An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Weapon systems effectiveness shares link with human systems integration

  • Published
  • By Eric L. Stephens
  • 311 Human Systems Wing director
The way the Air Force goes to war now is not the same as it was before the Gulf War I. Today, the Air Force deals with more complex weapon systems, shifting combat environments and an ever-increasing reliance on computers and automation. These real-world challenges stress the human’s ability to process information and make decisions and changes what operators typically do.

In short, the human is becoming the limiting factor in weapon systems performance.

The Performance Enhancement Directorate at the 311th Human Systems Wing at Brooks City-Base, Texas, ensures an overwhelmingly effective U.S. Air Force warfighter through human systems integration, or HSI, and human performance.

According to a report on HSI in Air Force Weapon Systems Development and Acquisition, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board reported that “the institution of a formal Human Systems Integration program based upon operator usability requirements is necessary and can positively impact critical operational concerns such as mishap reduction, mission management and command-and-control decision support.”

Aerospace physiologists working in the Performance Enhancement Directorate’s Warfighter Operations Division understand how important training is toward producing such an effective warfighter. One of our aerospace physiologists told me the other day that he only wished we were as well connected to each other and HSI principles when he joined the Air Force as our younger Airmen are today. Not only does this division ensure the most current Aerospace Physiology and HSI resources are available to the aerospace physiology career field, it provide links to the best subject matter experts across a broad range of topics, including HSI, via Web site access.

HSI strives to make weapon systems more effective, affordable and safe by instilling the idea that the human, in addition to hardware and software, is part of the total system; therefore, as systems are designed and manufactured, they make the most of human ability and reduce factors that weaken performance. The Human Performance Training Team Community and the Human Systems Integration Web page, both located on the Air Force Knowledge Now Web site, are the means by which the Warfighter Operations Division ensures our training resources get to the user, interfacing with the warfighter on an operational level. In 2005 alone, the division’s Web site resources boasted a membership increase of 1,300 percent, new folder/documents increased 400 percent, and average monthly usage was up more than 200 percent compared to 2004.

The bridge we have built between this Human Systems Integration Division and the Human Performance Training Team has enlightened and broadened the knowledge base and understanding of HSI principles, the mission and the vision the Air Force has of HSI role in future weapon systems. We believe this information is preparing the team to be an invaluable resource to the war fighter by enhancing its human factor expertise thru HSI and its resources.

Another example of how the directorate facilitates good HSI practices is apparent in the U. S. Air Force’s most successful unmanned aerial vehicle program to date, the MQ-1 Predator.

Directorate researchers conducted a tri-service study of UAV mishaps. Realizing a need to reduce such mishaps, the researchers assessed aspects of the UAV program to find ways to integrate human considerations. Then, they made recommendations for improvement in the areas of manpower, personnel, training, human factors engineering, environment, safety, occupational health, habitability and personnel survivability.

The directorate continually assesses these domains on current weapon systems as well as those under development. Commercial off-the-shelf item descriptions are under review, and all HSI domains are being addressed and implemented to bring the best system to the warfighter. Examples of current or previous items addressed in collaboration with HSG include Arctic Flight Suit, Mission Extender Bladder Relief, Quick-Don Oxygen Mask and the Joint Service Light Nuclear Biological Chemical Reconnaissance System. As you think of the Airman as a force multiplier, remember the simple equation “Human (Technology + Concept of Operations) = Capability.” Humans are very adaptable, but to get the greatest capability from our future systems, we must ensure the human is integrated with the hardware and software during the requirement and design process.