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January 18, 2018

The Case for Fleet Wide Maritime Command & Control


Bespoke Command & Control systems are the mainstay of command support systems at sea today. The high cost associated with developing and delivering bespoke systems has resulted in deployment limited to major units – leaving a large number of vessels disadvantaged from a C4I perspective. Today however, this no longer needs to be the case.

Navies are broadly comprised of a handful of types of naval vessels – capital ships and their escorts, and minor war vessels, submarines and auxiliaries. While the large ships are the primary warfighting units and receive significantly more sophisticated Combat Management (CMS) and Command & Control (C4I) systems than the disadvantaged unit, an auxiliary or Mine Countermeasures Vessel may be the mission-essential unit that success or failure of the mission depends.

Disadvantaged vessels will often deploy with sub-optimal or legacy C4I systems as a cost saving measure. Typically, these systems lack synchronized near real-time situational awareness. They lack integration with the ship’s sensors and use legacy information standards that place a burden on the small number of personnel on board – limiting operational capability.

However, with the introduction of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) maritime C4I system, this no longer needs to be the case.

Weighing the costs and benefits

The perception of high cost to equip disadvantaged units with quality C4I systems has long been rooted in bespoke software development. While most bespoke systems continue to present considerable costs, the introduction of sophisticated commercial-off-the-shelf C4I maritime systems has dramatically cut procurement costs and helped standardise C4I. 

Historically, the primary motive for providing minimal or no C4I system to disadvantaged units has been cost driven. Their situation is exacerbated by fitting major units with more sophisticated bespoke systems, enabling them to produce more information products in less time. This disparity means that the already short-staffed, disadvantaged platforms have to work even harder to keep up with the information flow or filter information to only the most essential.

Additionally, the C4I systems help compile a wider Recognised Maritime Picture (RMP) to provide situational awareness across the fleet. The RMP should comprise all source sensor coverage, including that from minor war vessels, coastal sensors (AIS/radar), and auxiliaries. As many of these vessels occasionally need to operate independently, integrating the sensors on these platforms benefit the wide area picture.

The tangling issues of bespoke systems

Construction of new warships invariably incorporate the development of a Combat Management and C4I system that fits the vessel’s operational needs. Typically, these systems only receive major updates during refits but otherwise stay relatively static. This can be a very lethargic approach with the last of class receiving updates to a system that is already legacy when fitted.

As a result, many nations grapple with numerous bespoke warship systems that not only must integrate with each other but also the much larger fleet of minor warships and auxiliaries – not to mention interoperability standards to allow for coalition operations. The development approach means that many warships will rely on outdated systems for the majority of their service time.

Off-the-shelf C4I systems do not only fit disadvantaged units, modern systems are designed with the same level of sophistication that navies rely on in warships but at lower cost, with seamless integration, and include interoperability standards. Consequently, off-the-shelf C4I systems fit warships just as well and they will integrate with bespoke Combat Management systems that handle sensors and weapons systems.

For more information

To explore Systematic’s off-the-shelf maritime C4I system, please visit our Maritime Command & Control section to learn more about the systems features, interoperability and seamless integration with land and air forces.

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