MAJ Scott Gill
Warfighter Participation Events (WPEs) are taking place to collect Soldier feedback to develop a user-friendly Common Warfighter Machine Interface (CWMI) to the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense. A user-friendly CWMI will optimize tasks and decision-making capability, minimize training requirements and manpower, and ultimately maximize operational effectiveness.
Technological effectiveness is contingent on the user’s ability to interact with and influence the machine. This is especially true when it comes to the warfighter’s interaction with the CWMI of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense (AIAMD) architecture. AIAMD integrates Air Defense Artillery (ADA) sensors, weapons, and a common mission command across a single Integrated Fire Control Network (IFCN), providing a “plug and fight” capability that supplies distributed battle management functionality to enable net-centric operations of the IBCS.
The AIAMD project currently under development by the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Project Office of Program Executive Office Missiles and Space (PEO MS) is critical to the ADA warfighter as well as the PEO MS portfolio. In order for the IBCS to be effective when it is fielded in 2016, it is imperative that the warfighter be able to interface ergonomically with the IBCS-CWMI.
The IBCS is the common mission command element of the AIAMD that provides the functional capabilities to control and manage the AIAMD sensors and weapons via an IFCN operated from the Engagement Operations Centers. The IBCS enables the ADA warfighter to achieve mission objectives in a Modular Open System Architecture environment by providing the capability to control the fight across all sensors and shooters on the IFCN, eliminating “single points of failure.”
It also provides the potential for greater integration of offensive and defensive fires, and the ability to fully leverage joint platforms. This integration of sensors and shooters under a common mission command enables the ADA warfighter to defend the airspace metaphorically with a unified closed fist, versus the open-fingered stovepipe of the legacy ADA systems whereby the sensors and shooters were not integrated across a common network.
Despite the increased capability that AIAMD brings to the warfighter, IBCS effectiveness is contingent upon the warfighter’s ability to interact with the system, making the ergonomics of the CWMI critical to the effectiveness of the IBCS and, ultimately, the AIAMD concept.
The CWMI is the point where the warfighter integrates with the IBCS and is the warfighter’s sole interface into all functions and data of the IBCS. The CWMI is the handle to the IBCS hammer.
Because the ADA warfighter must make decisive combat decisions under severe time constraints and environmental conditions, it is critical that the CWMI be extremely user-friendly. For this reason, the CWMI is the only standardized user interface being developed by the IAMD Project Office. This eliminates disparate approaches to user interfaces, simplifies training, and increases survivability, tactical effectiveness, and force efficiency through a common, user-tailorable interface.
Gathering User Feedback
One of the IAMD Project Office’s greatest tools to acquire data to improve the CWMI’s ergonomics is through the conduct of quarterly WPEs. Having the system operators involved in development of the CWMI from the outset, to ensure that the end product is designed to meet Soldiers’ needs, is an innovative approach to spiral software development in user integration for PEO MS.
Soldiers’ feedback is critical in the development of a user-friendly system, because users define their own ergonomic preferences based on their professional lessons learned. The WPEs are designed to capture these preferences, making them critical to the spiral development of the CWMI software.
To ensure continuous user feedback and product improvement, the spiral development of the software employs the CWMI User-Centered Design seven-step process. Under this process, a software version is presented to the warfighter at the WPE to collect feedback, which is then incorporated into the CWMI design of the next version to be presented at the following WPE. This cycle is repeated until the final version is developed.
The IAMD Project Office has conducted six WPEs over the past year and a half. Soldiers of relevant grade and Military Occupational Specialty participate in the WPEs, providing strong feedback consistent with their experience and level of responsibility. Participants are exposed to various prototype designs of the icons and navigation ribbons to which they could be exposed in the CWMI, and are tested to gauge their ability to interface with the CWMI based on the various designs.
Several methods are used to test the ability to interface, such as interviews, focus groups, exercise observations, qualitative studies using interactive prototype alternatives, quantitative measures such as mouse clicks or error rates, and timed accuracy.
When the IBCS is fielded in 2016, the warfighter will receive an ergonomically sound, user-friendly system designed by the warfighter for the warfighter, achieving the desired goal of maximum effectiveness and efficiency in AIAMD mission command.
- MAJ SCOTT GILL is the Assistant Product Manager for the IBCS Engagement Operations Centers in the IAMD Project Office of PEO MS. He holds a B.A. in international affairs from the University of Cincinnati and an M.B.A. from Trident University International. Gill is Level III certified in program management. He is a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.