U.S. Navy Invests in Simulation to Boost Watchstander Proficiency

LCS training simulator (file image)

Published Apr 17, 2019 3:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

Adm. Bill Moran, the current vice chief of naval operations and President Donald Trump's nominee for chief of naval operations, said Tuesday that the U.S. Navy is investing heavily in simulation improve its navigation training. Adm. Moran headed the Navy's Readiness and Reform Oversight Council (also referred to as the Readiness Reform Oversight Committee) in the wake of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain collisions, and he has been closely involved in efforts to overhaul the surface fleet's manning and training policies. 

"[I was] very disappointed when I went out to the fleet in almost every location that I went out to, the simulation capability for the surface force was well below what I am used to in the aviation community," Adm. Moran said in an interview at CSIS. "The lesson we learned from the Fitzgerald and McCain was the poor communications and teamwork between the bridge and [Combat Information Center]. So we bolted on CIC simulation to the existing bridge simulators . . . and that is helping the instructors teach basic communications and some skills that are important to reinforce."

The Navy does not yet have the capacity to provide simulation training at the scale that commanding officers would like, Adm. Moran said, so it has budgeted for new integrated bridge simulators to fill the gap. "They exist today in the [Littoral Combat Ship] Program - if you've been to an LCS trainer, they're remarkable trainers, they're the best in the business," he said. "We should have that for every ship class in the Navy, or at least be able to reconfigure a simulator to mirror . . . the ship class." LCS officers of the deck have to qualify for their post in simulation testing before shipping out. 

Adm. Moran believes that simulation could be the single largest contributor to increasing navigators' proficiency, and the Navy is investing accordingly. The effort to increases ship sim capacity is large-scale, with new buildings in San Diego and Norfolk to house multiple simulation facilities. The service is building simulators "in numbers that will allow us to do a lot more reps and sets for our COs, our department heads and our sailors," Adm. Moran said. 

The Navy has also restructured the career path for new Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) to give them more time at sea, with longer, more frequent hitches. It is also making good progress on its recruiting and retention numbers, Adm. Moran said, which will help to address manning issues that have stretched the surface fleet's readiness in recent years.