Eyes on Hostile Skies

By Russ Munyan | Jun 15, 2008
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Air dominance is a central element of modern US military strategy. An important behind-the-scenes resource in this strategy is the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), northeast of Dayton, Ohio.

NASIC is the Air Force’s single, integrated analysis and production center for foreign air and space intelligence and the source of air and space intelligence for the Department of Defense.

The NASIC facility has recently received an important $50 million addition called the Intelligence Production Complex (IPC). Participating on that project were Chapel Electric Co. LLC of Dayton, and its affiliate Chapel-Romanoff Technologies LLC (CRT). Both companies were subcontracted to Monarch Construction of Cincinnati.

Already state-of-the-art, NASIC—which is part of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Agency—became more complete with the addition of the new IPC.

“This was a really high-profile project for us,” said Dennis F. Quebe, chairman and CEO of Chapel Electric. “The world knows about this.”

The IPC adds 160,000 square feet of space to the overall NASIC facility. The entire addition is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF),

an enclosed area used to process classified information. SCIF construction must comply with unique and extensive federal security guidelines. This construction project also includes the renovation of 25,000 square feet in the pre-existing NASIC facility.

“This [military construction] project represents the largest single project at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in many years,” said Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“This was a design/assist project for us,” said Gregory Ross, president of Chapel Electric, of this $17.3 million project. “We worked with Monarch Construction with a team concept approach on the RFP, and then together through the design/development process as well.

“The risk there is that you need to be sure that your bid captures and adequately prices all of the elements of the project prior to the design being completed,” Ross said. “And everything needs to be based on not just the RFP narrative, but also on the government and base standards. But we capitalized off our previous design/assist experience on previous major WPAFB projects that we completed successfully.”

Besides working closely with Monarch, the Chapel Electric crews also had to work closely with NASIC.

“There were multiple classified areas in the new facility, and we had to coordinate with the project owner in order to protect those areas,” Ross said. “And about 80 percent of our work in the pre-existing areas of this project had to be escorted by base security.”

Electrical system

The IPC electrical system is supplied from the WPAFB by redundant 12,470-volt feeders with multiple substations. The system uses 18 power distribution units by the Liebert Corp., which also provided the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries.

“We installed 1,000 kVA of UPS power in there,” said Shawn Cochran, Chapel Electric general foreman on the project. “We put 52 active electrical panels in the data center alone, and it’s capable of handling another 20.” Square D manufactured the panels and switchgear.

Chapel Electric installed conduit and cable tray pathways for all low-voltage systems. That included systems installed by both CRT and its subcontractors, such as the access control, CCTV, intrusion detection and fire alarm system contractors.

The IPC required massive use of materials and state-of-the-art technology, including 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable, 100 miles of electric cable, 2,400 circuit breakers, 9,287 cubic yards of concrete, 933 tons of steel and more than 290,000 man-hours.

The showcase of the IPC project is the new 20,500-square-foot NASIC Intelligence Conference Facility (NICF), which includes a secure, 6,600-square-foot, 500-seat auditorium with stage. One of the largest of its kind, the two-story auditorium is capable of hosting the classified exchange of information and ideas.

The auditorium has a 14- by-37-foot front projection system, two rear 100-inch conference screens, a multimedia podium, full audio and video systems, four zoom cameras for recording, video teleconferencing and streaming capabilities, and secure and nonsecure telephones.

One hundred fifty of the auditorium seats (every other chair of half of the seats in the lower auditorium) are prewired with three two-strand fiber optic cables and a 110-power outlet for notebook computer hookups. Each of the color-coded, two-strand fiber optic cables services a separate network.

The NIPRNet network uses green cables and is used to exchange unclassified but sensitive information between internal users and to provide Internet access. (NIPRNet stands for Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network. It was formerly called the Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network.) The SIPRNet network (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) uses yellow cables to transmit secret information. And the JWICS network (Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System) uses red cables to transmit Top Secret information.

The facility also has an executive conference room, four breakout/conference rooms and a divisible multipurpose room. Those spaces, which will seat various size gatherings, have multiple LCD screens, video teleconferencing capabilities, video projection systems with audio and cable connections for the multiple fiber optic networks.

In addition to the conference facility, there is a 4,000-square-foot secure collaborative atrium with a

six-station visitor control center, plus break room and dining facilities.

“The building has over 100 flat screen TVs, most for secure viewing,” said Shawn Cochran, Chapel Electric general foreman.

A 20,000-square-foot data center services both the new and existing NASIC structures. Other secure areas have purposes not released for public information.

An information-transmission facility

Since the IPC is primarily an information-transmission facility, the $6.5M low-voltage portion of the project is of great size. It uses a Berk-Tek/Ortronics NetClear solution, which includes 185,000 feet of shielded Cat 6 cabling for voice transmissions and a 2,400-pair copper backbone between the new and existing NASIC structures. The new construction includes 340 data racks and enclosures in 11 new telecommunications rooms, each of which is serviced by a 300-pair, Cat 3 copper backbone.

But perhaps the most noteworthy portion of the information transport system is the fiber optic cable system, which includes 14,400 strands of fiber in the multimode backbone and more than 34,000 strands of horizontal fiber to the desk. Because fiber is not as susceptible as copper to electronic eavesdropping, all of the facility’s data transmissions are over fiber.

As a result, “there is a lot of cable tray at almost full capacity of cable installed there,” said Joe Meyers, project manager for Chapel Electric.

The massive volume of fiber optic work in the project demanded alternatives to the traditional construction practices of either field-terminating fiber optic cables or installing only premeasured factory-terminated cables. In response, the CRT team developed and implemented an on-site fiber optic prefabrication lab operated by members of its own staff trained for the purpose.

“We brought the fiber into the lab on master reels, where we cut, prepared, terminated, tested and packaged it ourselves prior to installing it,” said Dennis Severance, vice president of operations for CRT.

The on-site lab had an automatic polishing machine that could prepare and terminate 24 strands of fiber in five minutes.

“That got rid of the variances that come with human polishing,” Severance said. “And all of the fibers were terminated according to the Telcordia GR-326 standard.”

GR-326, which was promulgated by the telecom software giant Telcordia Technologies Inc., is the guiding document for fiber optic standards. Fiber optic connectors that do not meet the Telcordia GR-326 end-face geometry standard may be at risk of contributing to system failure.

U.S. Representative Mike Turner (R-Ohio) recently wrote in a Dayton-area newspaper, “The work at Wright Patt today will give our armed forces a strategic advantage on the battlefields tomorrow… . NASIC is one of the most important and valuable assets at WPAFB.”

MUNYAN is a freelance writer in the Kansas City, Kan., area, specializing in business writing and telecommunications. He can be reached at

About The Author

Russ Munyan is a freelance writer in Olathe, Kan., specializing in technical and business writing. He can be reached at





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