Key Technologies and Use Cases

Tactical wide area networks (WANs) are crucial for the Navy due to the evolving nature of modern warfare, which necessitates real-time communication, enhanced situational awareness, and seamless coordination across geographically dispersed Naval forces.

In this blog, you’ll learn more about tactical wide area networks for Navy applications, key technologies, use cases, and where Trenton’s solutions come into play.

What is a tactical wide area network?

A tactical wide area network (Tactical WAN) is a type of network infrastructure designed to provide secure and reliable communication capabilities in military or tactical environments. It enables the connectivity of various military units, vehicles, and command centers across a wide geographical area.

The primary purpose of a Tactical WAN is to facilitate the exchange of critical information, such as voice, data, and video, among different units and command elements. It allows military personnel to coordinate operations, share intelligence, and communicate effectively in real-time, even in challenging or remote locations.

Key features of a Tactical WAN typically include:

  1. Robustness and Resilience: Tactical WANs are designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions and maintain functionality in the face of potential disruptions or attacks. They often incorporate redundancy and backup mechanisms to ensure uninterrupted connectivity.
  2. Mobility: Military operations often involve moving units and vehicles across different locations. Tactical WANs are designed to support this mobility, allowing seamless communication and connectivity while units are on the move.
  3. Security: Security is of utmost importance in military networks. Tactical WANs employ encryption, authentication, and other security measures to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access or interception. They may also include mechanisms for secure access and data transmission over potentially hostile networks.
  4. Scalability: Tactical WANs should be able to accommodate the varying communication needs of different military operations, ranging from small-scale missions to large-scale deployments. They need to be scalable to support the addition or removal of units and accommodate increased data traffic.
  5. Interoperability: Military forces often comprise different units, platforms, and equipment from various vendors and generations. Tactical WANs aim to ensure interoperability between these disparate systems, enabling seamless communication and data exchange.

Overall, a Tactical WAN plays a vital role in enhancing situational awareness, operational efficiency, and command and control capabilities for military forces by providing a reliable and secure network infrastructure in dynamic and challenging environments.

Navy Fleet

How do tactical wide area networks fit within Naval applications?

In Naval applications, a tactical wide area network (Tactical WAN) serves as a crucial communication infrastructure to support naval operations, enhance situational awareness, and facilitate command and control capabilities.

Some examples include:

  1. Ship-to-Ship Communication: Naval vessels often operate in groups or formations, and effective communication between ships is vital for coordinated operations. A Tactical WAN enables secure and reliable communication among ships within a fleet, allowing them to share information, coordinate maneuvers, and maintain situational awareness.
  2. Ship-to-Shore Communication: Naval operations involve interaction with onshore command centers, logistics support units, and other shore-based assets. A Tactical WAN extends the communication capabilities of naval vessels to connect with these onshore entities. It enables the transmission of critical data, voice communications, and video feeds between ships and shore, facilitating real-time decision-making and mission execution.
  3. Command and Control: Naval operations require efficient command and control capabilities to manage and direct forces effectively. A Tactical WAN enables the flow of information between the commanding officers aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, and shore-based command centers. It supports the exchange of mission-critical data, intelligence, and orders, ensuring a common operating picture and enhancing overall command effectiveness.
  4. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR): Naval forces heavily rely on ISR capabilities to gather intelligence, monitor maritime activities, and maintain situational awareness. A Tactical WAN allows the integration of various sensors, radars, sonars, and surveillance systems across multiple platforms, such as ships, submarines, aircraft, and unmanned vehicles. It facilitates the collection, processing, and dissemination of sensor data, enabling comprehensive situational awareness and effective decision-making.
  5. Information Sharing with Joint Forces: Naval forces often operate as part of joint military operations involving multiple branches and services. A Tactical WAN enables interoperability and information sharing with other military components, such as ground forces, air forces, and special operations units. It allows seamless communication, coordination, and exchange of operational data among different branches, enhancing joint force integration and mission success.
  6. Maritime Network Centric Warfare: The concept of network-centric warfare emphasizes leveraging information superiority and networked capabilities to gain a tactical advantage. A Tactical WAN forms the foundation for implementing network-centric warfare principles in naval operations. It enables the integration of various naval assets, systems, and sensors into a unified network, fostering information sharing, collaborative decision-making, and enhanced operational effectiveness.

Key Technologies for Tactical Wide Area Networks


Both 5G and SATCOM technologies enhance the connectivity and communication capabilities of Tactical WANs, enabling seamless information exchange, command and control, and situational awareness.

5G Connectivity

5G technology offers high-speed, low-latency, and reliable wireless connectivity. In a naval context, 5G can provide enhanced communication capabilities between naval assets, such as ships, submarines, aircraft, and shore-based command centers.

It allows for the transmission of large volumes of data, including video feeds, sensor data, and real-time situational awareness updates.

5G also supports emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) devices and unmanned systems, enabling their integration into the network.

SATCOM (Satellite Communications)

SATCOM systems are crucial for naval operations, especially when operating in remote or maritime environments where traditional terrestrial communication infrastructure is limited.

SATCOM provides long-range, beyond-line-of-sight connectivity, allowing naval forces to maintain communication links across vast distances. It enables global coverage, facilitating communication between naval assets and command centers regardless of their location.

SATCOM is particularly important for naval forces operating in expeditionary or littoral environments where infrastructure is limited or unavailable.

Naval Comms - 5G and SATCOM

Source: Thales


AI/ML/DL technologies have several applications within Tactical WANs for the Navy:

  1. Intelligent Decision Support: AI/ML algorithms can analyze large volumes of data collected from sensors, intelligence sources, and other inputs to provide valuable insights, detect patterns, and support decision-making. These technologies can assist in processing and interpreting complex information, such as identifying potential threats, optimizing mission planning, and facilitating data-driven decision support for naval commanders.
  2. Predictive Maintenance: AI/ML models can be applied to analyze sensor data from naval assets to predict and prevent equipment failures. By monitoring various parameters and identifying potential issues in real-time, AI algorithms can help optimize maintenance schedules, reduce downtime, and enhance the reliability of naval systems.
  3. Autonomous Systems: AI/ML algorithms enable the development and deployment of autonomous systems in naval operations. These systems include unmanned vehicles, drones, and robotic platforms that can perform various tasks, such as surveillance, reconnaissance, and mine detection. AI algorithms help these systems interpret sensor data, navigate, and make autonomous decisions, enhancing operational capabilities and reducing human exposure to risk.

Zero-Trust Security

Within a Tactical WAN, zero-trust security plays a critical role in protecting sensitive information and preventing unauthorized access, particularly through: 

  1. Access Control: Zero-trust security mechanisms enforce strict access control policies, requiring authentication and authorization for all network connections, regardless of location or user identity. This approach ensures that only authorized personnel, devices, or applications can access specific resources within the Tactical WAN.
  2. Micro-Segmentation: Zero-trust security promotes network micro-segmentation, dividing the network into smaller, isolated segments. Each segment can have its own access controls and security policies, limiting the lateral movement of potential attackers within the network. Micro-segmentation helps contain any potential security breaches and prevents unauthorized access to critical resources.
  3. Continuous Monitoring: Zero-trust security involves continuous monitoring of network activities, user behavior, and device health. It employs techniques like user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) to detect abnormal or suspicious activities that may indicate potential threats. By monitoring the network in real-time, zero-trust security systems can respond swiftly to security incidents and take appropriate measures to mitigate risks.


Virtual Machines (VMs) and Containers

Both VMs and containers simplify the deployment and management of network services and applications within a Tactical WAN, reducing operational complexities, enhancing scalability, and improving resource utilization.

They enable more efficient utilization of computing resources, rapid service deployment, and easier application migration or updates.

Virtual Machines 

Virtual Machines emulate complete computer systems within a host machine, enabling the consolidation of multiple operating systems and applications onto a single physical server.

In a Tactical WAN, VMs can be utilized to host different network services, applications, or virtualized environments. This flexibility allows for efficient resource utilization, rapid deployment of new services, and easier scalability within the network.


Containers provide lightweight and isolated runtime environments for applications and services.

They encapsulate the application and its dependencies, making it easier to deploy and manage applications across different systems and environments. Containers offer portability and enable rapid application deployment, scaling, and version control.

In a Tactical WAN, containers can be used to package and distribute applications or microservices across various naval assets, ensuring consistency and ease of management.

Tactical Wide Area Network Use Cases 

Information Warfare

Threat Detection and Response

In a Tactical WAN, information warfare encompasses cybersecurity and defending against cyber threats. The Tactical WAN employs advanced security systems and technologies to monitor network traffic, identify potential cyber attacks, and respond effectively.

For example, if an unauthorized intrusion attempt or suspicious activity is detected within the network, the information warfare system within the Tactical WAN will trigger an alert.Cybersecurity personnel will then investigate the incident, analyze the nature of the attack, and take appropriate measures to mitigate the threat.

These measures could include isolating affected systems, blocking malicious traffic, or initiating countermeasures to neutralize the attack.

Integrated Combat Systems

Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) 

In a Tactical WAN, CEC utilizes the network infrastructure to facilitate the exchange of this critical information among participating assets. CEC enables multiple ships and aircraft to share sensor data, such as radar tracks or targeting information, in real-time.

For example, if a ship detects an incoming threat, such as a missile, it can quickly share the track data with other ships and aircraft in the network.

This allows other assets to engage the threat with their respective weapons systems, even if they don’t have direct line-of-sight to the target.


Sensor Fusion and Situational Awareness 

In a Tactical WAN, JADC2 employs network-centric principles and technologies to enable seamless command and control across different domains.

The network facilitates the integration and consolidation of data from various sensors, including radars, sonars, satellites, and unmanned systems. By fusing this data together, the Tactical WAN provides a comprehensive and real-time view of the operational environment.

For example, if a naval asset detects an incoming threat, such as an enemy vessel or aircraft, the sensor data from that asset will be shared across the Tactical WAN. This data is then fused with information from other sensors, such as radars from nearby ships or aircraft.

The result is an enhanced situational awareness picture that enables naval commanders to make informed decisions and allocate resources effectively.


Source: Breaking Defense

Where does Trenton Systems come into play?

At Trenton Systems, we craft ruggedized, high-performance, SWaP-C optimized computing solutions in consultation with customers to provide maximum fleet availability for surface and submarine combatants.

Our systems are designed to process, analyze, and deliver sensitive data securely, rapidly, and reliably within and between tactical wide area networks over available RF and landline paths.

With hardware and software modularity, our end-to-end solutions allow Navy personnel to instantly adapt to ever-changing mission requirements through enhanced configurability, scalability, and interoperability without shutting down a system still in operation.

Our systems also support private 5G and SATCOM capabilities, enabling ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, ship-to-air, or on-shore comms with an all-in-one tactical network to quickly share data for a comprehensive view of the battle landscape and formulate a combined and/or separate response. 

Additionally, our computers are secured across the hardware, firmware, software, and network stack and certified to the most stringent military standards to ensure safe, effective operation within denied, degraded, intermittent, or limited environments.

Final thoughts

Within Naval applications, Tactical WANs play a vital role in supporting naval operations, facilitating effective communication and coordination among naval assets.

They enable ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication, enhance command and control capabilities, enable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities, and foster information sharing with joint forces.

Key technologies such as 5G, SATCOM, AI/ML/DL, zero-trust security, and virtual machines/containers contribute to the effectiveness of Tactical WANs. These technologies provide enhanced connectivity, support intelligent decision-making, ensure secure access and data protection, and simplify network management and scalability.

Trenton Systems’ HPC solutions enable secure and rapid processing, analysis, and delivery of sensitive data within and between Tactical WANs, allowing Navy personnel to adapt quickly to changing mission requirements while maintaining reliable operations.

Interested in learning more? Just reach out to us anytime here. We’d be more than happy to help. 🇺🇸

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