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Latest Supercarrier to Carry ‘Super’ IP Video System

Few would imagine sending content to a mobile device as large as the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier

The USS Gerald R. FordTransmitting content to mobile devices is the focus of many audiovisual device producers and system designers, but few would imagine sending content to a mobile device as large as the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first of a new generation of supercarriers designed to succeed the venerable and highly successful Nimitz class of carriers, which have been a core part of Navy operations since 1975.

Like the first USS Nimitz, the Gerald R. Ford is meant to sail at high speeds and operate independently for months as it carries out its surface warfare mission. With new technical capabilities—the ability to generate more power, launch more planes, run longer with less maintenance and provide a better quality of life during long deployments—a best-inclass communications system is needed to complement the carrier’s technical superiority while simultaneously meeting several important Navy goals.

Enabling sailors to have media access is an important quality of shipboard life, according to the Navy. That includes the receipt and playout of video from the American Forces Radio and Television Service and of movies licensed by the Navy Motion Picture Service.

Because sailors are not going to have the training and experience that would be found in a network broadcast center, the system had to be designed for intuitive use, said O’Brian McKinley, senior director of media and entertainment for Globecomm Systems Inc. In collaboration with Cisco Systems Inc., “we put a lot of work into the front-end user interface to make sure it was intuitive and easy to use.”

In addition, the Navy required that the system be able to produce and broadcast original content for training and other purposes. That includes being able to transmit digital signage content throughout the ship while supporting a range of ingest sources, from satellite feeds to legacy players for encrypted DVDs.


To get a communications system that provides such multi-use functions, Newport News Shipbuilding turned to Cisco, which deployed its Digital Media Manager suite to meet the Navy’s requirements. The DMM suite enables broadcasting over its Cisco Cast system, an IPTV application; Cisco Digital Signs, an interactive media platform; and Cisco Show and Share, a webcasting and video sharing application.

DMM software runs on high-performance Cisco hardware to provide the capabilities of a broadcast studio using Internet technologies, which are part of a comprehensive system that provides tools to ingest live streaming media to multiple platforms, including a designated set top box. The system also includes the ability to incorporate legacy equipment and transfer all data through an IP line. The system uses a “store-and-forward” method to distribute feature films and other content.

Working from the core DMM suite, Globecomm configured the system to ingest and transcode content from multiple sources. Content could then be played live across multiple channels or stored for later playout from file servers.

The system delivers high-quality video and easyto- manage digital signage. It is consistent and compatible with the Navy’s conversion to a digital platform delivering increased quality, flexibility and scalability. It also provides all shipboard sailors and officers—numbering in the thousands—with increased access to a range of content while at sea.

Content today has gone mobile. It is expected that end users be able to access and view highquality media and entertainment on the fly, via laptops, tablets or mobile phones. And it seems it is no different aboard aircraft carriers.


Cisco Systems Inc.:

Globecomm Systems Inc.: