In a move to "capitalize on the Atari mentality," the Navy has developed a computer war game to train its junior officers for combat.

Called NAVTAG for Navy Tactical Action Game, it is played by three persons -- a player representing the Navy, his "Red" opponent and a game director who referees, scores and modifies the combat scene. The computer gives the players essential information -- such as radar readings and how much fuel they have left -- on video display terminals. The U.S. player directs actual Navy ships, so he has to know their capabilities. He is presented with a scenario that requires him to take some action within a limited time period, and then the computer reports the results.

Lt. Cmdr. Bob Owen, who was in charge of testing NAVTAG, said the game allows junior officers a chance to test tactics that they only could read about before. The game also helps officers get used to making decisions based on computer data, Owen said, calling this important because computers have become such an integral part of military systems.

The games have been tested at East Coast naval bases, Owen said, and have been extremely popular with everyone from four-star admirals to enlisted men. "An awful lot of people find it just as addictive as Pac-Man," Owen said. Final versions of the game are scheduled for delivery to all surface ships in November.