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● The view from Flyco in the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, as seen in the
Mission System Integration Facility at Portsdown Technology Park
Long walk into the future
FLYCO on the new Queen
physically move between the
Elizabeth-class aircraft
two, or to another part of the
● An impression of the fl ight deck of the new Queen
imaginary ship, he or she must
Elizabeth-class carriers Pictures: BAE Systems
carriers has an interesting
pass the appropriate transit time
addition for now – a sin- in the sin-bin.
It’s not nit-picking, there is
Anyone wishing to
some very sound reasoning
walk to the ops room
behind it. – the need for
integrated technology to
or other vital hubs of
match up with integrated
activity are required
operations at all levels.
to sit in the sin-bin Take something as
for ten or twenty
simple as a message
minutes before
to the chefs, or
they carry out their
rather logisticians
(catering services
(preparation)), to tell
It’s not a
them that a meal is
punishment, rather a
required for aviators at a
rudimentary (but very
certain time.
effective) way to illustrate a
It could take 15 minutes
point about the new ships to those
for a sailor to deliver a note,
working on simulators.
in which time the mission may
And that point is that
have changed and a new
they are big. Very big –
set of meal arrangements
at around 65,000 tonnes,
the biggest ships the Royal
How much better would
Navy has ever operated.
it be to have a system
The simulations are
which allowed the chefs
being run by BAE
(logisticians etc (etc))
Systems on Portsdown
to log in and pick up
Hill, overlooking
the latest information
Portsmouth Harbour,
they need.
and although there
The same principle
are attempts to make
applies to the more
it all as realistic as
all be connected to the relevant everyone room to play while Everything is as realistic as sensor, communications and
possible – a large curved
mission support services
systems ashore – there are plenty of tackling additional problems such possible so as to draw in participants ship administration systems they
screen shows activity on
such as aircraft refuelling areas where integration can make
as long logistics chains. – in this case, ship’s company from
impact on practically every ship
the flight deck, for example
or weapons delivery and loading life easier and more efficient.
The UK task force, of which HMS Illustrious who could be
– there are aspects which defy
schedules. But back to the war game.
this carrier is flagship, must spared from their ship.
computer-driven make-believe.
Future end-users will get
This level of integration will The scenario for this series of
carry out a range of missions Poor weather is thrown in,
In the Portsdown Technology
plenty of opportunity to see and
start even before these hugely- simulations, Exercise Northern
to test the so-called C4I forcing the task group to reposition
Park version of the carriers, Flyco
complex ships set sail. Thistle, is a territorial conflict
dimension – Command, Control, itself hundreds of miles away, and
feel how the various parts of the
– Flying Control or, in simple
Plugging into the MOD Defence between those warring neighbours
Communications, Computers and sorties have to be replanned.
mission system handle, a far easier
terms, the ship’s control tower –
Information Infrastructure (DII) Dragonia and Caledonia, part of
Intelligence. Such exercises embrace a wide
approach than working through
is in the room next door to the
when alongside, the ship’s team the Wallian Archipelago.
It is a chance to ensure some of range of groups, all keen to ensure
hundreds of pages of a technical
‘Ops Room’, separated by just a
will be able to co-ordinate the It all looks remarkably like
the most vital parts of the carrier that key risk areas are thoroughly
routine work of ordering stores, Great Britain, thereby allowing
work and work together before explored and tested to ensure that
They will be expected to
It would be all too easy to poke
ammunition and the like. boffins to use computer data on
additional factors are loaded in. there are no shocks later down the make pertinent observations if
your head round the curtain and
Pay and personnel details, familiar exercise areas around the
Those factors will soon include line – the ‘de-risking’ process. something does not seem right.
resolve an issue, but for the sake of assignment orders, health and
UK coast, but in this scenario
network links with the United Or as one manager put it, “plenty One such example came when
authenticity the communication dental records and dental records,
the Royal Navy’s political masters
States (indeed, a live test link was of wonders but no surprises.”
a laconic senior rate, sitting at
must be by phone or email. including electronic updates from
operate from Diego Garcia,
already in place for this event), Northern Thistle will shine a light
a keyboard designed to cope
If an individual wants to work carried out on the ship, will
and sensor data or information into such areas as communications
thousands of miles away, to give
with anti-flash gear and the full
from other training centres or real message handling and integration,
size range of potential operators,
Humans are third dimension
ships may be added in. aircraft logistics management, full
observed: “These buttons are too
“This synthetic environment mission planning and execution,
allows us to generate scenarios and aircraft control via voice and
bloody small.”
that recreate realistic ship-board data link circuits.
Something for the mission
operations and combat activity,” In the coming months, as
system team to look at – but
PORTSDOWN Technology Park is the site of in past and present conflicts.
said Cdr Owen McDermott, contracts are signed and the
better to tweak it now than rip it
the Queen Elizabeth-class Mission System Activity on the imaginary flight deck pauses,
Mission System Lead with the QE carriers start taking shape in the
out and replace it when the good
Integration Facility, which offers technicians then military and commercial staff continue to
Class MOD team. real world, further emulations will
ship HMS Queen Elizabeth is on
a range of Visualisation and Experimentation test the system to iron out any glitches before
“These can then be used use ship fit equipment to test the shake-down trials.
(V and E) activities. highly-skilled sailors use it for real.
to create operator-stressing actual hardware that will go into Work on the ships themselves
This allows all parties to get their hands on the The V and E principle marries gaming
situations and thereby explore the the ships. continues – recent sub-contracts
kit and test it as it should be tested – in realistic technology and powerful processors to the types
effectiveness of the interactions Training for the ship’s company
include Score Marine, of Peterhead,
scenarios where sailors and air crew can see of wooden mock-ups familiar from past classes
between ship and air support thus becomes more and more
supplying more than 12,000 valves
how the new kit helps them carry out well-honed of ships
groups and operations staff. realistic.
professional military skills. But it is the human dimension which drives the
for each ship, Babcock Strachan
“Although synthetic, it provides The Queen Elizabeth-class
It’s a strange mix of past, present and future. V and E programme, translating the imaginary
and Henshaw in Bristol will supply
a very realistic environment for mission system will be a complex
A group of visitors stands in the fake Flyco two-dimensional design from the computer the test operators.” agglomeration of 60 sub-systems,
the integrated waste management
watching a serving officer handle aircraft of the screen to three-dimensional life and identifying This phase of trials was made up of around 14,000
system, the communications
future on the flight deck of a ship not yet built. problems in a relatively low-cost, effective way. particularly focussed on mission individual elements connected by
systems from Thales Ltd in Crawley,
The software which helps him is already being “The carriers are not just iconic vessels, but support and flight scheduling 1,740km of fibre-optic cable.
fire doors and hatches from MST
adapted for possible use on current ships, but they also need bright people,” said Tony Graham, applications, ensuring that The mission system team
Ltd in Cheshire, lighting from
as he talks to visiting journalists he is interrupted Head of the Capital Ships at the MOD. fledgling systems in both the have the direct lead for more
McGeoch Ltd in Birmingham and
by a pipe which requests all staff and visitors to “We will need to find the graduate sailors of the carrier and the Joint Combat than 100 operational spaces, laundry equipment from Kempsafe
observe two minutes’ silence for those who died future to operate ships of this scale.” Aircraft can work together. but with the range of mission, in Southampton.
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