Navy will stop trying to guide ships by touchscreen

US Navy photo

❝ The Navy will begin reverting destroyers back to a physical throttle and traditional helm control system in the next 18 to 24 months, after the fleet overwhelmingly said they prefer mechanical controls to touchscreen systems in the aftermath of the fatal USS John S. McCain collision.

The investigation into the collision showed that a touchscreen system that was complex and that sailors had been poorly trained to use contributed to a loss of control of the ship just before it crossed paths with a merchant ship in the Singapore Strait…

❝ Rear Adm. Bill Galinis said that bridge design is something that shipbuilders have a lot of say in…not covered by any particular specification that the Navy requires builders to follow…

Rear Adm. Lorin Selby said that the move to achieve greater commonality is not just limited to where helm control systems are installed in the bridge, but how functions appear on the screens of the control systems, and anything else that would contribute to confusion for a sailor moving from one ship to another within the same class.

“When you look at a screen, where do you find heading? Is it in the same place, or do you have to hunt every time you go to a different screen?…”

How long have we been designing weapons of war? It doesn’t matter if the discussion comes down to small controls or large less precise controls. Inconsistency between vessels means the crew running the ship can only reliably operate one particular product. Moving to another ship in the same class prompts disaster.

Moving to digital controls isn’t a problem on its own; but, consider lifelong habit when designing systems, folks. Anyone you know driving a car where the steering, speed and braking are controlled by a touchscreen?

4 thoughts on “Navy will stop trying to guide ships by touchscreen

  1. Postmortem says:

    The USS John S. McCain incident started when the control station for the engines was shifted from the helm to the lee helm [see illustration below]
    From the NTSB report
    “Transfer of Thrust Control. The transfer of thrust control between stations on the bridge, such as between the helm station and lee helm station, was normally accomplished via a “coordinated” procedure.6 During a coordinated station transfer, menus on the GUI display allowed the operator at the station relinquishing control of thrust to offer control—one shaft at a time—to another station. The station operator relinquishing control selected the gaining station in the menu for the first shaft being offered and then verified the selection. This caused an indicator to blink on the GUI display at both stations. The gaining station operator then acknowledged and verified the transfer of control via the GUI display at his station.
    After these actions were completed, the indicators at both stations would stop blinking. The transfer process was then repeated for the second shaft.
    A station operator wishing to gain control could also request control via a similar procedure. To request thrust control from another station, the process stated above was reversed.
    The procedure for a coordinated thrust transfer between bridge stations was provided in the IBNS technical manual, but it was not provided in the operating procedures manual, known as the Engineering Operational Sequencing System (EOSS), held on station at the SCC and ASU.”

    At sea the throttle and helm are operated by a single person. When more maneuvering is anticipated the helm and throttle are split between two crew members. One issue was the captain delayed the split between stations until the ship was already in heavy traffic. The delay was said to be so the crew could get more rest.

    John S. McCain SCC [Ship Control Console], drawing from IBNS [Integrated Bridge and Navigation System] technical manual

  2. SITREP says:

    The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is returning to sea more than two years its deadly collision with a containership in the shipping lanes off Singapore.
    The Navy announced Monday that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer has completed necessary repairs at the U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility-Japan Regional Maintenance Center in Yokosuka, Japan and she is now underway conducting comprehensive sea trials.
    The McCain incident followed a similar collision involving the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a tanker off the coast of Japan in June 2017, which resulted in seven sailor deaths.
    The combined incidents led to the dismissal of a number of high-ranking Navy officers, including the commanders of both McCain and Fitzgerald, as well as the commander of the Seventh Fleet.
    In its report on the accidents, the Navy called the collisions “avoidable” and pointed to multiple failures by watch standers on board the destroyers. A NTSB investigation found that the incident was the result of insufficient training, inadequate bridge operating procedures and a lack of operational oversight.
    NTSB report:

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