Multiplayer Serious Game for Anti-Submarine Warfare Sonar Operator Training
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-094
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Multiplayer Serious Game for Anti-Submarine Warfare Sonar Operator Training




ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PEO IWS5, AN/SQQ-89A (V) 15 Surface Ship Undersea Warfare Combat System Office.


OBJECTIVE: Develop a multiplayer serious game that teaches critical sonar operator skills to Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) personnel by enhancing their engagement and providing a high rate of learning experiences.


DESCRIPTION: Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) personnel must be proficient at a wide range of difficult tasks, including environmental assessment, display manipulation, proper use of automation, signal recognition, and solution development for weapon deployment or evasive maneuvers. These skills must be mastered and they must also be used in a teaming environment. ASW is widely regarded as one of the most difficult Navy specialties, with an unusually low retention rate due to the complexity of the skills required.


Current high-fidelity training environments, such as the Surface ASW Synthetic Trainer (SAST) embedded in the AN/SQQ-89V(15)A Sonar System, are not utilized frequently enough to maintain team proficiency due to classification and the need to put the tactical system into a training mode. It is expected that a multiplayer serious game will retain proficiency in critical skills as well as make more efficient use of the available training time.

Ubiquitous, fast-paced, exciting, and engaging sonar operator gaming that is available at sea will allow sonar team personnel to improve their mastery over the ASW domain without always having to use the sonar system in a training mode. Analytics derived from the learning and performance data will help drive where and when to conduct additional training, and lead to more informed acquisition and investment decisions. The Navy seeks multiplayer serious games for ASW and undersea warfare sonar operator training to address this proficiency challenge.


A similar training game was developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Lincoln Laboratory, and Pipeworks titled Strike Group Defender. This game was developed using the Unity Technologies cross-platform engine that allows it to be played from any web browser. A cross-platform training game solution is key as the Navy employs Internet Explorer ashore and Mozilla Firefox at sea. Strike Group Defender was designed to train surface sailors to defend against anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM). Strike Group Defender also features built-in social media capabilities that allow users to communicate with each other during gameplay. Leveraging social media capabilities and gamification strategies that operate within the approved cybersecurity framework would assist in motivating the operators and increasing proficiency.


In order for the training game to be used at sea, the game must be compatible with the existing training architecture of the tactical system, which requires the game to be launched from the Moodle learning management system (LMS) and for it to be played through the Firefox web browser on Computer off the Shelf (COTS) hardware. Navy information technology infrastructure ashore would require the game to be played through Internet Explorer. Both the ability to launch via Moodle and play through the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers are required for development and integration efforts to be successful.


The Chief of Naval Operation (CNO) has stated a desire for “high velocity learning at every level” for improved engagement and performance. Serious games that include social networking, performance collection, big data analysis, and machine learning (ML) could provide for high-velocity learning. Using the best serious gaming concepts, techniques, and technologies provides a higher rate of learning and engagement interest, and results in enhanced performance by ASW personnel, such as sonar operators. A multiplayer game that augments traditional Navy shore-based training or embedded simulation for sonar operations is needed. The game should allow play with or against real and artificial intelligence (AI) participants. The research should focus on developing a standalone game rather than using the current ASW simulation devices. The game should emphasize critical skills and knowledge for a sonar operator in the ASW domain. The game should be engaging, motivating, and demonstrate evidence of learning at a high pace. The serious game must be capable of assessing a trainee’s proficiency and learning for the ASW skills associated with a sonar operator.

Metrics used to assess the game solution should include Level 2 evaluation for learning using the Kirkpatrick model, a reduction in training time to achieve an equal level of learning, and game usability in terms of task time and task satisfaction. The serious game should have both multi-player and single player capability. The serious game should support big data analytics and include AI and ML, intelligent tutoring, social media, scenario creator, Application Programming Interface (API), be Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) capable, and be application- based. The architecture should take into account current Navy information technology infrastructure that allows the game to interface with training facilities ashore and warfighting platforms. Interfaces the proposed game requires shall be identified to the government during Phase I of the SBIR topic. The serious game should be extensible to both classified and unclassified environments.


The Phase II effort will likely require secure access, and NAVSEA will process the DD254 to support the contractor for personnel and facility certification for secure access. The Phase I effort will not require access to classified information. If need be, data of the same level of complexity as secured data will be provided to support Phase I.


Work produced in Phase II will likely 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 be implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). 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 DSS 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: Develop a concept for a multiplayer serious game that teaches critical sonar operator skills. Demonstrate that the concept can feasibly meet all the requirements as stated in the Description and address sonar operator ASW challenges at the unclassified level. Establish feasibility through modeling and analysis of the specific game design. Develop a Phase II plan. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.


PHASE II: Develop a prototype of the multiplayer serious game and supporting architecture and deliver it for testing by ASW personnel such as sonar operators in the Fleet. Validate the prototype through testing to demonstrate improved performance, motivation, and training engagement. Provide a detailed test plan to demonstrate that the game achieves the metrics defined in the Description. Provide a Phase III transition plan at the end of Phase II.


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 to Navy use through system integration and qualification testing for the game prototype developed in Phase II. Deliver the game to support two different transition events: first, integration into the prototype of a future Advanced Capability Build of the AN/SQQ-89A (V) 15 Surface Ship Undersea Warfare Combat System; and second, in support of shore-based training associated with the fielded AN/SQQ-89A(V)15 Advanced Capability Build.


The multiplayer serious game can be adapted to technical fields including engineering and medical. The serious game field is still in its infancy, but a game architecture that allows adapting to different learning and training domains would be useful to the wider education and business community by teaching corporate skills and even in grade schools to help teachers better define their topics to students.



1.   Schell, Jesse. “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses.” Elsevier: Burlington, 2008.


2.   Gee, James Paul. “Learning by Design: Games as Learning Machines.” E-Learning, 2005, 2(1), pp. 5-16.

3.   McCaney, Kevin. "ONR makes a serious game of missile defense, electronic warfare.” Defense Systems, 04 February 2015. game.aspx


4.   Richardson, John. “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 1.0.” United States Navy Chief of Naval Operations, January 2016.


KEYWORDS: Sonar Operator Training; Undersea Warfare; High Velocity Learning; Serious Games; Big Data Analytics; Machine Learning; Multiplayer Games; Kirkpatrick Model



Robert McNeal






Meg Stout






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