How the U.S. Navy Communicates Using Avaya

Reliable real-time communications is never more mission-critical than it is during the fog of battle. That’s why the U.S. Navy has relied on Avaya and its predecessors for several decades. Today, more than 100 U.S. Navy ships – a third of its fleet – use Avaya. They range from destroyers to submarines to all ten of the Navy’s current aircraft carriers, as well as its coming aircraft carrier, the future USS Gerald R. Ford.

Expected to set sail in 2016, the 112,000-ton, 1,100-foot-long nuclear-powered super-carrier is roughly 2.5 times the size of the Midway-class carriers that dominated the seas during World War II. A veritable floating city, the Gerald R. Ford will carry a crew of 4,660 along with 75 airplanes. 


Source: Wikipedia

Like many other U.S. Navy ships, the Gerald R. Ford will run ruggedized versions of Avaya Aura?Communication Manager servers, Avaya Meeting Exchange conference servers and Avaya Administration Terminals, it was announced Wednesday.

The same gear has also been selected by Naval systems integrator, Raytheon Company, for use aboard U.S. Navy LPD-17 San Antonio-class marine transport ships like the one below.

uss san antonio.jpg


According to William J. Laurie, vice-president for defense sales in the Avaya Government Solutions division, the communication servers are housed in strain-hardened, structural aircraft aluminum equipment racks for maximum strength and minimum weight.

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Photo courtesy ofCore Systems

Built in conjunction with San Diego-based Core Systems, the server racks also use rubberized or coil-steel shock mounts, special fans, hold-down mechanisms and strain-relief cables. While not necessarily obvious to a layperson, but this is a “complete repackaging to meet MIL SPECIFICATIONS,” wrote Core spokesperson, Chris Schaffner, in an e-mail.

Here is one of the server racks being tested on a U.S. Navy barge.

core systems barge.JPG

Photo courtesy of Core Systems 

The net result is that the servers can pass 5 military environmental ruggedness tests on electromagnetic interference, vibration, temperature and humidity, shock (to protect against missile or bomb detonation) and how much noise they generate. While all Naval ships require their communications gear to survive harsh conditions, requirements for submarines are “by far the most stringent” with aircraft carriers in second, says Laurie.

The racks not only ruggedize, they also create a predictable design that solves the challenge of frequent changes in size, shape and power requirements onboard U.S. Navy ships. Because every inch of shipboard space is closely engineered, and each system is part of a complex whole, even a small change in the height of a computer chassis or its power specs used to force a massive reengineering effort. Not with the standardized Avaya/Core racks, which according to Avaya Government Solutions president and CEO, Mike Paige, creates “a true win.”

Avaya also announced Wednesday that the Navy is taking Avaya IP Phones for the first time. The John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and the Portland (LPD-27), part of the aforementioned San Antonio-class Marine transport ships, will both use Avaya 9600 Series IP Phones like the 9611g below:

avaya 9611g.jpg

The Navy had long used Avaya’s IP-based UC platform, Avaya Aura, with traditional analog and digital phones. To use the new color touchscreen-enabled IP Phones, Raytheon and Avaya Government Solutions had to make sure the phones, working in conjunction with Avaya Aura Communication Manager, passed rigorous Navy tests for redundancy, reliability and resiliency. Which they did. 

“I attribute our success to two main factors,” says Laurie. “First, the Navy customer treats us as part of their extended team, and they expect the same from Avaya. Second, we have a dedicated team internal to Avaya Gov who support shipboard exclusively. The team consists of dedicated technicians and field engineers, project managers, mechanical engineering, system engineering, and testing engineers, and the sales and sales engineering folks who head them up.”

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