The art of making tactical judgments and accurate decisions
Consider a missile travelling towards a naval vessel at three times the speed of sound: up to one kilometre per second. At just six to ten metres from the water’s surface, it races towards its target, “hiding” under the horizon due to the curvature of the Earth. If you’re on a ship, you won’t see it until it’s 12 to 15 kilometres away – which gives you about 15 seconds to act. That’s not a lot of time. Especially given that missiles tend to arrive in multiple numbers, meaning that you will have to react to each individual one quickly and effectively. Not a chance!
Picture then a command and control system on board a naval unit. It becomes aware of nine incoming missiles and is able to plan how to address each one and effectively deceive the enemy. It might take out three with surface-to-air anti-missiles, two with the main gun, jam one and then address the rest with ‘chaff’ (decoy) targets. Meanwhile, it will turn the ship rapidly to create the narrowest possible cross-section and effectively dodge enemy fire.
Daniel Wengelin, Senior Director & C2 System Owner at Saab, says: “Today we have command and control systems that are so smart, they do all the legwork for you. Using plenty of high-end mathematics and intricate algorithms, they can solve very tricky control theory problems within the narrowest time slots, becoming finely tuned to the exact situation at hand.”
And so, provided with an accurate situational picture by a Combat Management System (CMS) and a clear image of the naval domain, an operator can in turn focus on making informed assessments, tactical judgments and accurate decisions based on readiness and a set of priorities.
Daniel Wengelin: “There are only two viable strategies at sea: either you take control of the sea or you deny someone else the ability to do so.”
Visby class corvette, a flexible surface combatant.
Authority and direction
For 50 years, Saab has been developing naval command and control systems that enable its customers to both take control and deny the enemy control. But command and control systems have been used in combat for far longer than that. Ever since the ancient Chinese general, philosopher and military strategist Sun Tzu presented his classic masterpiece on tactics and strategy, the Art of War, soldiers, political leaders and even business managers have taken inspiration from his wisdom.
Above all, Sun Tzu advocated diplomacy and the cultivation of relationships with other nations in order to maintain the health of a state and keep the peace. He looked at the process of directing and controlling forces: the exercise of authority and direction by a designated commander over assigned forces in the accomplishment of their mission. This process is known as command and control.
Command and control (C2) is achieved by arranging personnel, equipment, communications, facilities and procedures effectively to accomplish a particular mission. The process is carried out by a leader or commander in the process of planning, directing, coordinating and controlling the forces that they lead.
Any system that comprises several different but interacting elements needs some form of centralised command and control to ensure stability, resilience and survival. This applies to everything from living organisms, sports teams and whole societies, to military defence forces. For example, the human brain is the command centre for the nervous system. It receives input from a person’s sensory organs and in turn it transmits information to the muscles in the body so that they respond appropriately.
Organising a team of sportspeople so that they function properly together is the goal of any successful coach. And in 21st century society, emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, robotics and artificial intelligence are being used to develop command and control systems that help society function well. They do so by allowing people to make the best use of data about their environment in order to help them make decisions. In the military, a command and control system consists of all the facilities, equipment, communications, procedures and personnel that a commander needs to plan, direct, coordinate and manage operations with the forces at their disposal. If all of these are functioning effectively, then there is a good chance that the mission will be accomplished.
To understand todays command and control systems, as well as the future systems, it's important to understand how the systems has evolved throughout the history of warfare. Watch the video below for a brief historical take on command and control.