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Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber-Defense, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance (C6ISR)

Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber-Defense, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance (C6ISR)

Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber-Defense, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C6ISR) refers to an increased use of autonomous systems integrated into weapon and defense systems.


Command, control, communication, computers, cyber-defense, combat systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C6ISR) is considered by many to be the paradigm of future warfare, in which victory is measured by a digital footprint and the systems can be controlled by the information technology domain to increase the speed of military reaction times in conflict. C6ISR is relied upon by the Department of Defense (DoD) and other related U.S. government agencies and departments to meet emerging threats. These include new threats and increasingly sophisticated threats from adversaries in the regions of space, land, air, maritime, and cyber. C6ISR also presents new ways to integrate and augment current systems with advanced technologies to increase the accuracy, comprehensiveness, and cybersecurity of intelligence.

This includes using C6ISR technologies and capabilities to face challenges in multi-domain operations, including the following challenges:

  • Big data—where the increasing volumes of data can slow the "data-to-decision" cycle
  • New systems—where expanding systems and capabilities can add complexity to information sharing
  • Data security—includes securing cross-domain data sharing and addressing cyber vulnerabilities in the data plane
  • Multi-domain operations (MDO)—includes the development, counter, and defeat of near-peer adversaries within the land, air, sea, space, and cyber realms
  • Zero trust architecture/zero trust networking—where C6ISR can work to address specific cybersecurity architecture and secure networks to prevent data breaches, identify logical components, use case testing, and threat identification for better security
  • Joint all domain warfighting labs (JADC2)—where connecting "sensor-to-shooter" can enable C2 and C6ISR joint and integrated virtual common operating picture to track all assets from an intelligence perspective
  • 5G/6G—where C6ISR can enable the use of a higher range wireless spectrum for a data platform to transmit data faster than older generation networks and with low-to-no latency and to help accelerate the adoption of internet of things (IoT)
  • Internet of things (IoT)—where C6ISR can enable ecosystems of smart computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, and the ability to pass secured data through multiple environments
C6ISR programs

C6ISR is commonly considered to be part of a future warfare program, in which C6ISR can provide autonomous technology for weapon and defense systems, which can be interspersed with military troop intervention. This can include man in the loop and man out of the loop missions, in which C6ISR-based autonomous weapon systems offer lethal devices capable of surveying their surroundings and identifying and tracking potential enemy targets. Once identified, the C6ISR weapon system can also be developed to independently choose to attack those targets based on sophisticated algorithms. Otherwise, the system would be triggered by a human operator.

These systems typically include a seek and respond system, in which seek is an autonomous pivot that could be land, ship, or aerial platform with computer-based systems and application software that comprises the C6ISR-based decision support system. This decision support and seek system is further integrated into the respond system, which offers autonomous strike systems and includes both kinetic and non-kinetic combat platforms capable of operating in an automated man in the loop system or autonomous man out of the loop system.

These systems require the integration of core elements, such as a mobile combat platform—which could be a drone, ship, or ground vehicle; sensors of various types capable of collecting and scrutinizing the platform's surroundings; processing systems to classify objects from the sensors; and algorithms to direct the platform to initiate the attack when allowable targets have been detected.

C6ISR in the C2 structure
The Aegis Combat System which would include an onboard C6ISR combat information center.

C6ISR is a part of the command and control structure, along with peer systems such as C4ISR and C5ISR. Each technological approach and procedure works to use different facilities, equipment, personnel, and procedures across application, environment, and mission to support command and control imperatives. Where C4ISR is often in a command and control post with internet connectivity, servers, and workstations that can interface with soldiers to gather intelligence, C5ISR is often in a similar post but offers cybersecurity defenses to further support the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of nearby vehicles, aircraft, and footsoldiers. C6ISR is often more focused on a combat information center aboard a warship or other area, offering an internet connection, servers, workstations, and cybersecurity defenses, all of which aim to support a defense system, such as the Aegis Combat System. Because of this, C6ISR is sometimes thought of as an evolution of the previous C4ISR and C5ISR systems, which is not helped by the use of C4ISR to refer to all three systems in many DoD publications and among officials and defense contractors.


Further Resources


C6ISR - C6



Joint C6ISR and Exploitation of Space Domain - A Roadmap to Address the Capability Gaps

Lt Gen Anil Kapoor


STS International | Leading C6ISR Government Contractor



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