Command, Control, and Communications Countermeasures

by Capt S.A. Raub

Command, control, and communications countermeasures is a term for a concept based on several established elements of warfare. It emphasizes that the commander must integrate all of his capabilities to fight effectively and win on today’s battlefield.

In recent years there has been increasing discussion within the military establishment on how to “fight smarter.” The emphasis has been on the thought process of the commander and his perspective of the battlefield. The concept of “maneuver warfare” has had a significant impact on the Marine Corps and has generated a great deal of healthy debate on tactics and different ways of fighting.

Another widely used term within the Services during recent years has been command, control, and communications countermeasures or C^sup 3^CM. Although prevalent in the other Services and especially in electronic warfare (EW) circles, the term C^sup 3^CM may be unfamiliar to many Marines. The Marine Corps has generally been wary of accepting the precepts of C^sup 3^CM because of uncertainty about how the concept will be coordinated and employed within the Marine Corps and also how it will be implemented in joint commands. Some also ask if C^sup 3^CM is a new strategy that adds to our ability to fight more effectively or is it simply a reshuffling of already accepted principles? Do we have sufficient intelligence resources, weapon systems, and electronic warfare equipment to fully implement a C^sup 3^CM strategy?

This article will describe the concept of C^sup 3^CM as presented in Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) policy statements, outline its significant aspects, attempt to dispel some of the misinterpretations of the term, and discuss how C^sup 3^CM might influence Marine Corps combat operations.

Before beginning this discussion it is necessary to look at command, control, and communications (C^sup 3^), since without an understanding of it, C^sup 3^CM cannot be intelligently addressed. The JCS has defined C^sup 3^ as:

The process of and the means for the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned forces in the accomplishment of the commander’s mission . . . C^sup 3^ capabilities will include resources to:

(1) Obtain, report, communicate, process, analyze, synthesize, disseminate information to support command planning and decision-making.

(2) Formulate alternative courses of action.

(3) Make decisions.

(4) Communicate orders to subordinates and receive the results of actions and the status of forces.

While this definition is formally accepted by the Services, the actual application differs widely in each Service due to differences in combat environments, and doctrine. Contrasting the Marine Corps’ view of C^sup 3^ in a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) with combat organizations in the other Services can give us a better perspective of our own attributes. It also gives us an opportunity to look at the attitudes of the Army, Navy, and Air Force with whom we inevitably will be working m future wars.

Combat Environment

The dramatic differences in approach to C^sup 3^ can best be illustrated by contrasting the span of control at the two-star command level of the MAGTF with the other Services. An Army division commander has under his control approximately 18,000 troops who occupy a frontage of 16 kilometers and a depth of 40 kilometers. His orders are communicated through several layers of subordinate commands, and consequently, their execution is somewhat delayed. The division employs a wide array of weapons firing bullets, ATGMs, artillery shells, and rockets. The spatial orientation of the commander is mostly two dimensional since his forces are primarily ground troops and his helicopters generally operate at tree-top level within the battle area. Compare this to a rear admiral commanding a Navy battle group, who directs a force of approximately 8,500 and mans some 9 surface combatants, a submarine, and 80 aircraft. His area of influence may extend in a 400-nautical-mile radius. He knows the exact positions of his subordinate units at all times-an advantage no ground commander would ever have-and his ships and aircraft can respond to his orders very rapidly. The guided missile, be it air, surface, or subsurface launched, is the naval commander’s primary offensive weapon and also the greatest threat to his own forces. The nearest Air Force equivalent command level is a lieutenant general commanding a numbered Air Force. He may have 10 wings under him, each commanded by a colonel, with each wing comprising approximately 72 aircraft. He can communicate almost immediately with any of his subordinate units including those airborne. The primary threat to his units is also an air or surface launched missile.

When we examine the combat environment of the commanding general of a Marine amphibious force (MAF), we find he faces a unique C^sup 3^ situation. He must operate in all three combat environments since he commands air and ground forces and will coordinate with the Navy amphibious task force in his role as commander landing force (CLF). The MAF commander is at a tremendous advantage with respect to C^sup 3^ because he controls both the ground and the airspace above it in his battle area. As LtGen Trainor noted many years ago (MCG, Dec80), “A good C^sup 3^ system has but one purpose, to ensure that everyone and everything is doing the will of the commander,” and the will of the commander must extend to every aspect of the battlefield. When all of the planning and coordination is done in one headquarters, the C^sup 3^ problem is greatly simplified. The Navy and Air Force are much more centralized in their command structure, while the Army and Marine Corps emphasize decentralization by delegating more authority to subordinate commanders. The average rank of the commanders in the chain of command declines rather rapidly from the Navy down to the Army. The admiral’s movable subordinates are confined to ship’s captains and aircraft pilots while the Army commander’s movable subordinates include thousands of individuals down to the lowest enlisted grades. The Marine and Army forces are similar in this respect. When we compare communications environments, the ground forces are operating amid the manmade and natural clutter of earth’s surface and use predominantly VHF radios. Their communications systems tend to be transportable, which creates certain inherent difficulties with regard to C^sup 3^. The air units of the four Services operate in a three-dimensional air mass using primarily the UHF band and obviously have much better line-of-sight communications than do the “ground pounders.” Naval forces must communicate over the vast distances of the oceans; and not only their surface but also the air above and the water below. The Navy relies generally on UHF frequencies and uses HF to a lesser extent.

Clearly, each commander has a view of his mission, the threat to his forces, and his role in directing the battle that differs greatly from his counterparts in the other Services.

When we compare combat environments we must also see that each force anticipates a different type of engagement. The Navy in carrying out its mission of sea control engages the enemy to protect sea lanes and provides secure operating areas for the conduct of air strikes and amphibious operations. It expects to meet opposing forces in major naval engagements only a few times during a war. Battles will last for many hours, perhaps days, and will be decisive and far-reaching in impact. The Air Force fights a war for air control and battlefield support. Operations are governed by daily air tasking orders detailing the next day’s mission, which lead to brief engagements with the enemy, followed by return to home base and receipt of tomorrow’s frag orders. Contrastingly, Army and Marine ground forces fight in constant contact with the enemy. The FEBA never goes away and battles of prolonged duration occur frequently.

With such different perspectives on C^sup 3^ the Services then understandably have divergent attitudes toward C^sup 3^CM. Having laid this background, what exactly is C^sup 3^CM?

What is C^sup 3^CM?

The Department of Defense defined C^sup 3^CM in DOD Directive 4600.4, issued, 27 August 1979 as:

The integrated use of operations security, military deception, jamming and physical destruction, supported by intelligence, to deny information, influence, degrade, or destroy adversary C^sup 3^ capabilities and to protect friendly C^sup 3^ against such actions.

JCS policy goes on to state the goal of C^sup 3^CM is “to deny enemy commanders effective command and control of their own forces and to maintain effective command and control of U.S. and allied forces.” (Figure 1)

It is apparent that the components of C3CM are not new. They have long been accepted as measures aggressively applied by every skilled commander. The term C^sup 3^CM was coined to emphasize the incorporation of these principles into one strategy. C^sup 3^CM integrates all the capabilities of the resources available to the commander, both lethal (direct assault, close air support, artillery) and nonlethal (jamming, deception, OPSEC) into a set of options to help him achieve the best mix to support his scheme of maneuver. It also recognizes the very serious vulnerability of our own C^sup 3^ capabilities to a Soviet-type threat; therefore, there is a defensive as well as an offensive aspect to the concept. The defensive aspect is called “C^sup 3^ protection” and is defined as those measures taken to maintain the effectiveness of friendly C^sup 3^ capabilities from actual or potential enemy efforts. The offensive aspect is labeled as “counter-C^sup 3^” and defined as those measures taken to deny enemy decisionmakers the ability to effectively command and control their forces.

One underlying assumption of the concept is that in certain situations greater effect can be gained by focusing an attack on a force’s command, control, and communications structure than on his weapons systems. If the C^sup 3^ systems of a military organization-its central nervous system-are paralyzed for a period of time or partially destroyed, the rest of the organization will become uncoordinated and vulnerable and lose its impetus. The more centralized the enemy, the less initiative he normally gives to lower echelons, the more successful the strategy is apt to be.

C^sup 3^ Critical Node Analysis

An important aspect of the intelligence support for C^sup 3^CM is “C^sup 3^ critical node analysis.” A critical node is defined as an element, position, or communications entity whose disruption or destruction immediately degrades the ability of a force to command, control, or effectively conduct combat operations. If we can identify C^sup 3^ “bottlenecks” or “chokepoints,” we can achieve a significant tactical effect by knocking them out. An example of a C^sup 3^ node is the armored command vehicle of a motorized rifle division commander, a forward air controller, or a telephone switching center. Suppression or neutralization of a crucial node at a critical point of the battle may serve our purpose as well as would the more difficult goal of physical destruction. Thus, the combination of identifying the critical C^sup 3^ node, determining the time when its disruption would have the greatest impact on the enemy force, and selecting the weapon which can most effectively engage the target are essential elements of C^sup 3^CM.

In order to implement the C^sup 3^CM strategy, a list of C^sup 3^ critical nodes must be developed. This is where the intelligence support to C^sup 3^CM comes in. Certainly, C^sup 3^ systems are always on the target lists of the operations officer and are prioritized in relation to other targets, such as gun positions, armored penetrations, staging areas, logistics areas, runways, etc. The priorities assigned to the categories of targets depend on the commander’s estimate of the situation.

A great deal of work has been done by Service intelligence agencies to develop data bases with all pertinent details about the threat forces. There is discussion of creating a separate C^sup 3^CM data base, and particular information on these nodes, to aid targeting. Such a data base would be of tremendous benefit to the MAGTF’s G-2, target intelligence officer, radio battalion, and VMAQ-2 detachment, however, there is a lot of work to be done before such a data base can be tailored and integrated into our present intelligence system. Those interested in a good discussion of critical nodes may want to locate a copy of the TAC/ TRADOC Pamphlet entitled Joint Operational Concepts Of C^sup 3^CM(U).

Counter-C^sup 3^

A central theme of C^sup 3^CM is the combining of jamming, military deception, and OPSEC with physical destruction for offensive actions. This can be described as a ”blending of lethal and nonlethal” weapons. For example, in a given situation is it more effective to jam the enemy’s command radio net than to use artillery or CAS to suppress or neutralize the target? In seeking an answer, the commander’s considerations include:

* Artillery and CAS require an accurate target location (to at least 100 meters) for destruction, while jamming requires only an accurate frequency identification and a general direction to the receiver.

* Use of jamming resources assists in reducing the number of targets our weapons systems must attack by fire.

* Jamming requires less logistical support.

On the other hand, the commander and his staff must also consider the fact that jamming could lead to enemy artillery fires being brought on our jamming unit. Also, jamming is suppressive, i.e., temporary, as opposed to the more extended effects of neutralization or destruction by supporting arms. Thus, electronic countermeasures (ECM) can be considered an offensive weapon along with other weapons, and one that has its own inherent capabilities and limitations. Similar considerations exist for using deception also. The point is that the commander and his staff need to consider these options in their planning process and to employ the best combination for the situation.

Radio Electronic Combat

Having focused on the offensive aspects of C^sup 3^CM, we know it is well to keep in mind that the Soviets also recognize the value of this concept and plan to employ it against us. Consequently, we have to consider C^sup 3^ protection. The Soviets have a very well-developed doctrine, similar to C^sup 3^CM, known as radio electronic combat (REC). LtGen J.A. Williams, USA, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency has described REC as:

the combining of all forms of intelligence, direction findings, intensive jamming, deception and suppressive fire from ground, air and seaborne platforms to attack enemy organizations and systems through their electronic means of control.

Its objective is the disruption, delay, or destruction of our C^sup 3^ systems at critical times during the battle. Characteristically, the Soviets will come to the battle with not only a preponderance of tanks, artillery, and aircraft but also of electronic warfare equipment. They fully intend to jam or destroy at least half of our C^sup 3^ electronic systems, and if they are successful they will have gone a long way toward winning the battle. In comparison, REC, in and of itself, is limited to actions in the electromagnetic spectrum while C^sup 3^CM is extended to all forms of military deception, jamming, OPSEC, and physical destruction. REC will be employed in conjunction with physical destruction means to achieve counter-C^sup 3^. Both C^sup 3^CM and REC include measures taken to protect friendly C^sup 3^ from hostile actions. An excellent unclassified description of REC is contained in the Marine Corps’ Operational Handbook 3-4, Electronic Warfare Operations Handbook.

EW and C^sup 3^CM

One significant obstacle to a clear understanding of C^sup 3^CM is that as a strategy, it is often confused with electronic warfare. Elements of EW are included in C^sup 3^CM-jamming and electronic deception (Figure 2)-however, EW is a discipline in its own right, just as communications, logistics, and intelligence are separate disciplines. C^sup 3^CM is not a separate discipline; it is a strategy that the commander uses to integrate the uses of various techniques and weapons. This is an extremely important distinction to make because too often the terms are blended together and become synonymous. This leads to misleading terms such as “C^sup 3^CM hardware,” “EW/C^sup 3^CM,” “C^sup 3^CM officer,” “C^sup 3^CM conditions,” and “hostile C^sup 3^CM environment.” C^sup 3^CM hardware could be artillery, iron bombs, jammers, direction finders, or practically anything else including a bayonet, depending upon how the equipment is being used at the time. Consequently, it’s really a meaningless phrase. EW/C^sup 3^CM is a term used extensively by those in the electronic warfare community and, in fact, this group has been the main proponent of C^sup 3^CM. They recognize our increasing dependence on electronics for communications, information sorting, acquisition of targets, and for guidance systems. To quote Gen Trainor again, “Astute use of electronics in all its forms in conjunction with superior intelligence and operational security can practically deliver the enemy into the commander’s hands for the death blow.” Electronics is utilized in all the aspects of C^sup 3^ and is an important element of our intelligence systems that are required to support C^sup 3^CM. However, to try to turn C^sup 3^CM into a separate discipline ignores the fact that it involves every functional area of military operations.

Generally, when “C^sup 3^CM” is used as an adjective it tends to obscure the meaning of the phrase rather than clarify it. Should the commander have a new special staff officer in charge of C^sup 3^CM; a C^sup 3^CMO? I don’t think so. JCS policy states that a staff component should be designated to be the point of contact for C^sup 3^CM activities. Some have taken this to mean that a new special staff officer in charge of C^sup 3^CM should be designated to handle all C^sup 3^CM activities. C^sup 3^CM involves functions that are difficult to direct and coordinate in themselves because they cross functional staff areas. For instance, operations security is the responsibility of every subordinate commander, every staff officer from operations to supply, and indeed every member of the unit. Military deception may involve both maneuver elements and fire support elements, will be based on intensive intelligence analysis, and requires special OPSEC measures. Consequently, all elements of the organization may become involved. Taking these things into account, to create a separate staff function to integrate all OPSEC, deception, jamming, and destruction would be highly disruptive to proper staff functioning. A much more reasonable method to obtain the necessary coordination is through the normal staff functioning to achieve mutually supporting actions. Thus, no separate C^sup 3^CM officer need be designated, but all members of the staff will utilize a C^sup 3^CM strategy as the commander directs. The only C^sup 3^CM officer is the commander himself who will employ the strategy as he chooses to best suit his concept of operations. The point of contact for coordinating C^sup 3^CM activities is the operations officer, since he is already tasked with the tactical employment of units, has cognizance over electronic warfare and fire support coordination, coordinates with the communications-electronics officer, and has responsibility for putting together deception plans, when appropriate.

C^sup 2^ and C^sup 3^

One very important aspect of C^sup 3^CM concerns the relationship of the third “C”-communications-to command and control. In the broadest sense all command and control involves some form of communications, whether it be electronic, visual, or audio signals. A reconnaissance patrol’s report transmitted by radio will influence the decisionmaking process of the commander. Likewise, a call for fire from a forward observer, the radio link between a tactical air controller (airborne) and close air support aircraft, or an air support radar team net all relate to command and control. But does an antiship missile represent the physical destruction aspect of C^sup 3^CM? Does jamming the search radar of a SAM site constitute C^sup 3^CM or just ECM? Trying to draw a line between command communications and other communications is very touchy, but to take C^sup 3^ in its widest possible sense results in making C^sup 3^CM a synonym for all combat. After all, every action of coordination and direction between units at every level involves communications.

This seems to be the way in which many proponents of C^sup 3^CM use the term and this “painting of the battlefield with a C^sup 3^CM paintbrush” is one of the reasons the term has been rejected by quite a number in the Marine Corps. For instance, what is excluded from C^sup 3^ in this definition from Under Secretary of Defense Dr. De Lauer (DOD Working Group on C^sup 3^CM, Final Report, 30 Jan 1980)?

C^sup 3^ is defined to include the origination of information at the sensor, the flow of information through various levels of data handling, the necessary processing of data, decision-making, the issuing of execution orders to an engagement system, and control until a weapon is no longer guided. C^sup 3^CM actions can take place at any stage in this process.

This definition seems to assume the sensor might be an acquisition radar and the weapon radar controlled. But the sensor could also be a combat patrol and the weapon an M16. How do we then decide how narrowly or widely we will define and then apply C^sup 3^CM?

LtCol G.J. Friedman, USAF, in the Air Land Bulletin, No. 82-1, 1 Feb 82, attempts to clarify the problem this way:

The third C was added to reflect the necessity for effective communications as an adjunct to command and control in today’s modern, fast-moving, complex style of war. However, there was no intent to displace the real objective of denying command and control with the more superficial one of communications countermeasures. . .the name of the game is still “C^sup 2^” warfare.

The emphasis is properly placed on command rather than on communications; or to put it another way the third “C” refers to communications that allow the commander to control his forces.

C^sup 3^CM and Maneuver Warfare

Since C^sup 3^CM is a concept that emphasizes a perspective of the battlefield, some might want to compare it to maneuver warfare. C^sup 3^CM does not compete with or contradict the concept of maneuver warfare, which is a broader concept focusing on the attack of the enemy commander’s mental cohesion. To quote the 2d Marine Division’s Maneuver Warfare Handbook, the idea of maneuver warfare is:

To present the enemy commander with so many rapidly changing situations that his circuits become overloaded, he becomes confused, and he loses his confidence in his ability to read the battlefield and influence the action. When this occurs, command paralysis sets in and the enemy’s subordinate units can be defeated in detail. . . .

The C^sup 3^CM strategy can be used to support and complement a maneuver style of warfare. Each of the components of C^sup 3^CM-jamming, deception, OPSEC, and physical destruction with their intelligence support – if employed properly has a significant impact on the mind of the commander and his ability to control his forces. The commander cannot maneuver and coordinate his forces if his command nets are being jammed unless he resorts to much slower means of communications. A good deception operation, whether it be a feint by a maneuver unit or manipulative electronic deception, can stymie an enemy, preventing him from reacting in time to the real situation. Operations security prevents the enemy from “seeing” our side of the battlefield and hinders his intelligence efforts.

Physical destruction of critical C^sup 3^ nodes, such as a CP or a communications center, is obviously going to cause a significant problem for the enemy commander. Each of these C^sup 3^CM actions not only has an immediate direct effect, but will also increase the stress and confusion in the mind of the commander, decreasing his ability to command his forces. Thus, C^sup 3^CM can be used to support maneuver warfare; however, it is a narrower concept since it does not address the movement of units on the battlefield.

The common thread running through the two concepts is that a greater effect can be achieved by our combat power when we shift our focus from the total enemy force and its weapons to the command of that force. It is a matter of emphasis and perspective.

Application of C^sup 3^CM

I submit that the C^sup 3^CM strategy can be useful to Marine commanders if it is understood as a thought process helping them and their staffs to properly analyze and select options for the employment of all MAGTF resources to attack the enemy and to protect their own forces. Also, we should recognize that C^sup 3^CM can only be fully employed at the MAGTF command level in the Marine Corps. Below this level there is not sufficient capability of integrating OPSEC, jamming, military deception, and physical destruction although a unit subordinate to the MAGTF may be involved in carrying out a part of the C^sup 3^CM strategy. The unit commander will certainly place a priority on attacking enemy C^sup 3^ systems as the situation presents itself since their destruction or neutralization will be a significant benefit to him. A fighter pilot would choose to attack a Soviet AWACS if the opportunity presented itself since its destruction may provide us with air superiority over the battlefield until that C^sup 3^ system can be replaced. This could be labeled C^sup 3^ targeting. But for the exercise of the full range of options of C^sup 3^CM, we have to go to the MAGTF or to the joint task force headquarters, if the MAGTF is a component of a joint force. At these levels, all the intelligence sources can be analyzed to identify the C^sup 3^ nodes, all of the air and ground weapons systems are available to the commander, deception can be fully exploited, and there is a radio battalion and VMAQ squadron (or detachment of them) available to provide the ECM and signals intelligence support.


To summarize then, C^sup 3^CM is a strategy integrating all of the resources available to the commander to allow him to achieve the best application of his assets. The components of the strategy are accepted functions of warfare, but their synthesis into one concept provides a distinctive perspective of the modern battlefield emphasizing the vulnerability of C^sup 3^ nodes, both ours and our enemy’s. C^sup 3^CM is not a separate discipline, it is not synonymous with EW, nor is it an adjective to be sprinkled around on words like a seasoning sprinkled on food. It’s a strategy to be understood by the commander and his staff through their professional education process and not confined to one or two specialities. C^sup 3^CM can be a useful tool for the MAGTF, but only if it is properly understood.

Quote to Ponder:

A True Force-Multiplier

“A thoroughly planned and coordinate campaign against the enemy’s entire C^sup 3^ system will patently produce results several orders of magnitude greater . . . .”

-LtCol Charles F. Smith, Army Communicator Spring ’83