The US Navy will abandon the touch screens to facilitate the maneuvering of its destroyers

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James Anderson

A sophomore at the University of Central Missouri (majoring in Computer Science), James assists with editing, proofreading and researching new stories. He has also written many news stories of his own relating to military affairs and, while having no intention of serving, has had a life-long interest in what is happening in the militaries of different countries around the world. As a fun side-point, when it comes to different tank models and tanks throughout history, his knowledge is unparalleled.

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James Anderson

In August 2017, and in a matter of days, two US Navy destroyers, the USS Fitzgerald and John McCain, were involved in collisions with civilian ships while sailing respectively off the coast of Japan and the United States.

The internal investigations, which resulted in sanctions against the officers responsible for the conduct of these two destroyers, had concluded that the cause of these accidents, which caused several casualties among the American seafarers, was due to an “accumulation of small errors which led to a lack of good navigation practices.”

In the case of the USS John McCain, which collided with the tanker MV Alnic MC, the investigation highlighted a “contempt for the respect of the procedures” and put forward the lack of training of the watchmen.

Another investigation, conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB], questioned the Integrated Bridge and Navigation System (IBNS). Designed by Northrop Grumman, this device, which controls a ship via touch screens, began to be installed aboard the Arleigh Burke class destroyer from 2015.

In addition to the complexity of the IBNS, this new survey has also highlighted the lack of training of sailors and their excessive fatigue.

After a wide consultation with its sailors, the US Navy decided to abandon the touch screens to return to an “old-fashioned” system, that is to say mechanical controls.

“We’ve moved away from controller control, and that’s the main criticism of sailors. They told us, ‘give us some controllers we can use,'” said Rear Admiral Bill Galinis of Naval Sea Systems Command.

According to USNI News, the first destroyer to abandon touchscreens and its integrated navigation and bridge system will be USS Ramage. Work will begin in the summer of 2020, when “hardware and software changes have been developed and fully tested to ensure that the new configuration is safe and effective,” said a spokeswoman for NAVSEA.

This decision is surprising in that, in October 2018, Northrop Grumman was awarded an $18 million contract in October 2018 to install IBNS to the new Arleigh Burke class destroyers and to upgrade the already installed systems.

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