PARTNER-C puts warships on the right wavelength

Petty Officer (PO) Martin, a signals operator, is getting ready for his watch. There are radio networks, satcom systems, telephone and email systems to manage — and it's all his responsibility today. His job is to make sure all the vessel's shipboard communications are in tip-top condition, and also to manage the external communications systems needed to stay in touch with other vessels, keep shore stations updated and receive orders from above.

This is a big ship — nearly 200 meters long — with an impressive array of terminals and other communication devices in various places. The PO needs to make sure everything is up and running for the 160 crew members, and he needs to be able to set up a new connection on the right frequency in record time whenever necessary.

It's a tough job, but PO Martin can count on years of experience. And that's not all he can count on. There's some sophisticated software on his computer that's specifically designed to make system administration eminently simple and reliable for naval comms operators. It's called PARTNER-C, the communications management component of Thales's Aquilon system.

PARTNER-C: a simple, efficient solution for communications you can rely on

PARTNER-C is the central nervous system of the ship's communications capability. Functions include:

  • management of all shipboard communications equipment and devices
  • identification of any malfunctioning devices
  • configuration of radio links, including the selection of the most appropriate antennas, encryptors, transmitters, etc.

This versatile communications management tool is suitable for any kind of naval ship, from the smallest patrol vessels to front-line warships like aircraft carriers with their multiple, redundant systems. PARTNER-C is an ideal communications management solution for boats of any size, irrespective of the number of items of equipment installed.

One of the key strengths of PARTNER-C is that it's so easy to use. To develop this latest member of the PARTNER product family, Thales worked with users from several navies, getting valuable insights from active naval comms operators.

The sailors who will serve on tomorrow's warships are all under 18 today, so PARTNER-C needs to offer the functions and features they expect from the latest information technology. To optimise the learning curve, the user interface of PARTNER-C looks like a smartphone or tablet screen and was designed from the outset with touch-screen technology in mind. The application can be installed on a mobile device or tablet, so our PO Martin can stay in control wherever he happens to be on the ship.

Most of the time, operational requirements are known in advance — communicating with a shore-based command post or another ship or submarine, for example, or setting up family calls for off-duty crew. But there are also ad hoc requirements that can't be planned ahead of time, such as establishing communications with a foreign vessel that may be sailing in the area.

The services set up by the system are highlighted on the screen and can be configured by the operator in a matter of seconds. Even a beginner can use the basic functions, with a more experienced officer taking over on the same system if need be, for example to fine-tune the parameters of a radio transmission.

As they move into the operations area, a foreign warship appears. PO Martin has just a few minutes to set up an unencrypted voice connection to establish contact with the vessel before it disappears from view. A few clicks later and the two ships are talking to each other. A friendly exchange. No cause for concern. Another decisive moment expertly handled by a well-equipped naval comms operator.

Scalable and adaptable

PARTNER-C  software is fully scalable because its modular architecture is designed to accommodate new services as and when they're needed. This is a major advantage for modern naval forces, which regularly have to integrate new equipment into their systems.

PARTNER-C from Thales brings navies an agile, dependable and scalable solution for managing their communications at every decisive moment.

PO Martin remembers what he heard at signals school, where most of his trainers had learned the job before the year 2000. How they'd spend hours on a major warship, checking each piece of equipment. How they'd get back to their consoles only to discover a failure somewhere in the system. And how they'd have to go back and check all the equipment again to try and pinpoint the problem. But that was a long time ago. That was before PARTNER-C.