Home / Technology / AI & IT / Naval Combat and Combat Management Systems (NCMS) being upgraded to handle new maritime security threats

Naval Combat and Combat Management Systems (NCMS) being upgraded to handle new maritime security threats

Recent years have seen multiple new security challenges emerge in the maritime arena. Navies, coast guards and other maritime security agencies face a proliferation of security challenges. These include: illegal fishing of territorial waters; incursion of mineral exploitation across legal boundaries; maritime terrorism; narcotics smuggling; pollution as a result of shipping accidents or malpractice; trafficking of illegal immigrants; and avoidance of tax duties through smuggling.


Military threats have also multiplied and become very sophisticated from sea skimming missiles and drones, supercavitating missiles and torpedoes, stealth aircrafts and HALE UAVs, stealth submarines. Naval Warships now faces wide spectrum of threats from hypersonic missiles, ballistic and cruise missiles, cavitating torpedoes, rail guns, lasers and UAVs. Anti-Ship Missiles are guided missiles most of them of the sea skimming variety, and many use a combination of inertial guidance and active radar homing. A good number of other anti-ship missiles use infrared homing to follow the heat that is emitted by a ship; it is also possible for anti-ship missiles to be guided by radio command all the way. Naval ships employ  integrated  combination of soft-kill countermeasures, that make incoming missiles miss, and hard-kill countermeasures, that destroy incoming missiles.


The combat management system (CMS) is the central command and decision-making element of a naval vessel combat system. Its function and performance – supporting sensor management, picture compilation, situation assessment, action support and weapon control – are critical to the operational effectiveness of a naval vessel. A CMS is designed to collect and review and adjust information in order to have superior knowledge over potential enemies, shorten decision-making cycles and execute rapid and accurate weapon engagement.


A CMS can handle vast amounts of information, can keep track of thousands of positions and tracks, is highly automated, has full sensor fusion, can provide threat evaluation, can assist weapon and sensor pairing, has a command, control and communication capability, is easy to operate and easy to maintain. In fact, it integrates “everything” that a commanding officer has at his disposal.  A CMS has a modular and scalable design assuring compatibility with a broad range of air, land and sea based systems and platforms.

A Naval Combat Management System (NCMS) has to perform the following key functions:

Situational Awareness. To be aware of the battle environment at sea which includes surface, subsurface and air. This is collected through sensors like radars, electro–optical systems and sonar.

Intelligence. Convert the above information into actionable intelligence by interpretation, collation, evaluation thereby producing a common operational picture.

Planning and decision-making. This step helps the commanders to rapidly make an actionable plan for decision-making and implementation, in a rapidly changing complex battle environment.

Weapon systems command and control. An effective NCMS will also direct weapon sensors and weapons to engage and destroy incoming threat.


Industry is also been developing improved products


BAE Systems’ Naval Ships – Combat Systems business is exploring the application of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques into its INTeACT family of surface ship combat management systems (CMS) as part of a wider innovation activity known as Project Dragonfly.  Work to integrate AI into the INTeACT system is enabled by the availability of high-speed computing to execute processing-intensive algorithms, and the adoption of a shared infrastructure model allowing for the import of new AI-based apps including third-party developments.


According to Frank Cotton, BAE Systems’ Naval Ships – Combat Systems’ head of technology and strategy, integrating AI into the operations room could provide operators and tacticians with enhanced and trustworthy computer-assisted support, enabling timely decision-making, reduced operator workload, and improved operational performance while maintaining situational awareness.


“Crews need to handle huge amounts of information, and we have to take that workload off them by introducing AI,” he said. “And the way we’ll do that is by deploying open systems where it is very quick to deploy third-party technologies. We are very much a technology incubator as well as a technology developer, and what we’re aiming to do is to provide ready access to the navy to pick up technology from other partners.”


Technology has moved on significantly, Cotton told Jane’s . “Using the shared infrastructure, it’s much easier to do a trial of a piece of low maturity technology now. So what we’re able to do is get an AI application … operating on a ship in a safe ‘sandbox’ environment. That’s part of the shared infrastructure that’s ‘fenced off’ from the rest of the combat system, so it can’t ‘write’ to the data, but it can ‘read’ it and can display information that’s processed.


“There are some obvious use cases and scenarios where AI has applicability,” he continued. “For example, pattern of life behaviours using machine learning. An AI package can pick up deviations a lot quicker than an operator and flag up a warning to the command team.” Another potential application postulated by Cotton is in the event of a small boat swarm attack. “You can use AI to give you advice on which of those threats to take out first … it can analyse the picture a whole lot quicker than a human operator and make recommendations on the order of [engagement] priority to give the highest probability of survival.”


Simon Mettick, BAE Systems’ AI and automation team lead, added: “There have been various generations of AI. The Captain’s Combat Aid is what we would describe as an expert system, so programmed with rules that had been distilled from operator experience. Those systems can be successful in some applications, [but] they’re limited by the scope of what you can capture and that can be constraining. “The revolution we are now seeing with deep learning allows computers to do things they haven’t been able to do previously, and learn and generalise in a more human-like way on a specific task.”


One example is the automation of civil air identification, traditionally a time-consuming task for a junior rating in the operations room. “A difference there from the approaches available now, compared to 5 or 10 years ago, is that we can use big data techniques to learn what the actual behaviours of aircraft are rather than just the published corridors,” said Mettick. “In reality, aircraft may cut corners, and we can get a higher fidelity in terms of not just the spatial, but time and spatial together.”


AI could also help the command team manage the ever shorter timelines associated with more advanced threats: conventional and asymmetric. In this regard, BAE Systems is pursuing research into learning techniques to develop and optimise tactical responses. “The challenge is to continue to give the command the choice [and] control over what is evolving,” Mettick said. “So we will need to understand where the human decision points most sensibly need to be given the timelines.


“The advantage [with techniques such as] reinforcement learning over set ploys is that they generalise to complex scenarios, whereas set ploys tend to be focused on individual threats. How those combine is not immediately obvious, and that’s what is really going on currently in the [warfare] officer’s head with training, experience, and so on. The software we have to essentially put through [tactical] school if you like, so it’s got that experience from a simulated environment, which is really what the officers do.”


While BAE Systems core AI research is self-funded, the company is in dialogue with the UK Defence Research and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to identify potential exploitation routes.  “During 2018, Dstl actually funded us to take an AI package from Roke Manor – a pattern of life application – to sea with a trial version of our combat management system set up to provide it with the data

  • No items.
it needs. So we’ve taken that to sea, and ran it for a number of days; the learning from that is starting to understand how that might be deployed operationally.”



Thales’ answer to the naval combat management system is the CMS family called TACTICOS. TACTICOS is currently the most widely used Naval Combat Management System in the world, is used for combat and maritime security operations, and has been a proven product since the first version’s introduction in 1993. It is in use with many navies, including the United States, Japan, Australia, and even the PN frigate’s shipbuilder home country in South Korea.


TACTICOS has evolved several times through the years, improving as technology level increases, with more features introduced into the system as mission requirements evolve, and as new subsystems are introduced in the global market.


One of the advantages of TACTICOS is its open architecture that allows third party applications and to speed up the adaptation of new or modified functions.


SAAB 9LV CMS system

A Saab 9LV CMS system comes with all the operational capability and functionality required by the ship’s Command which is well suited for all types of platforms ranging from small patrol vessels up to large frigates. Saab can integrate any sub-system selected by the customer.

Due to effective situational awareness and rapid precision tactical response in all warfare domains, 9LV provides the ship and the command team with efficient operational capabilities in support of all mission types, both in the open ocean as well as in littoral regions. It can also meet asymmetric threats, as well as modern and estimated future threat types.


It provides a range of options for integration of the user interfaces of equipment/sub-systems, for example, through hosted vendor clients, web services, thin clients or fully-integrated human machine interfaces. It also provides touch-input display with soft keys. It can easily be integrated with other sub-systems like weapon systems. A Saab 9LV CMS system comes with all the operational capability and functionality required by the ship’s command. There are more than 200 systems installed worldwide.


“Integration of a range of ship sensors and communication systems with the 9LV CMS delivers a Common Operating Picture to the war fighter to enable informed operational assessments and critical decisions to be made in a timely manner” says Suzanne Birch.


The 9LV system is not only trusted by the Royal Australian Navy, but many navies around the world.   Today there are more than 200 warships operating with a 9LV combat management system onboard with many more in the pipeline.  From Australia to Thailand, Sweden and beyond, Saab has customers on every continent and is proud to provide local technical and engineering support.


Elbit ENTCS 2000

ENTCS 2000 Naval Combat Management Systems is designed to assure “knowledge superiority” over potential enemies, shorten decision-making cycles and execute rapid and accurate weapon engagement in the task force.


Simultaneously it ensures optimum response to changing events. Based on open, fully distributed architecture and COTS building blocks, the system has enhanced redundancy and no single point of failure. Modular design and scalability assure compatibility with a broad range of existing systems and platforms, from small patrol boats to frigates and from command centres to maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters.


Selex ES

Selex ES has developed a family of NCMS solutions named ATHENA with variants to suit various roles. Details are:

Architecture & Technologies Handling Electronic Naval Applications (ATHENA) Athena is state-of-the-art CMS solution, to perform any type of combat mission applied across any class of surface vessels. It is designed to easily integrate every type of sensor, weapon or support system. It provides the command team with the strategic and tactical situation awareness, and effectively manages all deployed force assets and own ship’s resources to accomplish naval objectives and missions.

ATHENA-P is the NCMS developed to provide C2 capabilities on vessels without missiles guidance (i.e. mine hunters, and fast patrol boats, and patrol vessels for paramilitary organisations).

ATHENA-C is the NCMS developed to address the requirements for all classes of combat vessels (fast attack craft, corvettes, frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers).



DCNS POLARIS® Combat System is designed to fulfil Navies and Coast Guards’ needs for surveillance, littoral zone protection and Economical Exclusive Zone protection missions. Able to detect and identify at an early stage potential threats, it offers scalable functionalities and full capability to work in close cooperation with all the involved units, either ships or shore based centres.  POLARIS is particularly well adapted to offshore patrol vessel, fast attack craft, fast patrol boat and landing platform dock/landing helicopter dock.

French Navy and DCNS have validated the functional integration of an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with the combat system of a warship as part of the Serval unmanned air systems (UAS) programme. During the trials, all functional blocks between DCNS’s Polaris combat system and the Camcopter S100 VTOL UAV, developed by Schiebel of Austria, have been validated. DCNS selected by Australian Government and shortlisted by the Norwegian Government

Other features are:

It can handle an extensive correlation of intelligence data, effcient identification procedures, and enhanced coordination to support sea policing and fighting asymmetric threats,

It is a robust and versatile CMS which can easily be adapted for upgrade programmes on all kinds of ships. POLARIS operates surface-to-surface missile systems as well as defence missile systems. Combined with MATRICS, POLARIS automatically identifies and points out abnormal behaviour patterns.

It has extended connectivity and interoperability with multiple nodes.

It can be linked to:

– Helicopters, Special Forces and unmanned systems.

– Sensors for search and also for enemy carrying out electronic warfare.

– Weapon systems



Combat Management Systems includes the following:

  • Surface and sub-surface application
  • Surveillance, multi-sensor data fusion, situation assessment, threat evaluation and weapon assignment/control capability
  • Mission planning and intelligent data management features
  • Open system architecture
  • Excellent real-time performance over dual redundant communication backbone with publish/subscribe paradigm of data network for seamless
  • Integration of sensors and house holding data.




References and Resources also include:




About Rajesh Uppal

Check Also

Navigating the Green Seas: Biofuels and the Environmental Trade-offs in Maritime Propulsion

Introduction: The maritime industry, responsible for transporting goods and people across the world’s oceans, faces …

error: Content is protected !!