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Electronic Warfare Operator Workload Organization and Sharing


RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Machine Learning/AI


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a methodology for effective and efficient electronic warfare workload organization and sharing that increases the performance of the Electronic Warfare Operator and Supervisor.

DESCRIPTION: The Surface Fleet is deploying a comprehensive suite of integrated and closely coordinated electronic warfare (EW) systems and countermeasures. Employing the latest radio frequency (RF) and digital technology, these systems have vastly improved sensitivity and increased capacity to detect, resolve, classify, and identify signals of interest as well as surveille the RF spectrum over a wide area. This increase in capacity is concurrent with the general increase in RF transmitters in the maritime environment. The RF spectrum, even in open ocean, is now far more crowded than just a few years ago. Every small craft (fishing boats, small merchantmen, patrol craft, etc.) can now afford to install commercial radar and communications equipment. The problem in navigational choke points, such as highly trafficked straits and the approaches to major ports, is severe and often complicated by the proximity of shore-based transmitters. In addition, future naval engagements will be marked by an unprecedented array of threat transmitters that use the electromagnetic spectrum.

Increased levels of EW system performance combined with the proliferation of RF transmitters (threat, friendly, and civilian) presents a significant increased burden on the EW operator (EWOP). The EWOP now has access to more electronic support (ES) information of a greater depth than ever before. Operator overload and fatigue are serious problems. While some of this data can be processed automatically by machine learning or adaptive algorithms, the Navy cannot remove the human decision-maker entirely from the loop and the EWOP remains a critical element in surface combat. Fortunately, the EWOP teams with an EW supervisor (EWSUP) to share the workload and coordinate more broadly with the combat information center. Applied effectively, the EWOP-EWSUP team is an effective element for eliminating errors, maximizing situational awareness, minimizing response times, and ensuring proper execution of EW doctrine during complex engagements. During normal operations, this teaming reduces fatigue. However, this reduction is predicated on effective organization, prioritization, and sharing of the EW battlespace information and responsibilities. This problem is similar to an air traffic control center’s organization and performance. However, air traffic control is based on a structured hierarchy of tasking, fairly predictable patterns (by intention), relatively constant workload, and cooperative “targets”. This is not the case during EW engagements and no comparable commercial application can be easily adapted for the EWOP-EWSUP team structure.

The Navy seeks an innovative method (realized in prototype algorithms and demonstrated on surrogate hardware and displays) to efficiently organize, prioritize, and share information and tasking between the SLQ-32 electronic warfare system EWOP and EWSUP to assure situational awareness, coordinate EW assets, and efficiently execute engagements. The solution must prioritize tasking by taking into account that the EWSUP is the senior watchstander, typically responsible for mission planning, response coordination (including countermeasures management), sensor networking and cueing, EW doctrine, and overall coordination with the combat information center. The EWSUP may also be called upon to assist in the evaluation of problematic emitters and environmental conditions. However, the solution must also be dynamic and recognize and adapt to fluctuating shifts in workload resulting from the natural progression of complex engagements. The solution must also be flexible to the addition of future EW capabilities and assets. Finally, while it is not intended that the solution include embedded training, it should accommodate embedded training by including the ability to display Surface EW Team Training (SEWTT) controls from either the EWOP or EWSUP console so that the EW Training Supervisor or instructor can monitor and manipulate (i.e., start, stop, pause, reset, add elements, etc.) embedded training scenarios while in progress.

It should be noted that acceptable solutions should demonstrate a science-based knowledge of human perception, human cognition, team dynamics, and decision-making. “Hard wired” solutions that organize and manage the EWOP-EWSUP interaction based on fixed assignments and pre-prioritizations of functions are unacceptable. The goal of this effort is to complement and facilitate the relationship between the EWOP-EWSUP team in a manner that elevates their performance to a level that they could not otherwise achieve on their own. Testing will consist of controlled and monitored execution of the prototype solution with human operators utilizing surrogate display hardware. Final validation of the prototype will be demonstration of the workload sharing prototype on the surrogate display hardware, as witnessed by Government subject matter experts and program managers.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Propose a concept for an EW workload organization and sharing application that meets the objectives stated in the Description. Feasibility shall be demonstrated by a combination of analysis, modelling, simulation, and evaluation of initial workload sharing use cases. The feasibility analysis shall include predictions of operator performance in use of the application. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specification, decision trees, and capabilities description necessary to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop, deliver, and demonstrate a prototype of the concept for an EW workload organization and sharing application meeting the requirements contained in the Description. A software prototype shall be demonstrated on surrogate display hardware (supplied by the performer) and delivered to the Government along with full software interface descriptions and any ancillary software needed to demonstrate the application. It should be noted that this effort may require the development and delivery of synthesized EW scenarios and emitter data to be used in demonstration of the prototype solution. Government subject matter experts and program managers will witness demonstration of the prototype technology on the surrogate display system.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Government use. Since the Phase II effort result is a prototype that is not necessarily demonstrated on a tactical system, assist in integrating the EW workload organization and sharing application into the EW display tactical code. Assist in certification of the resulting tactical code. Assist the Government in testing and validating the performance of the resulting application as integrated into the EWOP and EWSUP consoles.

The workload organization and sharing software can also be customized for additional applications such as other military systems (e.g., radar systems) and for commercial applications such as air traffic control systems, power grid control stations, train and mass transit dispatch systems, and complex security systems.


  1. Endsley, Mica R. “Designing for Situation Awareness: An Approach to User-Centered Design, Second Edition.” Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2011.  
  2. St. John, Mark and Smallman, Harvey. “Staying Up to Speed: Four Design Principles for Maintaining and Recovering Situation Awareness.” Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, Volume 2, Issue 2, 1 June 2008, pp. 118-139.
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