Fire Control

Crewmen aboard USS Canberra (CAG-2) work her main battery fire control computers off Vietnam in March, 1967. Photo in the collection of the US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Location: South China Sea

The evolution of fire control systems aboard ships is both long and short. For several hundred years, guns were aimed individually, often by eye, sometimes with the aid of basic instruments to measure range or angles. In the late 1800s, with the introduction of turrets, higher speed ships, and longer range guns, aiming equipment was forced to evolve to keep up. This led to the development of advanced rangefinders, usually mounted high in a ships' superstructure. These would feed information about targets to the turrets, at first through voice pipes, then through mechanical links. Eventually, radar replaced optical rangefinders, further improving accuracy and allowing for the engagement of targets that could not be seen. By World War II, centralized fire control had become standard for most ships' main batteries. This was further developed into the combat information center, or CIC, which became widespread in the Cold War era, and handles not just fire control, but navigation and other shipboard systems.