Managing Human Factors in the Development of Fighter Aircraft

Managing Human Factors in the Development of Fighter Aircraft

Jens Alfredson (Saab Aeronautics, Sweden) and Rikard Andersson (Saab Aeronautics, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-887-3.ch004
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The chapter includes a description of the domain of fighter aircraft development, followed by a section on how to design for what is special about a fighter pilot, a fighter aircraft, and the flight environment. Examples of design concepts from the domain, such as HOTAS and Basic-T are discussed in light of domain specific demands. Later, human factor considerations, such as evaluation of human factors and usable systems, are discussed together with how to manage human factors in development.
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The Domain Of Fighter Aircraft Development

The domain of fighter aircraft development is special in many ways. For instance, it is extremely important to design for performance. As for many other domains, there is a professional user, not a consumer using the product for pleasure. As many other professional users, pilots have defined purposes regarding their use of a system. The context of a military system is that it will be used by professional military in extreme situations where failure could be devastating. For military pilots, it is extremely important to perform better than opponents and to be able to make fast decisions and execute them accurately. Therefore, the most important parameter for successful fighter aircraft design is performance, together with safety. Only a highly performing system, which is safe for the user, can meet the demands from the fighter aircraft domain. It is less important, for instance, for the system to be inspiring or fun to use, even if motivation is also important for support in a fighter aircraft.

As stated above, safety is also very important. Safety critical systems in a fighter aircraft have to be robust and work all of the time. Despite redundancy being built in when possible, it has to be extremely rare for a subsystem to malfunction. Additionally, tactical systems that are not directly linked to flight safety have to work because of the potential hostile and threatening situation that the fighter aircraft has to perform in.

User involvement is important in the development of many systems, but perhaps even more important in the development of fighter aircraft than in many other systems. One reason for this is that the cockpit, its use, and corresponding experiences are not very easily available compared to other domains. The designer of a car is probably also a driver of a similar car to and from work, or the designer of a telephone probably makes some calls occasionally on a similar phone, etc. Since it takes a long time to become an experienced pilot and a long time to become an experienced designer with technical and methodological skills, it is not always possible to find these competences combined in one designer. When that is the case, it quite often the own fighter aircraft experience is based on yesterday’s systems rather than the systems of today. Therefore it is often wise to include current users in all phases of the design of a fighter aircraft.

In addition to user involvement, it is desirable to have continuous broader customer involvement. For a consumer product it is common that the customer and the user are the same person, but in the domain of fighter aircraft there are actually various kinds of users and customers (often different roles and individuals within large organisations). It is important that the human factors development manages this wide spectrum of needs and expectations.

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