What we got Here, is a Failure to Coordinate: Implicit and Explicit Coordination in Air Combat

Heikki Petteri Mansikka, Kai Virtanen, Don Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Air combat is the ultimate test for teamwork, as teams of fighter pilot (or flights), must coordinate their actions in a highly complex, hostile, dynamic and time critical environment. Flights can coordinate their actions using communication, that is, explicitly, or by relying on team situation awareness (SA), that is, implicitly. This paper examines how these two forms of coordination are associated with performance when prosecuting or evading an attack in simulated air combat. This was done by investigating the flights’ team SA, number of SA-related communication acts and performance in these two types of critical events during air combat. The results exhibit a quadratic dependence between team SA and communication. The rate of change of SA-related communication frequency with respect to change of team SA was negative: communication was needed to build team SA, but once an appropriate level of team SA was established, fewer communications were required. If, however, team SA deteriorated the number of SA communication acts increased. However, during time critical events, the flights did not always have enough time to coordinate their actions verbally. If the flights’ team SA in such situations was low, the flights’ explicit coordination attempts were not sufficient to avoid poor performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-293
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making
Issue number3
Early online date31 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).


  • air combat
  • explicit coordination
  • implicit coordination
  • team performance
  • team situation awareness


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