What is Network-Centric Warfare?

Definition of Network Centric Operations

NCO is a theory that proposes that the application of information age concepts to speed communications and increase situational awareness through networking improves both the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations. Proponents advocate that this allows combat units to be smaller in size, operate more independently and effectively, and undertake a different range of missions than non-networked forces. NCOs are military operations that exploit state-of-the-art information and networking technology to integrate widely dispersed human decision-makers, situational and targeting sensors, and forces and weapons into a highly adaptive, comprehensive system to achieve unprecedented mission effectiveness.

Concurrent technological revolutions

Information technology is one apparent force multiplier, but what we face are three concurrent technological revolutions. The first is in sensor technology. The sensor revolution is twofold: one movement toward sensors able to achieve near-real-time surveillance over vast areas, and another toward smaller, cheaper, more numerous sensors that can be netted to detect, locate, identify, and track targets. Together, these trends can produce systems that will provide the quantity and quality of data needed to create a “situational awareness” that is “global in scope and precise in detail.”

US destroyer PAUL IGNATIUS DDG117 firing the SM-3 missile

Navy Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC)

The CEC system links Navy ships and aircraft operating in a particular area into a single, integrated air-defence network. The radar data collected by each platform is transmitted in real-time to the other units in the network. Each unit in the CEC network fuses its radar data with data received from the other units. As a result, units in the network share a common, composite, real-time air-defence picture. CEC will permit a ship to shoot air-defence missiles at incoming anti-ship missiles that the ship itself cannot see, using radar targeting data gathered by other units in the network. It will also permit air-defence missiles fired by one ship to be guided by other ships or aircraft.


Forward deployment of naval forces that may be widely dispersed geographically, the use of fire and forces massed rapidly from a great distance at decisive locations and times, and the dispersed, highly mobile operations of Marine Corps units are examples of future tasks that will place significant demands on networked forces and information superiority. Future naval forces must be supported by a shared, consolidated picture of the situation, distributed collaborative planning, and battlespace control capabilities. In addition, the troops must be capable of coordinating and massing for land attacks and employing multisensor networking and targeting for undersea warfare and missile defence.



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Naval Post

Naval Post


“Naval Post” is an online defense media company, focused on Warships, Submarines, Naval Air and Naval Missiles. Latest naval news and naval analysis.