The July ’94 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, and in particular the article by Rear Admiral Hooley piqued my interest. Admiral Houley expressed a need for visionaries, reduced manning, and console projection of information needed to fight the ship.
The January ’95 issue contained an article by Lieutenant D’Ambrosio prompted by his visit to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center(NUWC). His article, The Human-Computer Interface. showed his awe for the advances he saw at NUWC and lamented the lack of such equipment on his submarine.
A nuclear submarine is very complicated and my generation did not have to cope with the technology required of a submarine officer today. Lieutenant D’Ambrosio’s article, though beautifully written, had a number of foreign phrases I was unable to comprehend. However, I did get his message and I think he is saying somewhat the same thing Admiral Houley said recently, and what Electric Boat said 30 years ago; and no one listened.
Both authors express somewhat the same desires for future submarines, i.e., console screen displays of computer-generated information so the CO can make faster and better decisions; provide computer solutions vice laborious plotting for bearings only fire control (FC) problems; and single-stick course and depth control. The final result being reduced manning and increased efficiency.
It is safe to say these things will not be back-fitted and the big question in my mind is: will they be included in SEAWOU and NSSN! I ask this question because these, and many other improvements were offered to the Submarine Force in the early 60s. Since the ideas are not new, one has to ask if the acceptance of visions has changed. If it has, and we can assume the next class of submarines will have state-of-the-art versions of equipment, displays, and procedures ignored in the past, you will walk aboard and say, “Wow, this doesn’t look like a submarine.”
Electric Boat conducted a study called SUBIC which advocated submarine integrated control. Exactly the same stuff Bill Houley and Karl D’Ambrosio suggest. They all recognize that there is a man-machine loop and there always has been. The CO needs information that he can see, NOT HEAR. He needs to see that which is pertinent to the situation at hand. The difference between seeing it 30 years ago and now is striking in presentation, but is the same information, refined a little.
Let me be the pilot and give me a picture window in which the FC system projects the target. I’ll either lead, lag, or maintain a constant bearing as ordered. If the FC system fails, let sonar talk to me. I don’t need Jonesey-I need bearings and a manual input of estimated range in my picture window and the intuition from practice, practice, practice. That is the all-vital man portion of the man-machine loop. The next question is: Where are you going to get the practice?
How does the crew of a new class learn to fight their ship in its many missions? Who teaches them how to use all the new equipment and concepts? ALBACORE crews spent thousands of hours maneuvering at high speeds learning how to control the newly configured hull destined for future nuclear submarines. This was all done in single-stick control with rudimentary displays. Their job was to find out what this new hull could do and then tell the Submarine Force how best to use it in combat situations. They had the help of some wonderful people from the David Taylor Model Basin, and as a result, the Navy bought the hull concept for future submarines. This was a try-and-see evaluation. (Our booklet on how to fly a submarine never made the bookstands.)
We can use the ALBACORE try-and-see method to train crews, which is all we have; or the method used by aviators for many, many years. Are we going to hand over this new submarine to a crew and say, “You figure it out!”
Would you believe I am suggesting a simulator for training and evaluation? If we are to get serious about reducing crew size, the simulator is the best way to train in the new concepts. Take the pilot as an example. Normally, his duties are boring while transiting from A to B. However, in attack and evasion scenarios, he must be a highly trained master pilot viewing his underwater world on a computer-generated display.
The same goes for the approach parties, now reduced in numbers but enjoying computer-enhanced capabilities. The new console displays make decision-making easier. This new and different team can train in all aspects of submarining long before delivery of their ship; that is, if someone provides them the time!
The Trident Submarine Force trained its wardroom officers and navigation plotting parties in simulators. They learned a great deal about themselves and their new ships and solved many problems before they ever went to sea. Seeing people perform under real conditions prompted changes in shipboard assignments. They were allowed two days out of a very hectic building schedule to get this all-important training, away from home.
Every new class submarine should have a simulator as part of the price. A simulator will provide training in all aspects except propulsion. The crew can learn how to control, fight, handle casualties and still be home for dinner. This should be a genuine state-of-the-art simulator, programmed with all the ship’s characteristics, fire control inputs and console displays. For about $10M, this type simulator will save thousands of hours of risky trial and error. They must be in the ship’s backyard.
The wheel was invented a long time ago yet we are prone to ignore that and constantly try to reinvent it. If SEA WOLF incorporates the dream concepts long overdue and the planned simulator facility in Suffolk, Virginia materializes, hopefully someone who understands both sides will introduce them. Maybe then, evaluation and training time can be shortened and improved. Call him a visionary! Believe me, putting a radically new submarine through its paces is a risky business. The crews should have advanced training before trials and lots of follow-on experience in simulators.
The Trident people realized that the surface transit to and from sea trials could be fraught with dangers and they trained to make sure their first at-sea days were successful.
My advice to visionaries is be careful and don’t try this at home. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say, “Don’t try it at sea until you have tried it at home first!”