Visualizing Awareness of Submarine Maneuverability and Detectability

Danczyk, J., Jacobs, P., Thornton, W., Kane, S., and Farry, M.

Presented at the International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE), Las Vegas, NV (July 2015).

Submariners must balance mission imperatives with own ship safety and operational security. A prime measure of safety is avoiding collisions with other contacts, including fishing and other commercial vessels—and especially other submarines and warships. It is also measured by the submariner’s ability to mitigate the potential consequences of hazards that could potentially result in collision, like dealing with large numbers of close contacts. A current problem for submariners is maintaining the submarine’s maneuverability when factors change, including the density of surrounding contacts, sea state, and weather/visibility, which impose constraints on the submarine’s maneuverability. They can also increase the submarine’s detectability if the situation requires longer or more frequent periscope views to maintain situation awareness. Having visualization tools that help submariners manage their maneuverability and detectability aids decision making by identifying recommended boundaries in the area of operation and recommended patterns of periscope operation. To provide the tools submariners need, we designed and developed several visual aids that identify recommended courses of action for various situations, which promotes greater awareness for future missions. The ideas for these visual aids were formulated from a combination of KE sessions and cognitive task analysis with development of an abstraction hierarchy and a decision ladder. Both diagrams supported the design of our maneuverability and detectability visualizations by emphasizing problems a submariner may encounter when they have little time to prepare a revised plan. Most of the issues we found in our cognitive task analysis highlighted the need for visual enhancements purposed to teach a submariner better decision making skills. These visual aids provide greater contact management and detectability awareness. They consist of mapping out a submariner’s area of operation by highlighting an optimized path the submariner can take when trying to avoid collisions. A submariner’s “closest point of approach” is also tracked by comparing how close they should have been to their contacts to how close they actually came. Visual detectability depends on the periscope exposure time, sea-state, periscope height above the ocean surface, and the speed of the ship. Radar and IR detection threshold can be estimated by assessing the threat due to radar and IR sensors capable of detecting submarine masts and can be measured in terms of the minimum acceptable range to the threat platforms. Visual, radar, and IR detectability measures can be combined to provide an overall measure that informs a submariner of their performance with regard to detectability, allowing them to improve their stealth for their next mission. By having the ability to visualize these important factors and metrics that are involved in lowering a submarine’s detectability while still promoting safety helps increase a submariner’s awareness while also providing continuous improvement through risk management and mitigation for risky situations.


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