ABOARD USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), currently deployed to the Arabian Gulf in support of the global war on terrorism, monitors are alive with real-time pictures revealing the location of every surface vessel and air contact, military and civilian, from the Horn of Africa into Iraq and to the western border of India. Twelve 60-inch monitors span the length of the aft bulkhead and stretch from the deck to the overhead inside the ship's Tactical Flag Communications Center (TFCC).
If the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is a body, then TFCC is the brain, receiving a nearly uninterrupted flow of data and then transmitting that data for action.
"The constant flow of strategic and tactical data allows our watchstanders to maintain a comprehensive tactical picture," said Senior Chief Operations Specialist (SW) Chris O'Brien, TFCC leading chief petty officer. "The information flow allows every part of the strike group to have the most up-to-date data possible."
Each component of the strike group, like USS Gettysburg (CG 64) or USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), benefits from and contributes to the flow of information. Gettysburg and Philippine Sea track both air and maritime contacts with sophisticated radar systems and transmit the information via satellite links to other ships and shore installations.
During the Nov. 23 strikes in Iraq by aircraft from Enterprise, TFCC monitored the aircraft during the entire mission. Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain and Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) in Qatar saw this information in real time, according to Cmdr. Bob Kapcio, flag operations officer for Enterprise CSG.
"There is a lot of information available to the watchstanders," Kapcio said. "All the forces in this area of responsibility (AOR) can see exactly the same thing we see."
Watchstanders in TFCC oversee the execution of the approved plan, whether it's for the air wing or the destroyer squadron. With so much information available, they can better inform the chain of command of tactical developments.
"We allow both 5th Fleet and CFACC to monitor the maritime picture," said Kapcio. "TFCC watchstanders are the principle representatives for the execution of the duties of the strike group commander. We are his watchstanders."
The Navy of the 21st century rapidly embraces new technology, and Sailors standing watch with this equipment must be skilled multi-taskers. The crew of TFCC must handle the pressures of coordinating operations over thousands of square miles of both sea and land, and working with cutting-edge equipment.
"We spent several millions of dollars remodeling and rebuilding when Big E was in the shipyards," said O'Brien. "Now this is the single most state-of-the-art TFCC in the fleet."
The 60-inch monitors are used in a variety of ways. They can project a 10-square foot image of the 5th Fleet AOR or concentrate the same image over one monitor. Secured Internet and radio communications make updating information a quick and easy task.
Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Anthony Barnes stands watch in TFCC as an Air Watch Officer. During his daily six-hour watch, he regularly monitors six Internet conversations and scans them for the latest tactical updates while he keeps an eye on the air defenses in the entire AOR.
"I know what's going on the moment it happens," said Barnes. "All this information can get overwhelming, but that's what we train for."
High-tech equipment and effective training combine to create a second-to-none communications center. A top-notch communications center enables the Enterprise CSG to maintain a keen watch over a geographical area nearly the size of the United States without the benefit of a larger, more traditional battle group. With operations spread across the entire 5th Fleet, the tactical advantage of Enterprise's TFCC is unparalleled.
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