RNZ Navy contract a coup for Bluewater


Good things in manufacturing continue to happen in New Zealand. Bluewater Systems has won a contract to provide hardware and software to RNZ Navy at Devonport. Their previous experience with Telecom sealed the deal.

RNZ NavyChristchurch based ARM solutions developer, Bluewater Systems continues to build on its reputation as a highly regarded contractor to the defence sector by delivering on a significant communications retrofit contract with the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Bluewater CEO Sarosh Dubash says the project was a coup for the company and reinforces Bluewater’s campaign to obtain defence industry contracts in New Zealand and Australia.

The success of this RNZ Navy project for Bluewater follows hard on the heels of the re-signing of their contract with the Australian DSTO (Defence, Science and Technology Organisation) to provide hardware and software development. This is Bluewater’s third year of contract service with the DSTO and they are now the sole supplier of components of these highly specialised sub-systems for the organisation.

The Navy project involved retrofitting the communications system within the Combat System Tactical Trainer, used by the Navy at their Devonport base to train the command team and operational personnel working on the two New Zealand based ANZAC frigates.

The simulator unit was one of three originally built by Stanilite Pacific, who won the contract for the onboard and onshore communications systems installed in the eight ANZAC frigates.

According to Navy technical manager, David Adams, who oversaw the project, Stanilite Pacific was bought out by ADI in 1996, and the Trainer systems were no longer supported.

Installing a replacement communications system in the Trainer was essential to ensure its ongoing usefulness in creating realistic, real time training for the command teams who work onboard the New Zealand frigates.

“The simulator is now more than 10 years old, and because it was custom built at the time, there were very limited spare parts for repairs. The communication systems have now reached the end of their useful life, so we required a supplier who could reverse engineer the hardware and software to deliver the same systems that are currently being simulated, and be able to support it going forward.

“The war games scenarios our instructors run are very realistic and can be quite dramatic, with personnel having to deal with incoming missiles, communicating with the helicopter pilot, communicating with the bridge and other parts of the frigate and generally rehearse the skills required to run the frigate under combat conditions,” Adams says.

Instructors in the control room sit at six instructor stations and act as the rest of the ship, using a touch screen system to respond in different roles.

The replacement system included 15 broadcast communication stations and two paging stations.

Bluewater Systems submitted a tender for the project, based on using their in-house ARM expertise and the ready availability of ARM based SoMs (System on Modules), making it possible to quickly and cost effectively build a custom circuit board that could provide all the applications required.

Bluewater’s experience in conducting a similar process for Telecom New Zealand, replacing aging magnetic tape storage systems with a custom built digital data storage unit (done through NEC NZ), was one of the deciding factors in their selection for this project.

The contract was awarded in May 2008, a prototype unit was successfully tested in August onsite at Devonport, and the equipment was delivered in full in early November. Installation was completed in December 2008 and the system is working exactly as expected.

Bluewater’s Dubash said the project was a challenging one for the company, but proceeded very smoothly. “We were able to hit all our milestones and deliver on schedule, despite having to work from very limited support information about the protocols used by the existing system. However, we did have excellent support and partnership from the RNZN team.”