Think fast: Game trains sailors in missile response

Strike Group Defender is the Navy’s first multiplayer, game-based training program to test and evaluate personnel in surface electronic warfare.

The Office of Naval Research has developed one its most serious games: a simulation that tests sailors’ ability to dodge an incoming missile at moment’s notice. 

Strike Group Defender: The Missile Matrix, which recently won Best Government-Developed Serious Game at the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge, exposes Navy planners and tacticians to different missiles and teaches them how to avoid getting hit.

Developed by the ONR, it’s the Navy’s first multiplayer, game-based training program to test and evaluate personnel in surface electronic warfare.

The game tests and assesses sailors in electronic warfare, which has become an emerging battle domain and one Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has sought to improve upon, according to Navy officials. The game also encompasses aspects of analytics, crowdsourcing, social media and cloud technology further helping to modernize the fighting force. 

Created under ONR’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Future Naval Capabilities portfolio, the game gives playres experience in working in high risk situations with zero risk to the sailor.  Players can avoid and counter incoming missiles by deploying electronic decoys to alter the course of incoming missiles or shoot them down.

In developing the game, ONR worked with outside sources such as MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, which played a significant role in the game’s development. 

"In our trials so far, we have observed that a game-based environment has helped novice users grasp basic decoy deployment concepts after only a few minutes of play,” said Reed Jensen, one of the prime developers from Lincoln Laboratory. “Our hope is that our game-based instruction and analytics infrastructure will become a useful tool for disseminating future Navy weapons concepts, tactics and training.”

The Strike Group Defender also gives players feedback to improve their performance in future operational environments.

The Naval Postgraduate School and MIT are studying players’ analytic data to make improvements, according to the ONR, as various Navy fleets and commands will continue to test and evaluate the Strike Group Defender.

“Strike Group Defender is an affordable, realistic way for personnel to understand and emulate  the capabilities being developed and learn how those improvements enhance the means to respond to threats Navy ships face around the world,” said ONR program manager  Scott Orosz.

Strike Group Defender was designed as a platform capable of offering ways to develop different skills and incorporate new tools, Navy officials noted.  “While the current content focuses on anti-ship missile defense tactics and training, the larger value of Strike Group Defender is an underlying ‘ecosystem’ of technologies that we have not yet seen in the Navy,” said Perry McDowell, research associate at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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