigate Te Mana on duty in the Persian Gulf is making its way home via satellite.

The Navy upgraded networking capabilities on its frigates before their deployment to the region for "Operation Enduring Freedom", part of the US-led war against terrorism.

Before the frigates set out on the operation last year, the Navy expanded its IP-based operational and administrative networks to both Anzac frigates HMNZS Te Mana and Te Kaha, giving them ship-to-shore networking capabilities. The administrative and welfare networks — allowing sailors to send messages home — provide email only using a mix of Microsoft Exchange and a Unix-based system.

The operations network, which aids the planning and coordination of exercises, is used to replicate Lotus Domino databases and for the Sametime instant messaging application. Each frigate has about five servers running either Windows or Unix.

Lieutenant Commander Mike de Ruiter (pictured) says email for home is queued before being sent via satellite links, with ships on operations being allocated more satellite time. Before the upgrade, communications from ship to shore or between ships was simple formatted text sent via high frequency signals — either radio or modem — over satellite.

The navy fuel tanker Endeavour will be the next ship to join the administrative network. The older frigate HMNZS Canterbury and survey ship Resolution will gain operational network connectivity.

The Navy is also part of a major Defence Force IT consolidation project which will span all three services — navy, army and air force — as well as the joint forces headquarters.

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