Empowering Naval Operations: The Evolution of Operator Combat Consoles.

Operator combat consoles aboard surface ships serve as sophisticated tools for consolidating, synthesizing, and presenting data from various sources—ranging from the vessel's sensors to external inputs regarding unidentified, hostile, neutral, and friendly targets—empowering crews to make informed decisions promptly.

When designing these combat consoles, there are many design aspects to consider to amplify the proficiency and impact of operators operating within high-pressure environments where decisive actions are made in mere moments. These consoles necessitate meticulous design aimed at mitigating both physical and cognitive strain on operators, thereby alleviating mental exhaustion and optimising response agility.

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The Studio for Confined Human Environment Design (SCHED), part of the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE) at the University of South Australia, was engaged by Saab to conceptualise the next generation of surface ship console design. 

In partnership with Saab Australia and Saab Sweden, SCHED embarked on the task of developing a concept for a futuristic console that Saab would produce for unveiling at a prestigious international exhibition, DSEI in London.  

Through innovative human centred design approaches using anthropology, applied ergonomics and industrial design, SCHED worked with Saab to understand the problem and co-developed a range of designs.

By prioritising end-users and envisioning how the space and equipment would be utilised, multiple physical and virtual prototypes were produced, evaluated and tested using a range of different screen and interface elements.


This complete evolution of the naval operator combat console was conceptualised, developed and manufactured in only eight months.

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The final design included numerous innovative features including novel screen configurations, folding worksurfaces, seating and footrest that sets new standards in human-machine interaction and battlespace management.

The Future Operator Workspace provides an operator immersive, intuitive platform, enabling superior management of critical systems in all operational situations. Recognising the need to enhance survivability and optimise effectiveness, the physical console was developed with human-centred ergonomics and is the first platform to fully embed the operator into the entire system.

The platform is highly functional and customisable. It possesses a smaller footprint, without operational compromise, has advanced functionality and new ways of interaction.


The Future Operator Workspace provides a clear and distinct presentation of the tactical and operational environment and optimises the operators’ ability to process complex cognitive decisions in an instant. Its characteristics combine to reduce operator mental load and fatigue, and enable increased reaction times, saving valuable seconds in critical situations.

The Future Operator Workspace seamlessly integrates human-centred design and ergonomics, with a sophisticated user-machine interface. The innovation and technology employed in the system, enables an increased tactical advantage under even the most extreme conditions – significantly enhancing operator effectiveness and survivability in combat situations.

The Future Operator Workspace is poised to transition from R&D to becoming a potential future standard in naval combat consoles.

"The Future Operator Workspace is another example of Saab leveraging its world class expertise and partnering with Australian industry to design and develop innovative new products which can be integrated into the global supply chain"

John Cartwright
Head of Product - Hardware & Group Technical Authority

For more information or to discuss a similar potential project contact: Peter.Schumacher@unisa.edu.au