The Significance of Combat Management System in a Combat Ship With Corresponding Obstacles

In today's environment, technology really does influence lives, from gadgets to the use of social media to disseminate information. And with that comes military sophistication of technology in which normal people cannot understand its use or even its nature in which it determines the outcome of a battle or a war. And with that comes a discussion which it involves offshore combatants being managed by a system that dictates its performance.

A Combat Management System helps improve a combat ship's
reliability in the battlefield. Source
It all starts from the very definition of the term itself. Combat Management System as per simplified meaning of it refers to a system interconnected to each and every vital material of the ship ranging from engines to sensors as well as main cannons and missile batteries in which it was all managed by a software with the very purpose of having the ship operated at the cost of less personnel with much anticipated results. To make it much comprehensive, SP's Naval Forces describe it as a software-intensive system which has to be flexible enough to operate in a complex naval battle environment.

Given its definition, it is, ideally speaking, one excellent way to have warships further enhanced with more firepower being managed, more sophisticated tech integrated and less naval personnel to operate the ship where in terms of manpower, other enlistees will be assigned to another ship as well as having better assessment in terms of accuracy and deadliness as these systems expect to have guns and missiles hit their respective targets so as to achieve its primary mission objective or objectives given while keeping the whole ship intact. 

And with that goes with mere sophistication where in a navy that is transitioning to the modernistic norms with new ships that have come with Combat Management System, it seems to be difficult to operate just like any other platforms that has come with new features wherein lots of time training and reviewing the system signifies its very importance. In this manner, it is at best to connect this with the Philippine Frigate Acquisition Project in which it will be the first in the Navy to have such a system.

Modern warships such as this Incheon-class frigate, albeit the
sophisticated weapons installed will have its reliability depended
on a functionable Combat Management System. 
To supplement the stance of this part of discussion, it is at best to get at least an idea coming from a member in DefensePH about the said matter where many people many realize the very knowledge that any sophisticated weaponry installed on a warship like a frigate or a corvette for that matter are somewhat useless without a proper combat management system where its description gives significance as to the nature of operating modern warships.

The Philippine Frigate Project as per previous reports including the ones posted in this very website emphasizes the use of THALES TACTICOS CMS. To take note, this said CMS is one of the widely-used system suite in the world where various nations as well as several ASEAN countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand using them where in it comes to prove its reliability to the navies and their respective warship's performance. For that matter, it's subdued good reputation isn't always going that good at all with the following words that will be written here.

Albeit the fact that these said navies use Thales TACTICOS, the said CMS are uniquely catered to its respective customers where their respective ships are variously armed with several weapons in a sense that a navy's warship maybe armed with a Harpoon SSM, will be different with the other using an SSM-700K Sea Star even though that the CMS are of similar in nature. The same may go with sensors fit, weapons configuration, engine configuration, and other factors that have an effect to the CMS configuration. Hence, a single navy's TACTICOS configuration is different to the others as well.

To make matters worse, the Philippine Navy being a new entrant in this field of naval technology coincides numerous challenges where having personnels with poor or no experience with handling such technology shall have sufficient time for lectures and trainings regarding to the handling of the system so as to give idea how this is working. Somewhat similar to the mistakes that have happened years ago regarding the use of 76mm Oto Melara cannon as well as troubleshooting it.

To give a glimpse of the story, the Philippine Navy back then received three Peacock-class corvettes from Britain as they are turning over Hong Kong back to the Chinese. These ships, serving in the Navy as Emilio Jacinto-class patrol vessels are armed with 76mm cannon which at that time a new thing in its fleet that consists mostly of World War 2 vessels. At that time, little they know that the said gun is more electronic in nature rather than mechanical which was common to the WW2 ships the Navy have. These in which makes it difficult where there is little or no idea how to troubleshoot the gun in case of malfunction at that time it isn't that fixed. It takes time until a foreign troubleshooter like the Australians as per Navy request fixed it. At present, there are six ships in the Navy that are armed with the said 76mm Oto Melara cannons.

The same can be apply with combat management systems. Acquiring a black-boxed system without any known Philippine tech expert or engineer participated for that matter is detrimental to many serious risk like the following:

First, like the Oto Melara gun dilemma, it will be difficult to the local engineers to troubleshoot the problem considering that the system in itself is definitely built to military specifications where it is different to the usual software programs running a computer system. Algorithms, encryptions and other deeper functions and the lack of knowledge about its nature or in the way the software runs are primarily attributes to this risk which also an attribute to the next risk.

Second, it may be difficult for these local engineers again to incorporate any upgrades to the system or modifications if new hardware is installed. These ships, having an attribute of fitted for, but not with number of weapons such as the vertical launch system may have a problem to the CMS where inclusion of these said systems may encounter problems. This in which for sure requires tech support from the systems manufacturer which may lead to third and the last risk.

Third, any national defense-related matter or some information that is only consumable within the organization may have the risk to get leaked out and may have exposed to those have interest to gather such information. And that includes potential enemies where it may possibly be used to re-evaluate strategies that can be countered against the country for that matter. For sure, almost no one within the ranks nor even to the people concerned will let this thing happen. Reference for the points are given by context here by the Office of Naval Research, United States.

The thing here is that there is more to be done to make this right in the sense that understanding the importance of a combat management system in the ship is very essential wherein any encryption, algorithm, security protocols and system integration/synchronization are being considered very closely so as to determine the overall capabilities the ship may have the way it is expected or somewhat way better than that where it is a useful deterrence at sea. Read this article pertaining to the software in a combat management system.

To take note, the Philippines also have such problem in the past
where introduction of new weapons system comes with problems.
Like in the past where gaining skills on troubleshooting and operating electronic-based 76mm Oto Melara guns in each Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels takes a harsh experience on a worst case of troubleshooting and operating these guns in a then manual-based fleet, the Navy may take this kind of lesson where any measures shall be done where the same shall not be apply to combat management system in each warship in which by nature, the most precious portion of a combat vessel in a sense that the reliability of these ships to achieve its mission as well as the crew's survival upon undertaking the mission lies at stake. Bottomline is that, in today's environment filled enhanced with technology and increased sophistication, it might as well be helpful to give the significance not only pertaining to a Combat Management System fitted on a ship but as well on the command infrastructure of the military in general where it-time updates are given as well as tapping the technology to its highest potential to the favor who use it wisely. In that sense, it shall be worthy to gain the knowhow as well as the training of personnel about the nature of such said system where once being fully integrated, the ships will be as much as capable wherein expectations are met.

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