The US Navy will replace the touchscreen controls with mechanical ones on its destroyers

The US Navy UU. It will replace the touch screen accelerator and rudder controls currently installed in its destroyers by mechanics starting in 2020, says USNI News . The measure comes after the National Transportation Safety Board published an accident report of a 2017 collision, citing the design of ship controls as a factor in the accident.

On August 21, 2017, the USS John S. McCain collided with Alnic MC, a Liberian tanker, off the coast of Singapore. The report provides a detailed description of the actions that led to the collision: when the crew members tried to divide the throttle and control the direction between the consoles, they lost control of the ship, placing it in the tanker's path. The accident killed 10 sailors and wounded 48 aboard the McCain.

The report says that while fatigue and lack of training played a role in the accident, the design of the ship's control console was also a contributing factor. Located in the middle of the McCain Bridge, the Ship Control Console (SCC) has a pair of touch screens at Helm and Lee Helm stations, through which the crew can direct and propel the ship. Investigators discovered that the crew had placed it in "manual backup mode," which eliminated computer-aided assistance, as it allowed for a "more direct form of communication between management and the SSC." That configuration meant that any crew member at another station could take over management operations, and when the crew attempted to regain control of the ship from multiple stations, control "changed from the leeward rudder to the stern direction, at the helm and back to the stern direction. "

The NTSB report calls the configuration of the bridge systems, noting that the decision to transfer the controls into the strait helped lead the accident, and that the procedures for transferring controls from one station to others were complicated, contributing even more to the confusion. Specifically, the board points to the touch screens on the bridge, and notes that mechanical accelerators are generally preferred because "they provide immediate and tactile feedback to the operator." The report notes that if there were mechanical controls present, the wheelhouse would probably have been alerted that there was a problem from the beginning, and recommends that the Navy adhere better to better design standards.

After the incident, the Navy conducted surveys throughout the fleet, and according to Rear Admiral Bill Galinis, the Executive Officer of the Ship Program, staff indicated that they would prefer mechanical controls. Speaking before a recent Navy symposium, he described the controls as being included in the category "‘ just because it can't mean that it should "and that ship systems were simply too complicated. He also noted that they are investigating the design of other ships to see if they can provide some similarities of the system between different classes of ships.

Admiral Galinis tells USNI News that there are currently plans underway to change systems. "We are already in the hiring process, and it will come almost as a kit that is relatively easy to install." According to the Sea Systems Naval Command, all class destroyers Arleigh Burke with the Integrated Bridge and Navigation System will obtain physical accelerations, beginning in the summer of 2020 with the USS Ramage.

Touch screens were not the only problem in the collision: the report notes that several crew members on the bridge at that time were not familiar with the systems they were monitoring and had no experience in their functions, and that many were fatigued, with an average of 4.9 hours of sleep among the 14 crew members present. The report recommended that the Navy conduct better training for bridge systems, update controls and associated documentation, and ensure that Navy personnel are not tired when they are at work.

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