About the study

The purpose of submarines is to patrol the world’s oceans to act as a formidable deterrent, gather intelligence, undertake surveillance and carry out reconnaissance missions. The submarine command team are responsible for the safe and effective operation of the submarine. The team must process large amounts of tactical information from the submarines sensors, assesses the information, and makes decisions on how to proceed. To do so each person of the team must carry out their own tasks whilst working with each other to meet shared, common goals. This research is fundamentally about team work and the factors that influence team performance.

The aim of the research is to examine how the integration of incoming information can be optimised to ensure the best decisions are made. The simulation takes place within a laboratory at the University of Western Australia. The simulation comprises of a number of submarine consoles, each with a specific function (e.g. sonar and periscope). Participants are placed in teams and are trained in their particular role and the communications required with each other. The team is asked to track simulated contacts through sonar and optical means to form an accurate representation of ‘what is out there’ in order to report to command.

The upcoming series of experiments will specifically investigate how visual information is consumed within the control room. The simulation has been developed by the Defence Science and Technology Group with guidance from Royal Australian Navy submariners. Participants who complete the experiment will have unique insight into how a submarine command team actually operates to track and monitor other vessels.