When it comes to achieving a desired end state on the battlefield, the key factor that makes all the difference, in the end, is information. Is the information that is available to commanders and decision-makers accurate? Is it relevant to the situation at hand? Is it getting to the right people, and are they getting it when they need it? Are government and military decision-makers able to send, receive and assess information quickly, and collaborate with one another effectively to achieve the mission? Effective systems and procedures must be put into place in order to make this possible.
There is a smorgasbord of acronyms and jargon that project managers in the defense sector must familiarize themselves with. Today, one of the most important and comprehensive terms pertaining to military information systems is C4ISR.
C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) is a broad term that refers to “systems, procedures and techniques used to collect and disseminate information”. Each of these is a field of expertise unto itself, but they work synergistically to provide warfighters and decision-makers with actionable information to help them do their jobs.
- Command and Control, or “C2”, does not have a strict, universally agreed-upon definition, but governments and militaries around the world agree that C2 can be generally described as the exercise of authority within a given environment in the pursuit of a mission. In the simplest of terms, it is where orders come from and where decisions are made.
- Communications is another broad term, referring to the sharing and transmission of information.
- Computer systems are an essential component of modern warfare, as well as in business and government. Simply put, no other component of C4ISR functions effectively in the 21st century without effective computer systems.
- Intelligence is a term referring to information itself that pertains to the mission, or goals and objectives of the organization carrying out the mission.
- Surveillance is the monitoring and observation of activities and behavior in order to gather Intelligence. This can be done in many different ways, including intercepting electronic communications, video and audio monitoring, and human intelligence gathering.
- Reconnaissance is distinct from Surveillance (although the terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably) because it involves the act of sending personnel or equipment (such as drones) into areas outside friendly control for the purpose of gathering Intelligence.
C4ISR is ultimately about increasing Situational Awareness, giving decision-makers the information they need as fast as possible, and using the right materials, equipment, and systems to make that happen. All the components of C4ISR MUST work together smoothly to achieve mission success. It is the bedrock of any mission, and a fault in any link in the chain can have serious, even deadly consequences.
C4ISR in Action
Providing C4ISR requires sensors, computers and communication systems that collect intelligence across land, air, sea and space, as well as cyberspace. Then this information is processed, analyzed, used and delivered to those who need it.
Let’s take a look at Naval Strike Groups as one example of how C4ISR is deployed. The intelligence, surveillance and recon abilities of Strike Groups in the US Navy are provided by sensors operated by Navy, Joint-Force, and National sensor systems. These include space-based, ground-based, surface and subsurface sensors which collect information.
The combination of space-based image intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT) frameworks collect data from the environment and forward it to Command and Control, where it can be used to make informed decisions. There are dozens of different sensors involving all components of these systems which work together to collect and deliver information. This helps commanders in Naval Strike Groups stay aware of their environment, select and engage targets, and defend against threats.
This is just one example. C4ISR is utilized across all military activities. Needless to say, this is pretty complicated stuff. Setting up effective end-to-end solutions for C4ISR systems requires expert software and system engineering, as well designing and developing electronic hardware systems.
Novel Engineering’s team of engineers has experience working across a broad range of C4ISR core competencies, such as tactical communications and information collection, big data acquisition & correlation, ground system support & development, capabilities-based ISR, and much more. Contact us today to see how Novel can help you meet your C4ISR system requirements in a cost-effective manner.