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Interview by Curtis Hand, images from Rohde & Schwarz

Photo: ShreyashiOnline

While the coffee is brewing in a machine for someone’s cup somewhere, Maritime Security & Defence (MSD) magazine had a rare opportunity to catch up with and interview Mr Andrey Obolensky (photo below, right), Director of Sales and Product Management Navy, Rohde & Schwarz, explains what NAVICS®, the IP based naval integrated communications system (ICS) from Rohde & Schwarz, is all about.

I’ve met Andrey before, so we are having a slightly more casual and frank exchange than what you might read normally – for the reader’s benefit.

As a former tech writer and PR, I find NAVICS intriguing and I personally like the way the ICS interconnects the distributed on-board voice terminals, as well as all other subsystems for internal and external communications, via a uniform IP network.  From what I can see, NAVICS is designed to ensure operationally proven, secure and fully IP based voice and data communications. But, I leave this to Andrey to clarify more how NAVICS, a turnkey solution, is suitable for all classes of naval vessels from small boats to large ships.

MSD: It is said that NAVICS is secure, but also fully IP-based…How, then, does it reach an acceptable level of security in a naval-cyber warfare?

Andrey Obolensky (Obolensky): In a nutshell, NAVICS is a single system for all security domains. The Rohde & Schwarz ICS enables thorough separation and partitioning of signals that contain sensitive or classified information (red) from those that carry encrypted information (black) in cryptographic systems. This is called red/black separation and NAVICS® provides this for multiple security domains. It allows operators to share voice and data while maintaining strict security standards across all domains. The system features minimal latency, maximum throughput and extremely strong cybersecurity resilience. External communications use communications security (COMSEC) and transmission security (TRANSEC) to ensure resistance to jamming and interception.

(…pointing at the graphic below.)

NAVICS® is an IP based naval integrated communications system (ICS), a turnkey solution for all classes of ships.

NAVICS uses state-of-the-art VoIP and Ethernet standards. A multilevel security architecture with tamper-proof hardware components enables secure and trusted communications between multiple domains with various security classifications. This is ensured by our high in-house production depth and our complete control of the supply chain. We have extensive experience and knowledge in developing secure solutions and supplying these to naval platforms and naval, joint or allied communications networks to ensure stable and secure maritime connectivity. We are one of Europe’s largest providers of network and cybersecurity equipment for professional customers, with more than 600 employees at our cybersecurity business unit.

MSD: So, Andrey, just how robust is it?

Obolensky: NAVICS is built on a proven record of rigorous research, engineering and development expertise. It ensures a network with excellent performance and no single point of failure (SPOF), including emergency modes to save lives. The ICS offers built-in redundancy to guard against failure, outage or disaster. This holistic approach hardens all safety-critical parts of the system against errors while effectively eliminating the vulnerability caused by SPOFs. Critical software is run on two servers, with one on permanent stand-by.

NAVICS also features high-performance throughput and resilience. By minimizing network latency, performance is improved. Media gateways enable legacy devices to be connected to the IP based NAVICS infrastructure in real time without any data loss.

MSD: A lot has been said about the NAVICS smartphones. Convince me they’re right… 

NAVICS® WCS revolutionizes onboard communications by enabling freedom of movement throughout an entire ship. It is an intuitive wireless communications system for uninterrupted, high-quality communications on the move.

Obolensky: What you’re referring to is NAVICS WCS, which is a smartphone-like ATEX (ruggedised for potentially explosive atmospheres) handheld for wireless communications on board a ship. They are truly mobile voice terminals and do not require any additional training. They even support the initiation and monitoring of internal calls, announcements and alarms. These NAVICS handhelds allow naval users to move freely on board and are not be bound to a single location.

NAVICS WCS features an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI), allowing the operator to easily and securely access all voice and data communications. It connects users to the secure IP network, allowing them to enjoy the same internal communications functions of stationary voice terminals, e.g. the initiation of announcements and alarms, without being bound to a physical location. The system can also be extended with further apps for messaging, logistics support and personnel location.

MSD: When I talk to “BIG” companies, I am always interested in learning about their approach to customer support – how do you support your naval / maritime customer?

Obolensky: As you know, maintaining complex technologies – especially at sea, requires dedicated staff and is time-consuming and resource-intensive. Our technical experts provide professional maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for the entire lifecycle.

The security maintenance services of Rohde & Schwarz allow cyber resilience to be maintained for the entire lifecycle of a system, keeping it up to date in terms of patches, signatures and operating systems – all from one source. These services range from analysis of operational requirements to system design, production and commissioning, as well as lifetime support.

The company’s technical and technological expertise and the high in-house production depth, especially at component level, enables us to minimize obsolescence and risks.

Rohde & Schwarz supports customers by offering comprehensive services throughout the product’s lifecycle. A global service network with local contacts ensures short response times. The service portfolio includes standardized products, such as calibration and repair services, and individual service concepts tailored to customer requirements. A free 24/7 hotline provides support for all of the company’s products.

MSD: What about the customer impact on interoperability?

Obolensky: I would like to especially thank our customers for their great collaboration and flexibility in these trying times. That is one of the main reasons we were able to continue to deliver on time. Of course, our global network and our in-house production helped immensely.

NAVICS uses state-of-the-art Ethernet standards, moving away from outdated TDM-based approaches toward IP-based networks. It features minimal latency, maximum throughput and extremely strong jamming resistance.

Rohde & Schwarz provides secure and reliable communications based on the SOVERON® radio architecture for interoperability between all branches of the armed forces. Communications solutions for naval forces connect ship to shore, ship to ship and ship to air.

MSD: When media training top executives, I like to test them about their numbers and facts. This is sort of a “Glad you asked” question for my interviewees. What are Rohde & Schwarz major achievements in the naval space?

Obolensky: Rohde & Schwarz has provided more than 300 ship platforms with state-of-the-art communications technology and ensures that it delivers a mission-proven and future-ready investment for its maritime customers on time and on budget. We have provided more than 40 navies with modern communications technology, ensuring stable and secure connectivity.

To give you some examples, we have provided or are providing communications solutions for the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy (RAN), German Navy, Brazilian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Danish Navy, French Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy and the Spanish Navy. Prominent examples include the Royal Navy’s Type 26 global combat ships, RAN’s Cape class patrol boats, the Brazilian Navy’s Tamandaré class frigates and the Spanish Navy’s new F-110 Bonifaz class multi-mission frigates.

MSD: Thank you, Andrey, for letting our readers have benefit of your insights and candid opinions.