Athena & WBI Fill the Next-Gen Electronic Warfare Knowledge Gap

17.04.19 02:52 AM By Jennie Hempstead

Imagine you’ve just received your degree in electrical engineering, and you’ve received a job offer from the Air Force Research Laboratory, developing Electronic Warfare (EW) technology that will enable air superiority for today’s Air Force. Sounds exciting, right? Except…what exactly does “Electronic Warfare” mean? And how are you supposed to learn?

The best and brightest grads, who want to jumpstart their careers, might have a hard time at AFRL, because of an information gap on the history EW. Without dedicated, intentional training EW knowledge transfer has fallen to various peers, relaying a smattering of stories. This type of ‘tribal knowledge’ often fills a gap where no current training exists. Hartwood Simulation and Training’s Raj Raheja says “When faced with poorly structured training, (people) do what they need to do to get through the process. This becomes the system carried on from new hire to new hire.” Raheja continues, “Without proper training, employees can’t work to their full potential. This can lead to lowered sales, underwhelming customer service or substandard work. Many times, that means expensive turnover, both through firing and because employees may not feel up to the work.”

The AFRL ATHENA Team aims to break the cycle with a training software platform that incorporates EW historical data, operational user experience and R&D. While the team had the vision, they didn’t have the bandwidth. Literally. They turned to WBI for a solution and were provided access to WBI’s Software Experimentation Environment (SEE). SEE provides unrestricted, high-bandwidth internet, access to open source software, easy troubleshooting and the ability to test new approaches, providing the ATHENA team with maximum design flexibility. To add a higher degree of information retention to the platform, WBI’s Bob Lee and the ATHENA team added a “war stories” podcast that provides an emotional bridge between the technology and the mission. The podcasts are receiving tremendous support from the EW community, who are actively sending contacts to the ATHENA team for these operational recordings.

The impact at AFRL is apparent. The platform has been adopted by AFRL/RYW division chief, John Carr, who introduced this holistic approach to the EW Tri-Service Working Group. MGen Kenneth Israel (USAF Ret.) introduced this program to the 479th AETC for transition to train operational EW specialists. Dr. Teresa Bennett, AFRL Chief Learning Officer, wants this technology for newly hired Scientists and Engineers.

Without the flexibility of the SEE, the ATHENA team would not have been able to develop this platform. Transition efforts will continue to close the gap between the R&D development and operational users, accelerating EW research and implementation.