Brains of a Ship

Software that manages combat at sea

The year—2030. The location—the Pacific Ocean. Combat ships are circling a controversial swath of open ocean. The 2 million-square-mile territory is strategically important for military navigation and multiple countries are claiming control.

This may sound like the opening of the latest geopolitical thriller, but this fictional scene is a plausible scenario as navies continue to grapple with evolving threats.

Fortunately, deep within a ship, there’s a hidden system prepared to deal with them all. 

Combat Management System

In simplest terms, a naval combat management system is the computer and software that integrates all of a ship’s weapons, data, sensors and other equipment into a single system. Basically, it allows the crew to counter threats faster and more efficiently, especially during combat or security operations.

Combat management systems perform four key functions:

  • Situational awareness: Collects information about the surrounding environment through radars and sensors.
  • Intelligence: Converts the data into actionable intelligence.
  • Planning: Presents the information in an easily digestible format so the commander and crew can quickly develop a plan.
  • Command and control: Directs weapon systems to engage and destroy incoming threats. 

Who's Doing It Best

Not all naval combat management systems are equally adept in managing changing combat environments.

Here are two systems that are helping navies prevail against a vast array of threats.

CMS 330

The Combat Management System 330, called CMS 330, is the newest system for the navies of Canada, New Zealand and Chile. This technology allows them to carry out multiple operations while keeping an unblinking eye on near-by, evolving threats.

This Canadian designed system will play a crucial role in keeping a naval unit intact and functioning in the face of the enemy. Missions will range from protecting the Arctic border to patrolling the South Pacific.

CMS 330 works by integrating signals from different radars, sensors and weapon systems to develop a complete picture of the ship’s surrounding environment. This provides sailors with the situational awareness and intelligence to quickly react.

A key aspect of the system is that it was designed to interact with other systems from  navies of friendly countries. This means other countries can incorporate the system with their fleets’ software and hardware.

CMS 330 is one of the most modern naval combat management systems in the world with its state-of-the-art technology and interfaces.

“CMS 330 is the perfect solution for platforms with sophisticated weapon and sensor systems that must deliver maximum performance operating in a multi-national coalition task group or standalone environment.” said Gary Fudge, vice president of Canadian Naval Programs at Lockheed Martin Canada.


COMBATSS-21 is the combat management system currently installed on the U.S. Navy’s Freedom-variant littoral combat ships (LCS). The system enables the ship to defend itself by integrating radars, electronic warfare, electro-optical infrared cameras, gun fire control, countermeasures (devices designed to deceive detection systems), and short-range anti-air missiles.

The system will also be expanded to work with new technology and weapons on the Navy’s future Frigate.

It’s derived from the Aegis Weapon System, and built from the Common Source Library (CSL), a software repository that allows for sharing and reuse of code—without an additional cost. This way, when software is developed, debugged or upgraded, it can quickly be released across a fleet, similar to how smartphones receive app updates.

“With the Common Source Library, as sensors and weapons evolve, the software that supports them requires minimal development and minimal crew training in order to adapt to new interfaces,” said David Kugler, COMBATSS-21 program manager. “At the most basic level, CSL is a baseline code capable of being tailored to work with unique ship configurations.”

And with this open architecture, navies can easily add, upgrade or swap defense components—ultimately allowing them to stay ahead of the technology curve. 

Both CMS 330 and COMBATSS-21 support Lockheed Martin’s commitment to keep sailors safe as they defend freedom and global interests on the high seas—now and in the future.