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“The System is unsatisfactory and the ship is not ready to deploy”
– Commodore sends

This was the first sentence of a Navy Record Message concerning Acoustics-Rapid Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Insertion (A-RCI) Phase I implementation on a submarine from the Squadron Commander to the operational and acquisition world. What could have gone wrong? A-RCI Phase I was operational on another ship without serious problems. Factory training had been conducted with some growing pains and problems, but had not been deemed unsatisfactory. Traditional approaches to installing A-RCI and conducting subsequent crew training had been used. What bad gone wrong, what was the problem, and what could be done to fix it?

A-RCI had been initiated by a team of organizations led by Team Submarine’s Mr. Bill Johnson, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA, PMS 425), and Mr. Jim Thompson, Program Executive Officer, Undersea Warfare, Advanced Science and Technology Office. Driven by the need to reestablish acoustic advantage, the A-RCI initiative leveraged the breakthroughs in COTS technologies, combined efforts of Fleet operators and engineers to design the displays and operator interfaces, and revolutionized numerous acquisition processes to get the best of the best to the Fleet.

Identifying the Problem

The effectiveness of U.S. submarines in an ASW mission hinges on their ability to maintain an acoustic advantage over their foe. This advantage must be transparent to our adversaries and maximize our ability to make acoustic detections and maintain tactical control of the battle-space. In the 1990s, U.S. submarines experienced an erosion of their acoustic advantage. Modern threat acoustic signatures evolved away from typical narrow-band-only signatures to more complex signal patterns, making the job of Threat detection more challenging. The A-RCI sonar system was designed with improved signal processing capabilities able to exploit these more modem threat signatures. Additionally, A-RCI introduced advanced display concepts that allow operators to more efficiently search the ocean volume for threat platforms. In combination, these elements have allowed U.S. submarines to regain an acoustic advantage. Whereas A-RCI designers did their job well, as in all predecessor systems, the element of signal recognition rests almost exclusively with the operator. Without operators who can recognize modem threat signature characteristics, the system is useless. For this reason, the Commodore’s message had nothing to do with the A-RCI system itself .. .It had everything to do with the fact that we had not carefully considered the Operator as Pan of the System.

System performance is directly linked to operator performance, and in spite of the accomplishments listed above, incorporating the operator as part of the system, just as the hardware and software elements were incorporated, had not been achieved in the initial A-RCI implementation. Treating the operator as a key element of the system meant the Navy had to make sure the operator was trained and proficient in the operation, maintenance, and employment of the system. These goals had not been accomplished and something had to be done to change the training paradigm and make the operator part of the system.

  • a team of out of the box thinkers was ready to answer the call:
  • the acquisition approach for the system had been nontraditional, allowing unconventional solutions;
  • the necessary technology was available; and
  • everyone engaged was determined to solve the problem.

Bottom Line Results

The ARCI Phase II installation training process accomplished all of these challenges in less than six months. Results included 200 % improvement, or better, in Sonar watchstander proficiency, high quality training tools that remain on the ship for continuous use, universal praise from Commanding Officers, and an institutionalized process for the long term.
Key lessons relearned included:

  • Training must be conducted in an authentic operational environment
  • The Teacher (vice instructor) is critical
  • Performance has to be measured against an absolute standard

Outlining the Approach

To solve this problem, the following steps had to be taken:

  • The right people had to be engaged and supported.
  • The proficiency of the sonar men had to be quantified to identify their weaknesses, and this quantification had to have irrefutable validity.
  • Training tools had to be identified, designed, and incorporated into the existing system.
  • Training curriculum and examinations had to be developed.
  • A comprehensive training plan had to be developed, sold, supported, and executed.
  • Training effectiveness had to be measured and follow-on improvements had to be made.

Implementing The Solution

A. Engaging and Supporting the Right People
Two old naval sayings have been re-proven by the A-RCI installation training process: “It is the crew that makes the ship what it is” and “Go ask the Chief.” Key to solving any problem is selecting the right people to address it. Two primary groups were involved in resolving the A-RCI problem.

1. The Concept of Operations and Operator-Machine Interface (OMO Group (COSG)\

The A-RCl/Advanced Program Build (APB) Sonar Development Working Group (SDWG) oversees and manages several working groups, including the COSG. The COSG consists of senior Sonar Chief Petty Officers from the Type Commander’s Tactical Readiness Evaluation (TRE) Teams; the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI); Commander, Submarine Development Squadron Twelve (COMSUBDEVRON TWELVE); and other agencies, as well as a smaller number of civilians representing academic and technology organizations. The COSG was established to engage Fleet opera-tors in the design and development of A-RCI’s displays and OMIs. In this capacity, it had exceeded expectations. Nonetheless, when the requirement to address operational training surfaced, the COSG instantly recognized a new challenge and took charge.

In September 1998, the COSG Chairman, Master Chief Terry Stuckart, convened an impromptu meeting with senior sonarmen from throughout the Fleet and representatives of industry to analyze Fleet-wide operator proficiency and training issues. Following that meeting these sonarmen provided the NA VSEA (PMS425) Program Office a set of concerns and recommended solutions, which they volunteered to implement. Master Chief Stuckart (COMSUBDEV-RON 12), Master Chief Clinch (ONI), and Chief Rule (ONI) worked with Commanders Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic and Pacific Fleets (COMSUBLANT and COMSUBPAC) to organize the available personnel assets and justify the need for dedicated in-port and at-sea operator training time.

In addition, they worked with the NAVSEA Program Offices and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNA V N879) to ensure the funding and hardware needs were met. At ONI, using in-house assets, Senior Chief Willetts developed a survey to measure operational proficiency against an absolute standard using sonar lofargrams from real-world submarine engagements. Master Chief Shafer and Senior Chief Koshoffer at COMSUBLANT wrote the training curriculum. Senior Chief Leonatti and Senior Chief Behnken at ONI created a library of element-level recordings of real-world submarine encounters. Master Chief (Retired) Dennis Bailey at the Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory developed growtd truth documentation to accompany the training tapes. Mr. Paul Bruhns pursued development of an A-RCI system replica hosted on a Sun Workstation that would be used as the classroom training platform.

2. The Teachers

Creating this training program was not, however, the COSG’s most significant contribution. Their biggest impact was in their role as teachers. In addition to the nonnal day-to-day duties and responsibilities at their parent commands, the Chiefs of the COSG personally conducted the shipboard training both in pon and at sea on a pan-time voluntary basis. Defining the attributes of a good teacher is beyond the scope of this article, but the teachers from the COSG provided four elements vital to success.

  • Expert operational knowledge and proficiency.
  • Extensive experience in submarine sonar operations.
  • Training techniques that emphasized student understanding of core sonar watchstanding principles.
  • One-on-one mentoring that can only occur on the ship in actual or simulated operational situations using real-world data

With every A-RCI Phase II installation, two-man teams conducted training for two weeks in port and one week at sea. The curriculum, discussed in detail below, was based on two fundamen-tal elements: a) establishing a solid foundation of technical knowledge, and b) applying one-on-one/over-the-shoulder teaching in an operational environment with the operators on watch.

The mental fusion of acoustic information gleaned from lofargrams and headphones is a trade skill that has to be taught. Detecting threat contacts often requires rapid recognition and analysis of infonnation, which must then be translated into conclusions and actions. Like an athlete, the sonarman’s perfor-mance is dependent on his inherent abilities, how much he has practiced, and the quality of his coach. The teachers from the TRE Teams, from ONI, and COMSUBDEVRON TWELVE are the coaches who made the difference.

Quantifying the Proficiency of the Sonarmen

How do you measure the proficiency of a sonannan against an absolute standard? What is an absolute standard? How can a representative sample of sonannen in the Atlantic and the Pacific Fleets be effectively surveyed? Who has the skills, time, and resources to create and administer such a survey, grade and assess the results, and then translate those results into corrective actions? The COSG provided the solutions to these challenges, taking charge and skillfully executing its plan.

Historically, the predominant methods of evaluating a sonar-man’ s operational proficiency outside the classroom used relative standards. Sonar Shacks were evaluated against each other with relative grades of Average, Below or Above Average, etc., or they were deemed ready or not ready to deploy. Although effective in certain aspects, relative assessments are frequently subjective and can be as much a matter of opinion as they are a matter of fact. Additionally, it is difficult to use relative standards to detennine Fleet-wide operational proficiency, changes in that proficiency, or the effectiveness of training conducted. The challenge then was to put the sonannan in a simulated situation with an assessment tool-a series of lofargrams that had been validated (ground truthed) so that the sonarmen’s capacity to recognize and assess what was evident in the lofargram could be compared to known values.

The survey was created, disseminated, and graded by Senior Chief Willetts at ONI. It used MACDSP and legacy sonar system lofargrams of 20 sonar contacts of interest taken from recordings of real-world encounters. These lofargrams were printed on paper for serial presentation to the sonannan much as they would be seen on a sonar display during nonnal sonar search. The contacts in the survey included a large variety of foreign submarines and torpe-does. One hundred lofargrams were shown in the survey, including 20 contacts of interest, as well as 80 lofargrams of merchants and fishing vessels and some containing no contacts at all.

The sonarmen were instructed to page through the paper grams in a process similar to the normal watch standing routine of paging through towed array beams as they searched for sonar contacts. They were insoucted to use a three-pass process. On the first pass, the sonarmen evaluated the grams and flagged those that they recognized as containing contacts of interest. On the second pass, those lofargrams having contacts of interest were to be analyzed to yield as much tactical information as possible, such as target speed, indications of zigs, or opening/closing contact. On the third pass, the targets were to be classified as accurately as possible. The 100 Iofargrams were organized into 5 sets of 20 grams each, where each set represented a different ocean area of the world. Operators were given 2.5 hours to complete the survey.

The survey was distributed and administered by Acoustic Intelligence (ACINT) Specialists, TRE Team members, and squadron sonarmen to qualified sonar watch standers aboard submarines, at training commands, and at submarine squadrons and group staffs. Nearly 200 qualified watch standers took the survey. The demographics of those taking the survey are shown in the following chart:

Fleet Operators
SSN 25%
SSBN 31%
Sonar Instructors 30%
Staff Sonarmen 3.5%
Qualified ACINT Specialists 7%
ACINT Specialist Trainees 3.5%

The results indicated clear weaknesses not only with the Fleet operators but also with the sonar insuuctors, and at the same time, lent validity to the ONI ACINT Specialist training program. The results among ACINT Specialist trainees should have been predictable based on the screening process used to select ONI trainees, but post-A-RCI Installation training results reveal that the dominant parameter is not innate ability but rather teaching techniques.

Coincident with the survey, a different inquiry was initiated by COMSUBLANT and conducted at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NAVUNSEA W ARCEN). This COMSUBLANT-sponsored research is commonly called the Lost dB Study. The fundamental purpose of that study was to determine why contact hold times observed in shore-based analysis of tape recordings from at-sea events were much longer than the hold times reported by the recording ships. The srudy used Fleet sonarmen and ACINT Riders on both legacy sonar systems and the more advanced black box systems to determine if the dB detected by the sensors were actually being displayed as volts on the operators’ screens (CRT). The srudy clearly indicated that the volts were on the screen both on the legacy sonars and the black box systems, for approximately the same amount of time. The Lost dB Study complemented the resuhs of the proficiency survey and showed that one of the primary causes of hold time differences was the proficiency and training of the operator.

Most importantly, the survey proved beyond any doubt or subjective opinion that there was a universal problem in our sonannan’s ability to recognize and detect contacts of interest on lofargrams. This was a reality that had to be addressed as soon as possible to improve the overall tactical performance of the Subma-rine Force. The clarity of the results, driven by the rigor of the survey and the Lost dB Study, served as a catalyst to bring the different organizations responsible for sonarman training together in the effort to solve the problem. This teamwork between OPNA V (N879), the Fleet staffs, and the NAVSEA Program Office proved to be a vital by-product.

Obviously, the success of new sonar systems featuring lofargram-based search would be dependent on the operator’s fundamental ability to read the grams. A lack of recognition proficiency would not be overcome by improvements made to the display formats, no matter how much they had been enhanced. In fact, enhanced displays that are more effective at presenting some of the more arcane sonar signals could serve to exaggerate a signal recognition problem. Given these realities, it became very clear that we had an opportunity with A-RCI Phase II Installation training to teach system operation on the new system, and at the same time, teach lofargram reading skills. With this as the goal, we developed the right tools and a superb curriculum that has had a tremendous return on investment. In addition to the enhanced processing perfonnance of the A-RCI Phase II system itself, operator contact recognition performance, due solely to improved lofargram reading skills, resulted in major improvements to the overall system detection performance. This demonstrated unequivocally the importance of the operator as part of the system.

Identifying, Designing, and Incorporating the Right Training Tools

Fundamental to any project’s success is the application of the right tools. Fortunately the tools were already available. The challenge was applying engineering and acquisition solutions to put the right tools in the right place to make the plan work. Critical tools included the following:

  • Towed Array Record/Playback Unit (TARPU), an element level tape recorder/reproducer installed in the front end of the Towed Array processing string.
  • Transportable Sun Workstations running A-RCI and APB tactical software.
  • Acoustic tape recordings of real-world contacts formatted for playback on TARPU


The installation of an element-level tape playback capability imbedded in A-RCI Phase II demonstrated the flexibility of COTS-based systems and is a story of overcoming technical and program-matic challenges and contractor and program office courage.

During APB98 sea tests on USS AUGUST A, an expensive tape player was used to feed recordings of real-world submarine sonar contacts through the A-RCI system to compare the legacy sonar displays against the A-RCI displays and algorithms being tested.

Using the tape playback as a data input to the system accomplished the intended goal, but more importantly, the ship, the testing team, and the COSG recognized that playing real-world data through the system would be an invaluable training tool.

The challenges became:

  • finding an affordable tape recorder that would meet the needs of the numerous organizations using recorded acoustic data,
  • solving the engineering problem of how and where to install the tape recorder in the A-RCI system, and
  • addressing the substantial programmatic and business risks of installing the recorder in a system that was four months from the first shipboard installation.

NA VSEA (PMS 4252) and ONI attacked the tape recorder selection process in a very time-compressed environment. The tape recorder had to be affordable, compatible with current and future analysis equipment formats, small enough to fit in the available space, technically interfaced with the system, and environmentally tested. None of these were easy to accomplish, and only through the technical expertise and determination of the parties involved were these issues resolved within the existing schedule and budget limitations.

The element data output from the tape recordings had to be compatible as an input to the signal conditioner at the front end of the A-RCI System. The signal conditioner used in Phase I, however, had several military-unique cards, and it could not be interfaced with the selected tape recorders. Digital Systems Resources, Inc., (DSR) had designed a COTS-based signal conditioner that could be interfaced with the desired tape recorders, but it was not scheduled for inclusion in A-RCI until later. The first shipboard installation of the system was scheduled in about 16 weeks, and the training plans and curriculum had all been devel-oped with the tape playback capability as a prerequisite. Risk can take many forms and is always present in any acquisition program, but the situation did not seem to have a win-win solution. The inclusion of the TARPU in A-RCI Phase II appeared to pose a genuine risk to delivering the system on time, but delivering the system without the ability to train the crew seemed even more unacceptable.

To solve this no-win situation, Lockheed Martin in Manassas, as the Prime System Integrator, and DSR, working with NA VSEA (PMS425), united to solve the numerous technical, schedule and programmatic problems to install the COTS signal conditioner in the A-RCI Phase II system and deliver it to the ship on time. This accomplishment reflects the commitment of the people involved to doing the right thing, as well as their technical expertise in solving the engineering and business issues.

Transportable Sun Workstations

To support the sonar division’s classroom training while A-RCI Phase II was being installed on the ship, a portable shore-based processor with A-RCI’s Phase II tactical software was needed. Running the tactical software on portable COTS hardware demon-strated a hidden advantage of using COTS as the basis for the installed system. Two relatively inexpensive Sun Workstations, one for each coast, were purchased by the NA VSEA Program Office for classroom training. The training systems could be called simulators, but in fact they allowed for authentic presentation of real-world acoustic data using the A-RCI tactical software as processor.

Perhaps the greatest value of the Sun Workstations was their ability to be manipulated in real-time. This allowed the teachers to access system menus and alter system options in the classroom, to demonstrate operational characteristics of A-RCI, and afforded operational hands-on training opporrunities for each student. This classroom training workstation was quite flexible and enabled the teachers to tailor training to the individual needs of a submarine crew and run and rerun sections of the curriculum as needed.

Acoustic Tapes of Real-Wodd Contacts

Both the TARPU and the Sun Workstations depended on real-world data provided by the ONI element-level recordings. These recordings had to be specifically formatted from their original state to one that was compatible with A-RCI system playback. This was a significant and vital effort accomplished by Senior Chief Leonatti and Senior Chief Behnken at ONI. It represented a monumental effort to search the ONI data base, play back data for review, identify suitable acoustic events, and reformat and deliver the necessary 21 tapes in time for training. Supporting documentation had to be prepared for the tapes that listed target signature charac-teristics and times when the target and own ship maneuvered. Mr. Dennis Bailey produced a series of detailed ground truth reports for the tapes that catalogued and time-stamped target acoustic signature and operating characteristics. These were invaluable guidebooks for the training teams.

One of the most important aspects of these training tapes is that they remain on the ship. This enables the ship to replay the tapes as part of an organic training program. The ship’s chain of command now has the ability to use the expertise on board to train new personnel, and more importanUy, to practice the trade skills of reading acoustic grams and system operation using real-world data. The training tape series can be refreshed periodically and updated with more up-to-date data, which because of the A-RCI data playback capability, provides the ability for near Op-Immediate intelligence. Ships preparing for deployment can obtain recently recorded T ARPU tapes from other A-RCI ships returning from patrols and play them back immediately to prepare for their next assignment.

Developing Training Curriculum and Examinations

The curriculum had three fundamental goals:
1. Operational Proficiency: Train the operators to operate the new system (a traditional installation training goal).
2. Employment Proficiency: Teach the operators, supervisors, and officers how to best employ the system for a given tactical scenario (where system employment is distinctly different from and a higher order task than system operation).
3. Signal Recognition: Significantly improve sonannen’s proficiency in a) recognizing contacts of interest by improv-ing pattern recognition techniques, and b) using all acoustic clues to exploit the target

A senior member of the Pacific Fleet TRE Team used to say,

“Michael Jordan did not become a great basketball player sitting in a classroom calculating how to shoot baskets. He became a great basketball player by taking a ball out on the court and SHOOTING basket.”

In other words, practice begets proficiency.

This doesn’t imply that classroom training is not required as a vital step towards operational proficiency-it certainly is. But learning acoustic signal recognition and analysis skills is like learning a language. Learning the basics in a classroom is neces-sary, but real proficiency occurs when the student is placed in-counJry and forced to use the language as part of his daily life. The same is true for the skill of obtaining tactical information from sonar displays. Training has to be accomplished using the ship’s tactical sonar system, vice a laboratory signal analyzer, and if at all possible, aboard ship in a simulated or actual at-sea condition. Training on the ship, both at-sea and in port simulating an at-sea watch standing environment, was key to the A-RCI Installation Training philosophy and success.

The Curriculum

The A-RCI classroom curriculum is organized into four modules:

  • A-RCI System Overview and Theory of Operation
  • A-RCI System Operations
  • Acoustic Intelligence and Signal Recognition
  • A-RCI System Employment

The classroom training is intended to teach the students how to operate and employ A-RCI and at the same time, strengthen their understanding of basic signal processing characteristics, to ensure they make correct choices during A-RCI system operation. To fulfill those goals, the curriculum was written to emphasize practical information vice in-depth technical theory. A-RCI System maintenance training had been accomplished during factory training, which will migrate to the schoolhouse or pipeline training. As an addition to the factory and pipeline training, the COSG’s A-RCI installation training was focused on system operation, and only information germane to operational proficiency was presented. But, at the same time, it was the unanimous opinion of the COSG that a Theory of Operation module be included to give students an appropriate understanding of rudimentary technical sonar concepts-a level of knowledge throughout the Fleet that had deterio-rated as badly as signal recognition.

System Overview and Theory of Operation is presented in one day. Significant topics include towed array characteristics, towed array beamforming, Fast Fourier Transforms and frequency analysis, and A-RCI signal processing techniques that were not elements of the legacy sonar systems. A-RCI system operations is presented in one day, providing students a definition of displays and system options and including demonstrations of all modes of A-RCI on the Sun Workstation. Demonstrations are followed by individual system operation by the sonarmen at the Sun Workstation. An ONI ACINT Specialist devotes one day to signal recognition and acoustic intelligence. He demonstrates not only the appearance of a signal of interest on A-RCI but also emphasizes the appropriate options and display enhancements that will maximize presentation of these signals.

After the operators have become familiar with A-RCI system operation and how to recognize contacts of interest, one day is spent teaching system employment. This module focuses on current tactical doctrine, and in fact, relies on the published A-RCI Operating Guidelines as curriculum. Recommended system lineups and some of the reasons for deviating from default system settings are discussed. The last day of the classroom curriculum is spent reviewing salient elements of the week’s training, performing testing, and making presentations to the ships’ officers.

One of the overwhelming challenges in creating the A-RCI classroom curriculum was to document infonnation held as head knowledge by many people. which in most cases was not available in a fonnat readily understood by the average sonar operator. For example, although the ACINT Specialists are experts at signal recognition, this is largely due to their years of accumulated experience in detecting and operating with foreign ships and submarines throughout the world. Senior Chief Willetts and Chief DelCarnbre at ONI had to make a significant leap of imagination to aniculate the process of signal recognition-a task that often seems to be more an than science. Nonetheless, the training results repeatedly reveal that even the most junior operators now clearly understand the distinction between signals of interest and those radiating from benign merchant ships and trawlers-indications of Willetts and DelCambre’s success.

But perhaps the greatest challenge facing curriculum writers was turning the explanations of the engineers and scientists about A-RCI signal processing characteristics into practical inf onnation that the average high school graduate could digest. To overcome this challenge, a three-day seminar was convened at NAVOCEANO, Stennis Space Center, MS, where an eclectic mix of sonar engi-neers and system developers from NAVUNSEAWARCEN. DSR, Lockheed Martin. and the University of Texas presented a series of lectures to the COSG. These presentations explained the technical facets of A-RCI, from basic towed array theory and beamforming to more arcane topics such as spatial vernier, adaptive beamfonn-ing, and Fast Fourier Transforms. Master Chief Shafer and Senior Chief Koshoffer from COMSUBLANT then took on the challenging task of translating these lectures spoken in the language of Planet Algorithm into a series of low-level lectures that virtually all sonannen could understand. This module took no less than 4 months to write, reflecting the enormous difficulty of the job, and required significant technical acumer.

Developing, Selling, Supporting, and Executing a Comprehensive Training Plan

Dynamic is perhaps the most accurate word to describe the Training Plan. Developing and implementing the comprehensive effort was not done in a top-down process, with every detail worked out in advance and then followed like a script. The Training Plan consisted of an overall strategy with key parts as described above. One critical plan element was the support from and the schedule coordination with the Type Commanders to connect the teachers with the ship at the right time for maximum training effectiveness.

At the heart of the plan were the people. All understood the reasons for the effort and the relative priority. Micro-management by the Program Office was unnecessary. Master Chief Stuckart at COMSUBDEVRON 12 and Master Chief Clinch at ONI and their teams used the COSG as the focal point of organization and took care of the curriculum, the tapes, and scheduling requirements. Mr. Victor Gavin, as the A-RCI Chief Engineer, supervised and coordinated development of the tools for the TARPU and the Sun Workstation.

Significant credit is due the COMSUBLANr and COMSUBPAC Staffs. In today’s operational environment, the tasks assigned to both the ships and the TYCOM staff personnel frequently exceed the available assets. Carving out and coordinating the at-sea operational time and dedicating personnel to conduct the training was as substantial a challenge as it was significant to the success and quality of the training.

Had training become the number one priority in the A-RCI Phase II installation process? The truth is, no. Production and installation was always the number one priority. Can it be said that the operator had become part of the system from the perspective of the acquisition process? The answer is a resounding yes.

More importantly, the Training Plan and its execution repre-sented the cooperative and mutually supportive team efforts of numerous organizations that in the past had frequently looked at operational training like a track and field relay race instead of a cross-country meet. Historically, the individual organizations (the Program Office, industry, OPNAV (N879), Type Commanders, shore training commands, etc.) addressed their leg of the training relay and after handing the baton to their team mates running subsequent legs, they stepped off the track and out of the picture.

In A-RCI Phase II Installation Training, the efforts were coopera-tive and mutually supportive from start to finish. At every point, all teammates knew they were running together in the same race, and the more closely they finished together, the better the team score was going to be.

Measuring Training Effectiveness and Making Follow-on Improvements

The A-RCI Phase II installation training process accomplished all of these challenges in less than six months. Results included 200 percent improvement, or bener, in sonar watchstander proficiency, high-quality training tools that remain on the ship for continuous use, universal praise from Commanding Officers, and an institu-tionalized process for the long term.

The Results, Lessons Learned, and Institutional Changes

To say the results exceeded expectations is an understatement. Many of the improvements have already been addressed. The most striking and illustrative results include

  • Improved statistical post-training examination results
  • Positive reaction of the Commanding Officers
  • Lessons Learned
  • Institutional changes made to sustain and transition the installation training to recurring proficiency refresher training.

Lessons Learned

  • System technical changes
  • Curriculum & training changes
  • The young and less experienced operators gained proficiency with the new displays faster than the more senior and experienced operators.

Institutional Changes

One of the most significant results of these events has been the OPNA V (N879) determination to maximize the training value to the Fleet by expanding the effort and making the process and the right people a permanent part of the training infrastructure. Today, representatives from the Type Commander’s staff and ONI, along with a civilian contractor (retired ACINT Riders hired for their operational and technical expertise), serve as the core team that sustains and conducts the A-RCI Phases II, Ill, and IV Installation Training. In addition, preparations are being made to use this team to support the instructors in the schoolhouse and pipeline training program and to accomplish periodic refresher training on ships as deemed necessary by the Type Conunanders. Using a core set of experienced and proficient experts fully dedicated to the training effort (whose numbers can be adjusted quickly without changing Navy billet structures) will be an invaluable key to future acoustic proficiency training. This is especially critical in an environment where the APB process will be adding operational and technical capability upgrades to the ships on an annual basis.


The bottom line is simple. Today, the A-RCI operator is recognized and treated as a vital component of the system and we have relearned three very important lessons:

1. Training must be accomplished in the operator’s environ-ment, using the right tools.
2. The teacher (vice instructor) is critical.
3. Performance has to be measured against an absolute stan-dard. The challenge now is to expand the A-RCI lessons learned to improve acquisition processes and the Fleet’s operational profi-ciency in all of our warfare systems.

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