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Communicating Across the Gap
Patuxent River, MD - 6/1/2012
A category four hurricane barrels up the East Coast, cutting off all landline and cell phone communication. The National Guard deploys, following behind the storm with communications equipment and relief supplies.
On the other side of the world in the desert, U.S. ground troops use the radio in their Special Operations Humvee to communicate the location of a terrorist cell hiding nearby. Moments later, a coalition pilot flying in the vicinity receives the order to fire his missiles and takes out the threat.
For the last 20 years the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s Special Communications Requirements Division (SCR) has been recognized throughout government as the place to go for highly specialized communications equipment. Located at NAS Patuxent River Webster Field annex in St Inigoes Md., SCR designs, integrates and builds mobile communications systems for military and government workforces. SCR equips vehicles such as Family of Special Operations Vehicles, Department of State Armored Vehicles and US Coast Guard Mobile Command Vehicles, and is able to offer a rapid response on the delivery of specialized communications equipment.
In the event of a disaster that disables primary means of communication, the importance of technology pulls sharply into focus. Government and military officials must be able to remain in contact with one another to coordinate relief efforts. US military members deployed overseas and those in combat situations must be able to rely on their communications equipment to do their jobs effectively. Deploying these systems quickly is essential.
“The communications systems that we work with today are on the battlefield within a few weeks,” said James Stiefvater, SCR Division Director. “Things we make, decisions we make, are being rapidly employed.”
SCR blends the latest commercial technology with recently developed security devices, creating new applications. Today the Internet and the cell phone industry are driving communication technology advancements at a lightning pace. As more commercial technology for aircraft and aviation becomes available, the type of work the division does to combine commercial and security technologies becomes even more important for NAVAIR. SCR uses the experience from performing this work to minimize technical risks, allowing technology transfer into NAVAIR programs.
A special focus area for the SCR is interoperability between technologies. The best communication packages available become useless unless they can share with other systems during a disaster or combat situation. This need for interoperability created the SCR.
“Joe Knoefel, a former reservist supporting the Navy Seals in the 1980s, saw Seal Team members going to retail electronics stores to purchase their communications equipment,” said Randy Morris, site lead, Ship and Shore Based Electronic Systems. “He realized there was a need to help them interoperate and communicate.”
As a result, SCR formed and became involved with equipping Special Operations Forces. In the early 1990s, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) recognized the need to bring all U.S. Special Forces together under one communications umbrella for interoperability. Leadership felt effective communications on the battlefield was paramount for a successful mission.
“Today, the USSOCOM is our largest customer,” said Stiefvater. “In fact, when customers like the National Guard needed solutions, they went to the White House communications agency and USSOCOM. Both agencies recommended us.”
Because of the division’s ability to provide high quality products that meet strict cost requirements, there is never a shortage of customers. They employ robust systems engineering processes, including final equipment testing, to ensure customer satisfaction and acceptance.
SCR employs a staff of 126 computer, electrical/mechanical engineers, technicians and logisticians.
“I think of this organization as the glue that binds the latest communications technology to battlefield operations, benefiting all U.S. Forces,” said Stiefvater. “Our highly capable team provides proven systems engineering to meet unique customer requirements.”
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