Skip to main content

The Navy Department Library

Related Content

CIC [Combat Information Center] 2, no.11 (November 1945): 3-7

Document Type
  • Publication
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials

CIC [Combat Information Center]

Yesterday and Today

Cartoon image: Officer and super hero

There’s a word that has become as familiar to everyone in the Fleet —and his girl friend or wife—as the traditional “aye-aye.” Born of the war, “roger” might be considered as representative of a tremendous upheaval that has taken place in the traditional concepts of navigation, gunnery and kindred ship activities caused by the introduction of the center, originally called Radar Plot, now officially Combat Information Center or CIC.

If you’ve never been down to CIC, here is a tour strictly for the unitiated who want information on the what and why of the PPI [Plan Position Indicator (radar scope)] —and for potential CIC personnel who, herein, will be introduced to their duty as we see it.

Flash and Buck are outmoded

Step into the Combat Information Center, where closed doors keep the room in semi-darkness. Here—in CIC—is a weird and eerie jungle of electronic gear, illuminated tables, shining dials and gadgets which, at first glance, makes Flash Gordon look like a piker and Buck Rogers an anachronism. Here are officers and enlisted personnel, most of the latter stripped down to skivvies shirts, wearing earphones and talking strange jargon into microphones, telephones, and squawk boxes that seem to be constantly flashing red lights. Everyone’s lip seems to be moving-talking to someone you don’t see, but if you were “on the other end of the line,” you might be a lookout topside, straining to see what CIC personnel do “see” so well in the small compartment in the bowels on the ship, you might be the Captain (or the Admiral, yes) or gunnery officer or the CIC officer in a destroyer off your port bow, or you might be the pilot seventy miles away, ten thousand feet up. CIC is the nerve center of the modern ship; where all available


Cartoon image: offcier in distress

sources of combat intelligence are gathered and quickly disseminated to the flag and commanding officers, and to other control stations. CIC, in the future, probably will be the focal point for all naval operation tactics.

Every CIC setup varies with different types of ships, but it is important to remember the basic purpose of CIC in every ship is the same. As you look at this compartment, remember—CIC is here, not as a unit unto itself, but rather as an essential part of the reason for the ship’s very existence. A carrier is in a task force to carry airplanes; therefore, CIC’s operational function emphasizes control of aircraft and AA [Anti-aircraft] defense. Battlewagons, cruisers and destroyers are primarily concerned with gunnery, torpedo attack or anti-submarine procedures. So are their CICs. An AGC [Amphibious Force Flagship equipped with special communications facilities] Combat Information Center is about evenly divided between its offensive responsibilities to surface invasion forces and its defensive air warning and fighter direction duties. Other ships vary their CIC organization to meet their particular operational demands.

As you look at the modern CIC, the logical tactical uses of radar seem so apparent that it seems inconceivable that they weren’t dreamed up the moment radar was born; yet, at the beginning of the war, there was little or no knowledge of the war, there was little or no knowledge of the tactical use of radar. The processes of plotting the technique of training fire control radar into the target, the whole business of Fighter Direction were all developments brought about by wartime needs.

Your original Radar Plot officer might have been tagged a “talking radar.” If he were lucky, he may have had both air and surface search radars—although it was top day when both were functioning properly. The early radar plot officer stood over the radar set and advised the bridge whenever a target was picked up. This led naturally to the development of timing plots—“target at two-seven-zero, forty miles, picked up at 2012, sir”—and a mark or symbol of some kind was hastily jotted down on a maneuvering board propped on the radar officer’s knee.

Words in propellor shaped shading - Plotting was once Confidential-CIC's humble origin

The first use of Radar Plot was simply keeping track of planes and ships. There were no elaborate communication facilities for advising the entire ship about these movements, nor were there physical facilities for performing the functions required of the modern combat information center. There were no plotting tables—the standardized plotting table is a product of the last year—there were no DRTs [Dead Reckoning Tracer] in Radar Plot, nor PPIs—and it was just as well, for there was no space for them to begin with.

No Caption -Two men whispering over a table

Using the technique of fighter direction as an example of the gradual tactical development of radar, it was first used in a limited and somewhat ineffective way in the battle of the Coral Sea and Midway, and in the early occupation of the Solomons. In this very first phase of the war, the action showed that it was possible to have ground controllers directing friendly aircraft out to intercept enemy planes, following the tracks of each, and by means of radio communication, give course, speed and altitude changes to our pilots to maneuver them into the best possible position for the attack. Here was a potentially strong defense that was revolutionary in its concept and it was on the experience gained in these first battles that the doctrine and training procedures were built.

Now there came an assembly-line process of training fresh-from-indoctrination plus a smattering of battle-tried officers in the art of fighter direction. At the same time, the schools for training potential radarmen were doubled and redoubled in size, and a campaign to interest enlistees and draftees in RADAR [Radio detection and ranging] go underway. With new men came new equipment and the resultant necessity: space to put them all! With



Cartoon image - door with items piled outside

standardized training in effect, the trial and error methods of Radar Pilot in the early stages could be supplemented with doctrine which involved the conception of task group and later task force coordinated fighter direction. Out of this broader concept of radar pilot came the Combat Information Center, with free interplay of information between ships. Traditional communication tie-ups went by the board in this revolution within the ship. Fire control officers and men, the navigator, the Captain of the ship himself all had to undergo a change in operating procedure. Beginning with the invasion of the Gilberts—where task group and task force fighter control was born—fighter direction with CIC expanded and proved itself, reaching a high pitch in the first battle of the Philippines and the famed “turkey shoot.”

Words written - CIC grows up

Came the Kamikaze.

Now the tactical doctrine had to be revamped to included picket ships, tomcats, utilizing surface search at times for air attacks and the perfecting of Night Fighter Direction using aircraft with airborne radar. Destroyer CICs—once equipped for directing gun fire and navigation only—suddenly were loaded down with new gear to take over figher direction duties. Altitude determining radar was being introduced to the fleet. Better radio receivers and transmitters were being installed.

And while the fighter direction doctrine was being developed, the CIC was expanding, and the type of training necessary for standing CIC watches was being taught at the Navy school specializing in CIC, Hollywood Beach, Florida. Probably the zenith in CIC— in equipment and use of personnel—will be found in the new CVB [Aircraft Carrier] equipped with the new model SX [Search and altitude determining radar with constant sweep] radar.

For detailed information relating to the functioning of CIC in all types of ships with the best practices for each, read—and study—Radar Bulletin No.6 (RADSIX), the official CIC manual. But let's take a peek at this CIC— a model cruiser CIC—in action:

What the CIC Visitor Sees

You are Mr. X in the illustration. Take in the room, clockwise: to your left is the DRT (Dead Reckoning Tracer), next the VF (Precision PPI repeater), the VG [projection plan position indicator] with a standard plotting table attached, the fighter director’s niche with the PPI and air plotting table secured to the aft bulkhead, the SP [Summary Plotter (radar)] and SK [Air search radar (shipborne)] radar consoles, and finally, directly to your right, the SG [Surface Search Radar] console.

Evaluator: Almost in the center of the room stands the Evaluator. This rightly cannot be called his area of operation for his duty station is everywhere in CIC—by the DRT, next to the fighter director, near any of the radar consoles. His duty is to analyze and evaluate all combat information, and generally speaking, he stays close to the 21 MC and 24 MC to pass this information with suggestions on tactical situations to the Captain and the Flag. On a cruiser he is usually Commander in rank, because in most cases he is the Executive officer. This is a revolutionary idea born of necessity, for the evaluator must be, according to RADSIX, a "tacitically experienced officer." Your average CIC officer may be (and this was the actual officer complement of the USS Wasp CIC at one time) a college professor, a graduate student in forestry, a high school principal, a meat salesman, a lawyer, insurance salesman, and a recent college AB, none tactically qualified, but all well-schooled in CIC activity. It is admitted that having the Executive the evaluator on most battlewagons, cruisers, and DDs [destroyers] is a stopgap situation; still it may become naval doctrine. The chief difficulty in the past has been that Execs and potential-execs have not had time, due to pressing wartime needs, for complete indoctrination into the intricacies of CIC. This problem is being remedied.

CIC Officer: A few feet to the left of you is the CIC officer, sometimes called the assistant evaluator. He is, says RADSIX: “… responsible for the functioning of CIC… for the training and


1. Evaluator
2. CIC officer
3. Fighter director
4. DR plotter
5. Intercept plotter (by PPI)
6. Air status board keeper
7. Geographic plot officer
8. Geographic plotter
9. Geographic recorder
10. MB gunnery liaison officer
11. Precision PPI operator
12. AA gunnery liaison officer
13. Surface plot officer
14. Surface plotter

15. Air plotter
16. Assistant air plotter
17. Radar supervisor
18. SP operator
19. SK operator
20. SG operator
21. Communication officer
22. Radio recorder/operator
23. JL talker
24. JA talker
25. JS talker
26. JW talker
27. Surface status board keeper

Image of a room with figures - one is CIC marked X looking over 27 other figures

welding of the CIC team into an efficient whole.” During GQ [General Quarters], his battle station is any place within CIC where he normally mans the same power circuits as the evaluator. In addition he checks on operating methods and procedure, keeping radar operators and lookouts informed of expected sectors of contact, insuring that the navigator and fire control receive all possible assistance from CIC, and in general, is a first class trouble shooter who sees to it that CIC is, what its name implies, a center for combat information of all kinds.

Figher Director: The fighter director officer, near the aft bulkhead, sits before a remote PPI using either SP or SK air search radar. A complete air picture is kept up to the minute on the plotting table next to him. An enlisted dead reckoner estimates the position of the controlled friendly aircraft in the air during fades or when radar reports are not forthcoming. Next to the dead reckoner is an enlisted intercept plotter wearing earphones, who plots all contacts reported by one of the air search radar operators on the SP or SK. All communications between plotters and radar operators is over JS circuits. The fighter director's responsibility is the coordination and control of aircraft assigned to his unit. He talks and listens to pilots over VHF or, on occasion, HF radio. Note the status board, where all information on friendly aircraft— the orders given to the pilots, the fuel and ammo supply, weather conditions and the like—is kept up to the minute by an enlisted status board keeper, usually a radarman striker.

Geographic Plot Officer: Standing next to you, on your left, is the geographic plot officer (or DRT Officer). With enlisted geographic plot-


ter and recorder, this is the team specializing in navigation and shore bombardment who, with the Dead Reckoning Tracer that reproduces, with some degree of error, the ship's actual track, and with radar fixes, are able to give the ship’s position at any given time. A pitometer is mounted on the bulkhead directly behind the DRT. This team is in the busy corner during shore bombardments when their job is to give accurate ranges and bearings on targets, and keep the ship from fouling up on reefs. During a sea engagement, especially under conditions of poor visibility, this corner directs the fire control onto surface targets with the aid of the Main Battery liaison officer, who, with a precision PPI operator, operates the VF [Precision plan position indicator].

Gunnery Liaison Officers: It is the Main Battery and AA gunnery liaison officers who actually man the circuits, coaching the weapons onto the targets, using all CIC information available from the DRT and radar reports. By using the VF, the MB gunnery liaison officer gets an enlarged view of the target, and with hand wheels, can crank in “cross-hairs” that automatically give him range and bearing in actual figures.

The surface plot officer sits next to the VG with the enlisted surface plotter. With the VG, it is possible to keep an accurate summary plot of all ships in the formation. Secured to the VG is a plotting table, generally carrying the air picture for the benefit of the AA gunnery officer and the evaluator. The 20 MC squawkbox, known as the radar circuit, is directly over the plotting table.

Radar Officer: The Radar Technician usually assumes the role of Radar supervisor during GQ, standing by to check any technical difficulties and coordinating the radar operation as a whole. His situation is by the radar consoles. Normally his duty is the maintenance of all radar equipment. In front of each of the radar consoles sit two radar operators, one operating and the other standing by, although occasionally, as is the case of the SG operators, one checks the PPI scope, the other the “A” scope. Radar operators must shift every twenty or thirty minutes to avoid eye strain.

Communications Officer: To your left, in the corner, sits the Communications officer with two radio recorders/operators. He, says RADSIX, “has general supervision of exterior communications in CIC, including decoding, encoding, supervising radio recorders, stowage and maintenance of publications, communication plans, etc.”The radio recorders/operators are enlisted men who maintain a log designated radio circuits and operate the recording devices when these are available.

In the center of the room, grouped around a fire control tube, which is not shown in the illustration, are three enlisted “talkers.” Their duty is to report information to the CIC officer and evaluator that they receive over their circuits, and to give out information which is relayed to them by the CIC officer or evaluator. The JL talker gets all information from lookouts topside and coaches them on targets from radar reports in CIC. The JA talker on the Captain’s circuit gets the overall tactical situation. The JS talker transmits and receives data from navigation, air plot, and other stations where radar reports are essential.

The JW talker, to your right, is connected to the Captain’s talker at Conn, the torpedo director officer, the main battery director, the gunnery plotting room officer and computer range operator. Over this circuit the recommended approach courses, attack maneuvers and target indications can be quickly disseminated.

Cartoon of uniformed man with a pipe waving

The Purpose of it All

There are the battle positions in what might be termed a “model” light cruiser CIC. Just as the physical setup of CIC varies in each type ship—so does the battle bill vary, but the inherent idea of CIC is the same in each: a place for the “evaluation of all available information by trained personnel, such data (to be) quickly disseminated to the flag and commanding officers, to other control stations concerned over interior communication circuits, and to other ships and aircraft via external communication facilities.” CIC is only as useful as the information it receives to evaluate and pass on. Radar alone does not see all nor tell all. It is essential that stations throughout the ship—Lookouts, Intelligence, Aerology, Air Operations (on carriers), Communications, Gunnery, Bridge and Flag continually feed information into CIC in order for CIC to present a complete, up-to-the-minute tactical picture at all times.



Published: Thu Aug 31 08:33:14 EDT 2017