Project Recap: Data Compression Solution for U.S. Navy Submarines


Defending America's Waters

Object Computing applied aggressive and innovative software engineering techniques to improve communications between NAVSEA and U.S. Navy submarines by developing a data compression system capable of compressing 1GB of data into 2.3 MB, significantly reducing surface transmission time.

The Client

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) designs, builds, delivers, and maintains ships and combat systems for the U.S. Navy. With a force of 74,000 civilian and military personnel and a fiscal-year budget of nearly $30 million, NAVSEA is the largest of the Navy's five system commands.

Traditional data compression techniques were insufficient to achieve the required transmission times. We developed an innovative new approach that revolutionized the way the U.S. Navy sends and receives communications between submarines and land support, reducing submarine surface time from 30 seconds to 5 seconds. 

The Challenge 

Troubleshooting and supporting electronic systems aboard U.S. Navy submarines is a uniquely challenging undertaking.

Unlike surface ships, submarines are subject to significant communications limitations due to the fact that they spend the majority of their active-duty time underwater. Submarines are equipped with a limited number of communications antennas that can only transmit data when surfaced. Inherent time constraints and limited bandwidth often result in lost or garbled data during transmission. Consequently, submarine subsystems historically did not transmit health and status data off-hull, which was inconvenient and often costly.

With these limitations in mind, NAVSEA needed to develop a strategy that would allow Virginia Class submarines to surface, collect large amounts of sensor data, transmit the data back to port, and resubmerge before detection.

Commercially available data compression algorithms alone were insufficient to transmit critical data across the available data link in the limited time available. Thus, extensive research and development was required to develop a solution that could achieve the required data compression threshold and transmit data off-hull through existing communications hardware.

NAVSEA recognized that a combination of data compression algorithms and bandwidth optimization strategies was required.

The Solution

Because generic, data-independent compression techniques were insufficient to achieve the required compression levels, we developed an innovative new approach that revolutionized the way the U.S. Navy sends and receives communications between submarines and land support.

The system we developed, the Framework for Rule-based Encoding and Stream Compression (FRESCO), is an extension of an existing streaming-data compression algorithm designed to support low-latency communications by significantly reducing the amount of data to be transmitted. FRESCO builds on the analysis of data types, using encoding that removes redundant and extraneous information without a loss in fidelity.

The FRESCO solution externalizes data inspection functionality by using XML rules to guide components through better optimization, allowing for the compression of 1 GB of data into 2.3 MB (a 500:1 ratio), thus reducing surface transmission time from 30 seconds to 5 seconds.

The US Navy awarded this Phase 1 contract to OCI under the SBIR Program, a highly competitive program that encourages domestic businesses to engage in Federal Research that has the potential for commercialization.

We prototyped a solution that features:

  • Open Source, portable implementation, based upon proven techniques used in the defense industry
  • Rule-based design that supports extensibility and message version coherency between evolving systems
  • An extensible, general-purpose software framework to accommodate encoding, compression, and encryption
  • A two-stage encoding and compression approach that allows for preprocessing of data and optimal matching of compression techniques

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