Command & Control

Associated Pages

management of conflict


Systems Engineering of the Battle of Britain C2


Command & Control has developed through the ages. Desert Storm popularized the term in the public consciousness, but it goes back to Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Alexander had a most effective C2 system, as did Ghengis Khan. Modern C2 started with Napoleon, however.

Command and control (C2) is the management of conflict. Command is the responsible decision-making element, while control is the process of trying to implement the commander's decisions in the face of an enemy who has other ideas...

Ideas about C2 have evolved in recent years and there is a vast body of knowledge and practice. However, these obfuscate a relatively straightforward sequence of activities, which turn out to be identical for a number of seemingly quite different systems - indicating the basis for a systems methodology.

The conceptual process is: collect information and intelligence; identify threats and opportunities; generate options and constraints; choose a course of action; execute the planned course of action.

An example of the systems engineering of command and control is to be found in the Battle of Britain, and how it was managed. Unlike most systems engineering, this was executed on the "live" system, i.e., after the system had been built and put into operation, so providing a rather different view of what might be called "operational systems engineering."

I call systems that employ this conceptual sequence of activities IDA Systems - Information, Decision, Action Systems. While C2 practice was really honed by the military, the same ideas developed in many non-military applications: the emergency services (police, fire, ambulance, etc.), air traffic management, and many others. They all share the need to rapidly assimilate new information, relate it to what has been, and is, going on, and take decisive action on that basis. So, they all tend to operate real-time or near-real-time computer systems, their displays are often map-based, with iconic overlays, and so on.

Actually, decision-making, and how we do it, is a much misunderstood subject. I go into the subject of decision-making in these pages.

Command and Control is going through an upheaval at the present time, as the military adapt to the end of the Cold War, and readjust to address international terrorism, and the technologically advanced battlefield warrior.