SAN DIEGO - Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) Enterprise rapidly delivered engineering expertise to Military Sealift Command hospital ships, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), to provide secure and reliable pier-to-ship connectivity, increasing bandwidth and improving communications in support of the nation’s Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief efforts.

USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles, March 27 and USNS Comfort arrived in New York City March 30. While docked, the ships are serving as a referral hospital for a variety patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.

NAVWAR enterprise is working together to ensure these ships are equipped with the technology needed to provide a full-spectrum of medical care during the fight against this worldwide pandemic. This NAVWAR enterprise effort includes, NAVWAR Headquarters, Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications and Computers (PEO C4I) and Space Systems, Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Services (PEO EIS), Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific and NIWC Atlantic.

“Together with our partners from across the nation, NAVWAR is tackling one of the greatest challenges of our time, fighting the spread of COVID-19,” said NAVWAR Commander Rear Adm. Christian Becker. “This challenge is significant, but the talent and dedication of our team across NAVWAR is exceptional. We have been at the center of incorporating advanced technologies that enable new operational concepts for decades and today is no different. We have and will continue to innovate, lead and drive ways to speed delivery of advanced capabilities when and where needed to win this fight.”

Upon notification of activation of both USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, NAVWAR’s Fleet Readiness Directorate Fleet Support Program Office (FRD100) quickly delivered a fleet systems engineer team (FSET) member to both ships prior to deployment. The FSET members worked with PEO C4I to ensure both ships were able to come up on satellite data paths while underway to their area of responsibility, increasing bandwidth for ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communications.

NIWC Atlantic also provided USNS Mercy with Secure Voice Systems (SVS) experts to efficiently deliver, set up and troubleshoot the ship’s Base Level Information Infrastructure (BLII) Piers fly-away kit in support of Automated Digital Network System (ADNS) pier connectivity. ADNS is the Navy’s tactical Wide Area Network (WAN) solution, allowing secure access to crucial Department of Defense Information Networks (DoDIN). NIWC Atlantic sent systems engineers aboard USNS Comfort to certify the ship’s configurations and equipment status prior to deployment in support of the same capability.

To further strengthen USNS Comfort’s communications functions, NIWC Atlantic dispatched engineers to address complications with the ship’s Commercial Broadband Satellite Program (CBSP) system, which allows for secure satellite communications connectivity capability from the networks aboard the ship to the shore infrastructure.

Once both ships arrived pier side, and with tasking from the Military Sealift Command, PEO C4I’s Tactical Networks Program Office (PMW 160) led an effort with NIWC Pacific to quickly engineer secure and reliable pier-to-ship connectivity for the two Navy hospital ships.

Understanding that both ships were not fully equipped to support the COVID-19 relief mission, the teams collaborated with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the ships’ ADNS team and others to deliver local high-speed circuit solutions to increase ship bandwidth and improve network security.

After overcoming several configuration and physical issues due to COVID-19, the teams delivered each solution in record time. In the case of USNS Comfort, the teams leveraged a national security/emergency preparedness program, reducing delivery time from 60 days to less than 24 hours. The teams provided a solution to USNS Mercy within hours of its arrival to Los Angeles. With both ships connectivity up and running and the ability to transmit critical medical data, Mercy and Comfort are now receiving patients safely and effectively.

For continued support, NIWC Atlantic is providing medical IT support, and systems administration support onboard the USNS Comfort for their Theater Medical Information Program - Maritime (TMIP-M) and Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS) software systems. TMIP-M helps medical personnel access electronic health records, track blood inventory, order equipment and supplies, and track patient movements to provide the best medical attention for patients regardless of their location. DMLSS is a healthcare logistics IT system used to acquire medical and surgical items, cleaning supplies and equipment, construction materials and equipment, and other items needed to support COVID-19 efforts.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and affect lives around the world, NAVWAR enterprise remains ready to rapidly deliver cyber warfighting capability from seabed to space for the Navy and the nation.

Mercy and Comfort are seagoing medical treatment facilities that currently have personnel embarked for both the Los Angeles and New York City mission, including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners on each ship. The ships’ primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable, and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare. Mercy's secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.

Connecticut Media Group