CMS: More Inputs, Quicker Solutions

Naval Group - SETIS
SETIS uses increased levels of AI. Naval Group entered into a partnership with the Institute for Research in Information Technology and Automation (Institut de recherche en informatique et en automatique - INRIA) in 2019 to increase AI innovation. (Naval Group)

At the heart of any significant warship is the combat management system. Integration with other CMS is one of the directions that today’s developers are following.

Serving as the combat brain of a warship, a Combat Management System (CMS) is able to provide an analysis of any emerging threats and thereby deliver options to a ship’s commander for a series of responses. The CMS does this by integrating all of the vessel’s sensors and weapons. This provides a full situational awareness picture across the air, surface and underwater domains and shows the weapons available to take action.

The CMS will usually be linked to a ship’s major sensor systems commonly including different navigation, surface search, air defence and targeting radar; electro-optical systems; and sonar systems. It will also be able to receive information from other ships, aircraft and command elements to get enough data and interpret the situation and the relative danger, as well as alerting to the immediacy of any threats by evaluating them.

A CMS does not necessarily provide decision-makers with data from a specific radar, rather it fuses this data with information from all the other onboard sensors and off-board data and presents this on a series of maps and optional overlays. Alerts will keep operators aware of all the active threats whilst each one is being dealt with.

The CMS will provide options for manual control, semi-automatic control or an automatic response to threats. Integration with the weapons systems means that the CMS can allocate an electronic warfare (EW) attack on aircraft, missile and drone threats before kinetic systems such as guns or missiles are fired. The CMS can sense whether a nearby vessel has increased its speed which could be dangerous in the future relative to the ship’s own navigation course. It can also deploy countermeasures, loitering munitions and other systems depending on what the threats are and when they will present the most danger.

To perform these tasks a CMS is largely automatic using processing power to manage the data loads and rapidly present a situational assessment on screen to a commander. In a high-intensity conflict, rapid decision-making is essential therefore the ability of the CMS to automate as many of the analytical processes as possible is vital. In essence, the CMS manages the kill chain from detection to destruction of targets and has to ensure that this is completed as fast as possible.

The threats that ships face at sea is changing with the current focus on engaging fast crewed and uncrewed vessels on the surface, swarms of drones and anti-ship missiles in the air and ballistic and hypersonic missiles. It means that CMS need to integrate new sensors and weapons that are able to detect and respond to these types of threats and the new and updated software needs to understand the behaviour and levels of danger of these threats.

Amir Alon, senior business director of the ISTAR and EW division at Elbit Systems told AMR: “Naval Combat is much more advanced than it used to be. There are more sources of information, some of them from outside the platform from open source data, like AIS contacts, through to intelligence layers from headquarters.”

He explained: “Even radars and sonar provide more information, C4I is more complicated, it is three-dimensional, so you really need the sophistication of the system to process all the data.”

New CMS flying high

The latest CMS from Elbit Naval Systems is Albatross. Alon said that Albatross is a “third generation” system that is able to integrate many more sensor and effector payloads and with more computing power it has a higher processing speed compared to earlier generations of CMS.

Albatross is largely a software product that can be installed on any hardware and is focussed on the ability to integrate weapons and sensors as well as simulator systems from the company’s other divisions. The first example was delivered to a customer in 2021 and has since been sold to the Royal Swedish Navy’s (RSwN) in January 2022 for its Spårö-class mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels, to other European NATO countries and two countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

But the main difference is the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI). “This generation of CMS actually helps to prevent the operator from making mistakes,” Alon stated. “It provides alerts and recommendations just before a mistake is made either in combat or navigation – you get flagged by the system.”

He explained: “You can trust a human operator to take the right action if there is one missile, but what about six missiles and you have to prioritise? The CMS can do this for you, it doesn’t make mistakes, it is not afraid of the situation, it does get seasickness – this is the main advantage.”

Another advantage of Albatross is that the CMS can not only manage all the weapons and sensors on a ship but it can also be operated from different consoles. In older systems there are separate computer stations for each different sensor and weapon: a sonar operator would have a station, the radar operator would have a station and so on.

“Now everything is centralised, everything is managed by the CMS. Albatross can be operated from any console. It gives a lot of flexibility for the senior officers on board – they can see the status of each of the stations and can see a broader picture of the theatre of operations.”

Elbit – Albatross CMS
The Albatross CMS from Elbit has flexibility to alter the symbology, colours and map overlays to provide customised ways of presenting information to operators and improve viewing comfort. (Elbit)

US developments

One of the most sophisticated CMS is the Aegis system from US defence company Lockheed Martin. It has been developed for the US Navy to conduct high-intensity air warfare and defeat integrated air missile defence threats. Aegis has been in-service for decades with the US Navy and its longevity is because of its flexibility and that it has been able to add new technologies and updates so that the latest software is now unrecognisable from its original iteration.

As part of this constant update process in September 2023, the company was selected by the US Navy to be its Integrated Combat System (ICS) Systems Engineering and Software Integration (SESI) agent.

This role means that Lockheed Martin is tasked with making the update process across the fleet faster. It will design an integrated warfare system architecture and future combat system capabilities, so that software updates can be delivered in real time across the Navy’s surface fleet.

Whilst surface platforms today have specific solutions with unique hardware and different contracts, the company believes the future of ICS is to have a government-owned software development environment, maximising commonality across all aspects of the combat system and enabling a networked level of capabilities above the platform level.

“The main drivers are the evolution of threats and technology,” Amr Hussein, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin told AMR: “Our extensive experience in systems integration, coupled with the latest technologies and processes, allows us to continually enhance our capabilities to ensure our customers are current and ahead of future threats.”

He added: “For programmes like the Integrated Combat System (ICS), we are implementing a digital thread that spans the entire ecosystem and incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) with a human on the loop component. Additionally, we are utilising DevSecOps and model-based engineering to enable us to rapidly make upgrades for the warfighter.”

A new combat systems framework will provide platforms with new capabilities such as the US Navy’s new SPY-7 radar and Directed Energy weapons that will support a series of new pillars. These include applying the concept of anti-fragility that will increase industry’s ability to ramp up production of key systems; introduce emerging innovators to strengthen the industrial base and accelerate the adoption of new digital technologies (including ethical AI and quantum computing) through a standards-based, modular open architecture to allow the US and its allies to work from the same framework and allow greater interoperability.

It is also providing the Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) for the amphibious ships in the US Navy. Lockheed Martin stated that as the ICS, the company is “evolving the architecture, which will enable the pulling of capabilities across software libraries (SSDS and Aegis) defining interfaces to create scalable solutions and accelerating capability insertion across the surface navy.”

US Navy LM
The US Navy’s plans for an ICS will see the rapid implementation of updates across all of its platforms that will keep its ships up to speed with the latest enhancements in CMS software and capabilities. (Lockheed Martin)

Non-US integration

Lockheed Martin also provides the CMS 330 that was originally developed for the Royal Canadian Navy as a CMS product for the international market that is not as expensive or high-end as the Aegis CMS. CMS 330 is used by the Royal New Zealand Navy, Chilean Navy and Taiwan’s Republic of China Navy.

An open architecture design means that a variety of subsystems can be applied including new sensors and effectors. This can achieved using what the company describes as “an adaptive layer” utilising “mature and defined integration processes,” which allow for the inclusion of partners in the development process. Importantly, it also provides for a full suite of training systems and logistical support. The ability for a CMS to be used in realistic training scenarios and to be well maintained are key naval requirements.

Aegis is also being integrated with other non-US CMS. In May 2023, Lockheed Martin formed a common operational picture between its new International Aegis Fire Control Loop (IAPCL) and the SCOMBA CMS from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. This new capability will be introduced into the Spanish Navy’s five new Bonifaz-class (F 110) frigates to support its ASW and AAW capabilities by using Aegis track data.

In a demonstration at Lockheed Martin’s Aegis-SCOMBA Integration Center in Moorestown, New Jersy, the IAFCL was able to send simulated SPY-7 radar data to SCOMBA and receive the associated SCOMBA host track in return, as well as receive non-IAFCL tracks from the SCOMBA system. The IAFCL code is built from the Aegis Common Source Library (CSL) allowing for it to be integrated into other nation’s CMS.

According to a press release from Navantia: “This will lead to the first F-110 IAFCL computer program export, delivery, and installation at Navantia’s Land-Based Test Site in San Fernando, Spain in 2024.”

The company explained: “This initial IAFCL and SCOMBA integration was the critical first building block to reach Combat System Light Off for the first ship of class, F-111, in 2027. The F-110 computer program integration and test will continue after land-based test site integration with the first Solid State SPY-7(V)2 Radar Engineering Development Model being installed at the Aegis-SCOMBA Integration Center in 2024.”

European success

Meanwhile French shipbuilder, Naval Group, has been providing its SETIS CMS to the French Navy for its eight Aquitaine-class (FREMM) and five Amiral Ronarc’h-class Frégate de Défense et d’Intervention (FDI) frigate (FDI) frigates. SETIS has been modified for more advanced air defence capabilities for the FREMM DA (air defence) ships variants.

SETIS is designed for high-end combat operations and has been sold to the navies of Egypt and Morocco for their FREMM frigates, the UAE’s two Gowind corvettes, and Greece for its three Kimon-class (FDI) frigates. SETIS has also been used to integrate the combat systems of the new Argentine Navy’s Gowind Offshore Patrol Vessels and for the Belgian OPVs and Mine Countermeasure Vessels with specific configurations to suit the capabilities of those ships.

To meet specific requirements from the Royal Malaysian Navy for its six Maharaja Lela-class (Gowind) corvettes, Naval Group has developed SISTELA, a new CMS that is derived from SETIS but is being delivered in partnership with local Malaysian industry under technology transfer agreement. It is designed to match the RMN’s sensors and weapons payloads into their new ships.

Naval Group ship CMS integration
An example of the ways in which the SETIS CMS is able to integrate with the full suite of ship’s sensors, weapons and aviation capabilities. (Naval Group)

Elsewhere, Naval Group has developed the I4Drone CMS, which is a specific package for the Belgian Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy that is designed to help integrate uncrewed vehicles into the main ship’s CMS.

Italian defence company Leonardo has developed a ‘Naval Cockpit’ concept for the Italian Navy’s seven new Pattugliatori Polivalenti di Altura (PPA) -class patrol ships. The Cockpit has two operator stations for a pilot and co-pilot that have a mix of functionality and includes navigation and ship control features alongside those of a CMS.

This is suitable for ships like OPVs and other non-combatant vessels that do not have the complex sensors and weapons of a major surface combatant. The increased levels of automation in the CMS means that these features can be incorporated alongside other C2 capabilities. As a result there are fewer crew required on the bridge and they can all respond more rapidly to threats.

Meanwhile the 9LV CMS from Swedish manufacturer Saab Systems has moved beyond operations specific to the Baltic Sea and can integrate with a wider number of sensors and weapons and using AI can manage larger amounts of data including from off-board sources transmitted to the ship through the communications systems.

Expanding markets

In South Korea, local company Hanwha has developed a CMS product that also serves an in integrated ship solution for the management of equipment on future warships. Employing at three-screen multifunction console, using carbon fibre reinforced plastic to enhance strength and reduce weight, the Hanwha CMS serves as the main control console for the ship’s equipment. This includes the traditional CMS along with the engineering control system, integrated bridge system, with crewed-uncrewed teaming capabilities.

The use of AI allows for the operation of numerous tasks from the console, which is proficient in target detection and tracking, threat assessment, weapon allocation and hit assessment.

Hanwha has supplied CMS to the Philippines Navy, providing a system in 2017 for its two 2,600ton frigates, then in 2019 it provided a CMS enhancement for the PKM frigates.

In 2022, Hanwha supplied its new internally developed CMS for the PN’s 3,100ton frigates and in April 2023 to the six 2,400 ton OPVs. This makes a total of 13 PN vessels and the company said there are plans to begin exports to SE Asia, Middle East and Latin America.

Elsewhere Marakeb Technologies in the UAE is developing a new National CMS (NCMS). Announced at the Dubai Air Show in 20201 by the Tawazun Economic Council, it was expected that a foreign partner will be selected to assist with the four-year development cycle and that talks were underway with European companies. However, it is not clear if any partnerships have been formed. The NCMS will be used by UAE Navy warships and UAE Coastguard vessels.

by Tim Fish