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Navy Introduces Video Game For Dynamic Missile Defense Training

The U.S. Navy has introduced a multi-player video game to help train sailors in missile destruction and avoidance. The game has now been deployed to 30 ships, totaling 115 onboard personnel.

According to the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the game, called Strike Group Defender: The Missile Matrix, calls on sailors to make split-second decisions in order to dodge missiles fired at a Navy ship. Sailors can choose to respond to the missiles with electronic means, which constitutes a “soft kill,” or more traditional methods like direct interception, called a “hard kill.”

The game tests Navy tacticians with a wide range of missiles and issues recommendations on how to eliminate the missile, with one of the options being a decoy flare. Once over, the game tells players which missiles they eliminated, and which ones they missed. The response so far from sailors has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, a response which was anticipated by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and other experts in the gaming industry.

Researchers used social media, cloud technology, and analytics to capture the attention of incoming sailors. According to a brief on the objectives of the program, “Sailors must want to train with it on duty—and “play” with it off-watch.”

MIT and the Naval Postgraduate School are hard at work identifying improvements based on data gathered from gameplay. The idea is to improve cognitive skills and rapid response.

“Strike Group Defender is an affordable, realistic way for personnel to understand and emulate  the capabilities being developed in the IAMD FNC’s 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.”

Judges at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in 2014 stated that Strike Group Defender was the best game ever to be submitted by a government organization. “The game provides an ecosystem for learning,” said Lincoln Laboratory game developer Reed Jensen. “The goal is to make the concepts of defense against cruise missiles accessible by immersing trainees in a simulated environment.”

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