POSTED: Sunday, October 19, 2008
When two of the Navy's newest nuclear attack submarines—the Virginia class USS Hawaii and USS Texas—slide into their berths at Pearl Harbor next year, their crews of 134 sailors each will have access to the latest high-tech simulators.
Capt. Fred Capria, who commands 150 military sailors and 10 civilians at the Naval Submarine Training Center, said there are three simulators in his two-story facility at Pearl Harbor that replicate anything a submarine can do.
"We can do whatever a submarine can do at sea on land, and do it safely," said Capria, 46.
Capria, who commanded the nuclear attack submarine USS Newport News when the Iraq war began, said the goal of the training center is to bring together all facets of the submarine community—crews, shoreside staff and trainers.
"The submarine force has always been heavy on training. We constantly are practicing how we will actually fight."
The latest additions to Pearl Harbor's sub base training facility are a $6 million Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer, which replicates the latest equipment being refitted on 18 of the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines assigned to Pearl Harbor, and a $6 million Virginia Class Ship Control Operator Trainer. The Virginia trainer takes up two stories and sits on electric motors that replicate the diving motions of the 6,000-ton submarine. It is an exact copy of the control station—the heart and nerve center of a Virginia-class submarine. Instead of the three bucket seats for the planesman, the heelsman and diving officer who control the steering and diving of a Los Angeles class sub, there are only two seats where the pilot and co-pilot now sit. The two steering wheels have been replaced by two joysticks. Instead of a bank of valves and dials are four large touch-screen monitors.
Chief Petty Officer Scott Grier, a ship control team trainer, acknowledged that it may take a few days for a veteran submariner to get used to the touch screens in the control station of a Virginia-class submarine.
"But the same functions remain the same," he said.
The pilot and co-pilot merely touch the screen to move the rudder and bow planes or to open and control valves and tanks. Using the joystick, they can change the direction of the submarine.
The submarine training center also houses an older submarine control station trainer that uses hydraulics to mimic the diving and steering motions of a Los Angeles-class submarine.
The sonar and the weapons-control simulator replicates the sounds that the sonar operators have to quickly identify for the sub's fire control sailors to evaluate.
Petty Officer Danny Adams, a sonar instructor, said his goal is to adequately train the sub's sonar operators to ensure the ship's safety. His bank of four sonar consoles is laid out on one side of the room as it would be in the control room of a Los Angeles-class submarine. In the middle of the control room is a raised platform with the periscope in the center. Next to the periscope are large monitors which project the images picked up by the periscope.
On the opposite side of the 38-foot-by-18-foot room is another row of four consoles that can track as many as 80 surface and underwater contacts. Next to those consoles, the weapons-launch console has a touch-panel display that controls the submarine's launch systems of torpedoes, Tomahawk cruise missiles and mines.
Capria stressed that although "these are great trainers, nothing can replace going to sea. But you can get a leg up so you can optimize your time at sea."