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Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance (C5ISR)

Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance (C5ISR)

C5ISR: Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance.


Command, control, communication, computers, cyber-defense (C5), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), or C5ISR, refers to integrated and networked systems that enhance decision-making and situational awareness for military operators across the services. This includes for the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, and Space Force. C5ISR works to provide users with comprehensive live domain awareness, allowing individuals to respond to events in real time. Traditionally, C5ISR and related technologies have been used by operators in centralized control rooms, which led to poor detection rates and worse response times. However, C5ISR has modernized to integrate artificial intelligence and cloud technologies to enable new C5ISR technologies capable of analyzing vast quantities of data to identify trends human operators may otherwise miss.

The general mission for C5ISR, its teams, and related equipment and technologies is to help users in their situational awareness and overall decision-making. These technologies can further enable information dominance and decisive lethality in the case of a networked soldier. The networked soldier is a concept of the soldier with integrated information technology, giving them different layered views of a battlefield and increasing their overall situational awareness, which relies on mobile, secured networks to maintain the relay of information. This can also increase the capabilities of the soldier in the field and increase the soldier's autonomy away from a centralized command structure.

A common example of C5ISR is a command and control post with an internet connection, servers, workstations, and cybersecurity defenses, such as a LInux system hardening security software or self-encrypting storage drives, which support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities of nearby ground vehicles, aircraft, and foot soldiers. This can further increase cooperation among the services.

Command and control and C5ISR

Command and control, often referred to as C2, is a term that refers to the work that goes into preparing for and executing missions. Many of the processes involved in command and control revolve around the equipment and management needed to gather relevant information, make decisions, disseminate information, and execute missions. C2, as a general framework, is the basis for other approaches, including C4ISR and C5ISR.


C4iSR includes seven components: command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. C5ISR builds on those components to add cyber-defense, the fifth "C." Without this element, C4ISR is considered to not address the threat of cyber security risks, which a C5ISR system must protect against. This includes threats related to intelligence and information warfare, as well as sensitive data leaks and breaches. Due to this, with the growing threat of information warfare and data breaches, C5ISR is sometimes thought of as the maturation of C4ISR. Others, on the other hand, consider them separate approaches to similar problems.

C5ISR enables C2

C5ISR systems work to enable command and control by giving warfights the equipment to achieve ultimate situational awareness. This further provides commanders and related personnel to have reliable and secure access to communications and any forms of intelligence, including various sources of data, which aids them in their decision-making and the completion of the overall mission. According to the United States Army, the purpose of C5ISR is to enable information dominance and decisive lethality for networked soldiers. Related equipment can include radios, workstations, smartphones, night vision, and electronic sensors. But all technology needs to be reliable in deployed environments and robust enough to withstand attack.

Modernization of C5ISR

With increased modernization, C5ISR technologies are increasingly playing a role in combat missions and military operations, allowing decision-makers to make more informed decisions and have more granular control over the battlefield. C5ISR has also been an area of intense interest in terms of research and development in the case of developing more modernized technologies and systems for C5ISR capable of being deployed in the field and by multiple operators. This can increase the soldier's situational awareness, the individual's ability to make decisions, and also the commander's ability to command multiple units in real time. Some of these technologies include cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, intelligence, data analysis, and fusion, tactical network design, wireless communications, radar sensors, electro-optics, mission command applications, autonomy and machine learning, power and energy, modeling and simulation, counter-IED, minefield detection and defeat, and assured positioning, navigation, and timing.

Advanced battlefield management systems

One such development in C5ISR is the advanced battlefield management systems (AMBS), which is a portable tactical control and command information system, which can be integrated with decision-making tools, weapon platforms, systems, and advanced sensors. This type of system can integrate handheld and wearable information systems for individual commanders and soldiers or vehicle-mounted information systems for land-based operations. It also includes subsystems such as networking system database server and infrastructure-less communication, application server, computing platforms, relational database management system, with GPS embedded systems.

Integrated solutions

Another effort into modernization in C5ISR has been the development of integrated solutions, including ground combat vehicles that can provide forces with a military vehicle capable of supporting infantry and provide a standardized information technology architecture. Part of this development includes reducing the weight and power of included electronics to lower lifecycle costs and increase interoperability while providing an information architecture that supplies soldiers with the data and communication capability required on the battlefield.


August 30, 2022
Army looks to industry to fill capability gaps in software acquisition reform and department-wide modernization.
August 29, 2022
Army leaders reviewing network portfolio, looking to place 'big bets' on new technology.
January 6, 2022
US Navy awards $137 million contract for C5ISR systems sustainment.
June 4, 2019
The Army wants C5ISR systems on demand.

Further Resources


The Army wants C5ISR systems on demand

Mark Pomerleau


June 4, 2019

The Future of C5ISR - Picogrid


US Navy awards $137m contract for C5ISR systems sustainment


January 6, 2022


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