Command and Control Warfare: OODA Loop Countermeasures

By Dr. Myron L. Cramer

This presentation was given to the
33rd Annual AOC International Electronic
Warfare Technical Symposium and Convention
Washington DC

October 2, 1996

At the time that this presentation was given, some of the original concepts of Information Warfare (IW) were still in their formative stages. Command and Control Warfare (C2W) had been defined as the combat use of IW and early efforts involved extensions of engineering concepts from the discipline of Electronic Warfare (EW). This presentation applies to networked command and Control systems, modeled using the Observe-Orient-Design-Act (OODA) model. It addresses the question "What is the role of EW for IW?" and the applicability of Electronic Warfare engineering methods to the new problems of Information Warfare. It discusses Information Warfare against networked C2 systems. It proposes a use for C2 conceptual models such as the "OODA Loop", and suggests a new role for Electronic Warfare engineering methods.


This paper describes the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act "OODA Loop" Model of the Command and Control process and how this loop can be used in the design of electronic countermeasures against networked Command and Control systems. Treating the OODA loop as a "control loop" is potentially as useful as exploiting missile control loops has been in other areas of Electronic Warfare.

Advancements in Tactical Command and Control systems have included increasing use of advanced network and internetwork technologies at every echelon. Existing tactical electronic warfare systems have very limited capabilities to detect, intercept, analyze, and counter digital enemy networked command and control systems. Much of our current network exploitation capability depends on the skill and manual efforts of Electronic Warfare operators. Against large modern networked Command and Control systems, even the most competent human resources cannot possibly be sufficiently efficient to produce the required Electronic Warfare support within military timelines. The clear solution is to develop systems with better ways of automatically detecting and exploiting networked Command and Control systems.

The OODA loop model of a Command and Control system provides a scientific way to characterize networked system activities. An example is depicted below including a sequence of activities that continually occur within an organization's Command and Control process.

Figure 1. OODA Loop Model of Command and Control

The example in Figure 1 illustrates a representation of the Command and Control processes involved in executing target engagement missions. In this diagram, the products of intelligence sources and are fused with the observations from tactical sensors to develop a situational awareness. From this situation, target lists are prepared and assigned to weapon systems. These weapon systems are then vectored to engage the selected targets. Damage assessment closes the loop and begins the next iteration of the cycle with a revised tactical situation, new data from battlefield sensors, etc.

In a tactical network, the locations where each of these activities occur correspond to specific logical nodes (or addresses) on the network. The method by which results from each process are communicated to the next process in the sequence is through a sequence of network transactions, such as the development and transmittal of data files, for example target lists. These sequences generate patterns of observable network activity which are available for exploitation. The method of recognizing these sequences is to correlate them against a model of the OODA Loop Command and Control cycle.

A control loop for a system (Figure 2) involves a process to correct a mission system's behavior by continually comparing observations of that behavior to the desired behavior. Within this control loop process, corrections are issued to modify the behavior of the mission system to bring it closer to the desired state. An example of a control loop is a missile guidance system that compares the direction of a missile to the direction of the desired target; this system provides navigational corrections to the missile to bring its course into convergence with the target. Electronic countermeaures have been developed against many of these control systems that interfere with this type of control loop.

Figure 2. Control Loop

This presentation describes the characteristics of the OODA Loop when viewed from the perspective of a control loop. This perpective reveals attractive countermeasure techniques that might be applied. Although the exploitation of control loops has long been part of the design of electronic countermeasures techniques, the development of analogous techniques against communications systems has not previously been feasible. This presentation describes how the automation of Command and Control functions provides us with new opportunities to extend control-loop countermeasures into the the new domain of Command and Control Warfare.