Technical Aspects of Naval Communications
December 1950 Radio & Television
December 1950 issue of Radio & Television News ran
a series of articles on Navy communications. This was a mere four
years after the end of World War II and right at the beginning
days of the Korean War. Communist and fascist regimes never give
the world a moment's rest (some - not me - think just being nice
to them will cause them to be nice in return). Discussed here are
issues still relevant to modern outfitting of naval assets with
new or updated communications equipment. Unlike land-based systems,
naval environments impose increased requirements for ruggedness
due to harsh vibration, impact, and corrosion issues. Weight added
above the waterline needs to be offset with weight below the water
line to preserve stability. Reliability and personnel training also
need to be increased because being at sea means access to replacement
parts, operators, and service technicians are harder to accommodate.
The military people (officer and enlisted) who do the work do so
out of dedication and a sense of honor and country. Otherwise, why
would they accept pay and living conditions far inferior to the
City garbage collector?
to Terry W. for providing this article.
of Naval Communications
By Captain J. A. Morrison, USN
Head, Equipment Engineering Section, Division of Naval Communications
Graduated U. S. Naval Academy In 1926, completed
post-graduate course in electronic engineering in 1935.
Officer-in-Charge of U. S. Navy Radio Material School at
Anacostia, D.C. from 1938-49. During war served as Communication
Officer attached to British Combined Operations Staff, attached
to Allied Forces' Headquarters (North African Campaign),
served on USS Yorktown, and become Communication Officer,
U. S. Naval Forces (Europe). Except for two years in San
Juan, Puerto Rico, he has headed the Equipment Engineering
Section of the Division of Naval Communications since 1945.
review of the problems involved in coordinating the U. S. Navy's
vast research, procurement, and installation programs.
Naval Communication Service is provided for by the Navy Communication
System (shore stations) and shipboard radio facilities. The shipboard
facilities provide communication channels between ships, fleet,
and task force commanders. Ship-shore and air-ground circuits are
part of the entire service. The primary, major, and minor relay
stations of the Naval Communication System employing wire and radio
systems both automatic and manual, handle the Navy's point-to-point
traffic and fleet broadcasts. To maintain this service, both shore
station and ship require the very latest and most modern type of
To accomplish progressive improvement
in fleet communications, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations'
staff includes trained electronic officers who are thoroughly familiar
with ship and shore communication systems. These officers hold membership
in various Joint and Combined Electronic groups, Electronic Committees
of the National Research and Development Board, the Munitions Board,
the International Telegraph Union, and many other civil and military
electronic organizations. Careful attention is paid to system-wise
engineering to insure that communications can be maintained with
the U. S. Army and the Air Force units, certain foreign military
and commercial systems, as well as with domestic U. S. commercial
Technical reports from the civil and military research
laboratories are carefully reviewed in order that new methods or
techniques that have military application may be considered and
adopted, if improvement to naval communications is indicated.
As technological advances in design of new weapons are made,
either by unfriendly nations or by the United States, tactics or
counter tactics are developed in our operational planning sections
to take advantage of, or overcome them.
This ever-changing struggle presents naval communication equipment
and system engineers with the task of not only satisfying current
requirements, but at the same time solving the problem of arranging
research, development, procurement, and installation programs to
insure that equipment and systems, sometimes of comparative radically
changed characteristics, will be available should war come suddenly.
As far as the Navy is concerned, when it is realized that from writing
the specifications to the completion of the installation in all
ships of the fleet of just one piece of communication equipment,
may take as long as four years, even under wartime production schedules,
the job of keeping fleet communication systems fitted with equipment
of advanced design can be appreciated.
Interior of an operating building at U. S. Naval Radio Station,
Mare Island, California in 1904. Note "dated" equipment.
Monitoring equipment, installed at Navy Radio in Washington,
D. C., makes a record of all transmissions over the system.
A Navy workshop setup for testing and repairing aviation
communication and other electronic equipment.
This protective helmet for pilots is literally "wired for
sound." It contains a built-in headset and an adjustable
Navy communication and radar training on board an R4D (Navy's
version of the AAF's C-47 Dakota) electronics flying classroom.
A television camera peers into the cockpit of a mock-up
Navy bomber as the "pilot" and "co-pilot" demonstrate a
simplified control system. By means of microwave or coaxial
cable relays the demonstration can be witnessed by personnel
at remote naval stations or units of the fleet. The Navy
is experimenting with mass training by television at Sands
Point, Long Island.
To insure that the
best equipment available is purchased, a considerably complicated
process must be followed. A government purchase involving the taxpayers'
money must be justified as thoroughly as practicable, and all manufacturers
must, under the law, be given opportunity to obtain the contract.
The primary requisite for a justification is known as an operational
Operational requirements originate in the Office
of the Chief of Naval Operations, and are based upon fleet doctrine,
fleet tactics, and ship developments. Since shore stations exist
fundamentally to support the fleet, an operational requirement for
shore communication equipment generally stems from a fleet requirement.
These operational requirements are studied in the Naval
Communication Division of the Navy Department, and from these studies
are determined the allowances of equipments per ship and shore station
that will fulfill them. The equipments required are listed by frequency
range, distance coverage necessary, and the type of emission desired.
In the case of ships, the requirements are listed in a Tentative
Type Allowance, one being prepared for each type of Navy ship. The
Bureau of Ships proceeds to fill this allowance with equipment available.
If the equipment available will not meet the specified requirement,
or cannot be economically modified, then new equipment must be developed
The first step in the development of new equipment
is to write a set of military characteristics. These characteristics
are written in broad terms to cover fully the operational requirement.
After the preparation in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations,
the characteristics are submitted to the Joint Communications Electronics
Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is composed of representatives
of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The characteristics are studied
for possible joint interest, and yield information as to whether
equipment already exists, or is planned, that will fill the requirements.
Technical and operational sections of the three Services study the
characteristics and determine whether or not there is a joint interest
in the proposed development.
After approval of the Joint
Committee, the characteristics are forwarded to the Bureau of Ships.
As the next step, the Bureau of Ships, using the military characteristics
as a guide, writes a set of technical specifications. Here, in the
interest of economy, before a contract is placed, coordination to
prevent undesirable duplication of effort is achieved. A proposed
Research and Development project is forwarded to the Electronic
Committee of the Research and Development Board for consideration.
This committee comprises representatives of the three Services,
as well as civilian members eminent in the electronics field. After
similar development projects are scrutinized, and if no undesirable
duplication is apparent, the Research and Development Board approves
The specifications are then submitted to manufacturers
for contract bids by the Bureau of Ships, and after the bid has
been awarded, the research and development stage follows, under
the close supervision of Navy engineers. The acceptance tests follow
the development, and finally the service evaluation tests are conducted
aboard a station or ship before the equipment is approved and purchased.
In the case of shipboard equipment, the service tests are performed
by the Commander, Operational Development Force who has available
to him highly qualified technical personnel and various types of
ships and aircraft for which the equipment is intended. The service
evaluation tests consist of actually using the equipment under conditions
which duplicate its ultimate employment, with naval personnel operating
and maintaining it to make absolutely sure that it will fulfill
the operational requirement, and meet the rigid physical standards
imposed by the specifications. The foregoing procedure, while it
is admittedly slow, assists greatly in providing for the U. S. Navy
reliable, rugged, and compact communication equipment, as economically
as possible, and with the least impact possible on research and
manufacturing agencies. The communication equipment for the U. S.
Navy falls generally into two groupings: (1) shore, and (2) ship.
Shore Station Equipment
communication equipment must possess all of the features of reliability,
long life, stability, and low maintenance, the same as shipboard
equipment. Certain features, such as ruggedness, small size, and
weight are not so important. Shore stations exist to provide long
distance communications in large volumes; hence, the equipment is
large and powerful, and no limits are placed upon the size of the
radiating system required for the job. Transmitters in the order
of 500 kw. to 1000 kw. are used, together with huge amounts of terminal
equipment for single side-band and electronic multiplexing. Very
low frequency transmitters give the fleet world wide broadcast coverage.
Transmitting, receiving, and control stations are separated by several
miles, and thus must be linked together with landline or v.h.f.
control links. Recent developments indicate a trend toward PTM (pulse
time modulation) for replacement of the very-high frequency links.
PTM offers more flexibility and more channels for the Navy's operational
Shipboard installations are restricted in size and weight, depending
upon the type of vessel involved. Practically, this means that on
some ships when a piece of equipment of any sort is placed in a
ship the weight added must be compensated for; either by removing
an equal weight, or if the equipment is installed above the water
line, an equal weight must be inserted near the keel to preserve
the stability. Similarly, space being at a premium in war vessels,
consideration must be given the size of the equipment in order that
other essential material may also be accommodated. This explains
why those portions of Naval military characteristics and technical
specifications which have to do with size and weight are most rigid
In addition to the size and weight factors,
because of the extreme ranges of temperature, exposure to salt water
spray, deterioration due to humidity and the wear and tear of a
ship at sea to which the equipment is subjected, the problem of
providing adequate equipment to meet the numerous operational needs
is not an easy one.
limited space above decks, for which requirements for guns, radars,
signal searchlights, and other special electronic devices compete
with increased numbers of communication antennas to meet expanding
circuit requirements, all of which specify omni-directional coverage,
has placed increasing demands upon Navy Engineers for efficient
antenna systems. Such research is a continuing project within the
Navy, and of late years, considerable emphasis has been accorded
it. Recently developed common antenna working systems show promise
of producing some gratifying results.
In general, shipboard
equipment is growing smaller, more compact, more stable, lighter,
automatic, and rugged, It is hoped that miniaturization of components
will reduce further their size and weight. On the other hand, the
effort to meet the ever growing operational requirements and at
the same time reduce the size and weight has introduced, in some
cases, more complicated and complex equipment. This is a serious
problem in view of the present shortage of Navy Electronic Technician
Mates. Therefore, specifications are beginning. to emphasize packaging
of components for quick replacement to enable disabled equipment
to remain on the air. The repair of the particular circuit can be
accomplished at a later time. As a result of a standardization program,
it is planned to replace the various models of transmitters and
receivers installed aboard our ships with an all-purpose series
of transmitters and receivers. This modernization will assist to
some extent in reducing the maintenance and spare parts provisions
and stowage problems. The latter is one which has long plagued the
logisticians. With numerous different types of equipments installed
in ships, the provision and stowage of sufficient spare parts for
self-sufficient operations presents many space and weight compensation
problems. By standardization of equipments, components, and revising
stowage methods aboard ships, a reduction of perhaps 50% in cubeage
and weight per ship is anticipated.
In the development of
any new equipment, the Naval Communication Service is guided largely
by programs of systems-wise engineering. At the present time, there
are three such programs that might be listed, They are : (1) ultra-high
frequency conversion, (2) teletype, and (3) radiophoto-facsimile,
The ultra-high frequency band was chosen because of the
possibility of obtaining more channels to provide for our tactical
requirements. It is an all-purpose band and will be used by all
three military services on air-to-air, air-to-ground, and ground-to-ground
circuits. Considerable difficulty has been experienced in developing
equipment in this band, mainly because of frequency stability considerations;
however, the demanding specifications have brought about successful
research on new circuits, new techniques, and new automatic control
devices and considerable progress has been made. For instance, the
perfection of techniques to realize narrower channel bandwidths
has produced nearly double the communication channels than was hoped
for originally, Since this equipment must be installed aboard all
types of ships and craft, as well as planes, attainment of small
size and weight are being emphasized. This u.h.f. system will ultimately
replace the very-high frequency system now in use.
traffic loads and high speed targets have resulted in more and more
emphasis being placed upon the use of automatic equipment. The manual
c.w. circuit is considered the "horse and buggy" type of communications
and, like the horse and buggy, is highly reliable, but very slow.
The teletypewriter program is an effort to shift naval communications
from the manual method to the machine method, and has been successfully
accomplished in the Navy Communication System (shore stations).
A partial shift has been made in the fleet in that ship-shore teleprinter
circuits exist for the use of those ships equipped with radio teletype
equipment, It is hoped that the fleet broadcasts may soon be made
by this method. Radio teletype equipment aboard ship is up against
the same old problem of weight and space. Hence, new equipment is
being developed that is smaller, lighter, and more compact - a distinct
In line with the trend toward automatics, the radiophoto-facsimile
program is the latest additional service to be provided by the Naval
Communication Service. The operational requirement for the transmission
of maps, charts, and official documents has spurred on the development
of radiophoto-facsimile equipment. Future developments indicate
strongly that this equipment will become an integral part of shore
station and shipboard installations.
has been given to multiplexing equipment for increasing the capacity
of the existing communication circuits. The limited frequency spectrum
available has encouraged this development.
the future, more and more attention will be paid to data transmission
systems. In this atomic energy age, faster and faster methods of
communications will be necessary to support military operation.
Furthermore, with the U. S. Armed Services working as a team with
allied forces, coordinated communications are a must. All equipment
developments must continue to be done along joint specifications
so that the Services can work easily into each others' systems.
Military characteristics will insist that equipment be developed
for joint use, that it be reliable, small and compact as possible
with miniaturized components, stable, easily serviced, rugged, and
easy to operate and that certain features be automatic. In this
manner the U. S. Navy will continue to obtain the best equipment
for war purposes that money can buy.