New Navy training on guiding ships goes virtual

SAN DIEGO - New technology playing out at a San Diego base comes amid several recent collisions of Navy ships.

10News was there as Ensign Kara Yingling prepared to guide a destroyer out of a stormy port in Japan.

"It's very realistic. You can get motion sickness, definitely," said Yingling.

While the seasickness can be real, the ship is not.

Yingling is connected to one of nine new virtual trainers being used in an eight-week course for future surface warfare officers at Naval Base San Diego. The training is called Conning Officer Virtual Environment training or COVE.

As Yingling is issuing commands, a computer voice acting as the helmsman, responds.  

The trainer can replicate ports across the world, and scenarios include pulling out and into ports and refueling.

The Navy says virtual trainers are invaluable because in the past, the only real alternative is on-the-job training.

"The consequences here aren't half as bad as if they're on a ship making the same mistakes, so it's better to learn here and experiment here so when they get on a ship they're more confident," said Yingling.

Recently, mistakes have made headlines.

This past weekend, a Navy submarine collided with the USS San Jacinto off the coast of Florida.

Back in May, the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Essex collided with another ship while attempting to refuel.

To prevent future incidents, there is a focus on laying a foundation  

"We're conserving resources and giving them good training. If they get that training initially, it's going to make them better off down the road," said Lt. Tim Cushanick, an instructor with the new systems.

Together, the nine virtual trainers in San Diego cost about $2 million. Navy leaders point out that pales in comparison to ship training costs and the damage resulting from mistakes.

 

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