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Virtual Ships Train Navy Sailors

Video

San Diego Week: Friday, Mar. 4, 2011

Above: Naval Base San Diego is first in the country to use new simulators to train sailors for combat and rescue missions.

Audio

Aired 3/4/11

Naval Base San Diego is first in the country to use new simulators to train sailors for combat and rescue missions.

— Two new Navy combat ships are making San Diego their homeport.

The USS Freedom and USS Independence are so high tech each came with a $15 million simulator.

The ship simulators are located inside a building at the Littoral Combat Ship Training Facility on Naval Base San Diego.

They are the Navy’s first combat navigation simulators.

Inside each simulator room is a life-sized bridge about the size of a 700 square foot apartment that precisely replicates the Navy’s newest battle ships.

Joe Shifflett, director of the facility, said simulator training on land instead of sea is better for the planet and the bottom line.

“First of all we’re not burning fuel at sea so we’re saving gas," he said.

Shifflett also said that dry-dock training saves wear and tear on the ships, and improves the sailors “quality of life.”

“Here instead of being underway at sea and away from their families to train, we do them on shore and the sailors go home every night,” Shifflett said.

But the biggest benefit is the speed and efficiency in training the crew. What use to take six months to learn at sea, now takes about a month on land.

“In four weeks we can compress a multitude of different scenarios—you might not ever see in a year or even three years on a ship at sea," said Shifflett.

Robert Butt nodded his head in agreement. He is a retired Navy captain and lead instructor at the training facility.

Butt said the simulators' complex computer systems are the same as those on board the ships, and that reduces the required crew to operate a ship from about 200 sailors to 80.

“What use to take a group of 10-15 people on the bridge of ship can be done with two to three people,” explained Butt.

He also said the state-of-the-art computer programs train crews for rescue and combat missions.

“That could be anything from anti-surface warfare, or self defense, or mine warfare or in the near future, anti-submarine warfare,” said Butt.

The simulator’s computer programs operate like a portable video game. Each combat program is tailored to a specific mission. When needed, the combat computer programs will be flown to the ship along with a specially trained crew explains Butt.

“If you have the ship where you need it, you can fly the crew to the ship and change out crew in a very short period of time.”

Butt also said sailors must become experts at navigating the new fast ships that are the size of nearly two football fields.

“Normally we have propellers on our ships, but these are now water jet propulsion and that makes these ships very maneuverable and fast. They can go into shallow water where a lot of our current warships cannot go,” explained Butt.

The Navy intends to add eight more ships to its fleet over the next few years at a cost of about $440 million per ship. Plans are also underway for a

$64 million expansion of the simulator training facility in San Diego.

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