Training and Simulation

ONR makes a serious game of missile defense, electronic warfare

A Navy ship being under missile fire is no game, but making a game of that scenario can help sailors prepare for it.

Strike Group Defender ONR training game

That’s the idea behind Strike Group Defender: The Missile Matrix, a multiplayer game that combines analytics, crowdsourcing, social media and cloud technology to create a realistic picture of an attack and lets users explore the options for response, whether through a “soft kill” by using the electromagnetic spectrum or a “hard kill” with traditional weapons.

In gaming terms, Strike Group Defender falls into the category of what’s known as serious games, simulations of real-world events that teach users to solve real-world problems. In addition to defense, serious games are used in areas such as education, science, health care and emergency management. For the military, Strike Group Defender reflects the Defense Department’s emphasis on both the importance of simulations in training as well as the growing significance of the electromagnetic spectrum as a domain on warfare.

The game was developed by the Office of Naval Research, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and serious games makers Metateq and PipeWorks Studios, along with help from the Naval Postgraduate School and ONR’s TechSolutions Program, among others, ONR said in a release.

“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 Scott Orosz, ONR program manager. “But beyond that application, this technology will allow sailors and Marines to plan, experiment and train whenever they want, whether they are at sea or in a classroom.”

An in addition to being affordable and portable, it’s also effective: Strike Group Defender was named “Best Government-Developed Serious Game” at the recent Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The game, the Navy’s first multiplayer training game that addresses electronic warfare, was developed at least partly in response to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert’s five-year Navigation Plan, which stresses the need for forces to detect and defeat adversary radars and anti-ship missiles.

In Strike Group Defender, the Missile Matrix gives users a view of various missiles, their locations and incoming threats—such as a warning that a missile is due to hit in 20 seconds, ONR said. Then it gives them options for responding, such as radar jamming, decoy flares or kinetic fire. Afterward, they get a score showing missile they hit or deterred, and the ones they missed.

The game has been tested so far on nearly 30 units aboard Navy ships, with further tests planned throughout the fleet. Meanwhile, and the Naval Postgraduate School and MIT are studying analytic data from the games that have been played in an effort to make improvements.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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