U.S. Navy Throws Touch Screens Overboard For Over-Complicating Warship Interfaces

The U.S. Navy has come to a conclusion that many drivers of modern vehicles would agree with; adding touchscreen interfaces for controls can often makes things more complicated. The U.S. Navy has now found out after an investigation into the aftermath of a fatal USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) accident that sailors aboard the Navy's destroyers also much prefer traditional mechanical controls over touchscreens.

navy ship helm

The investigation into the collision found that the touchscreen system in the destroyer, DDG-56, was complex and sailors had been poorly trained to use the system. This resulted in the loss of control of the ship just before it crossed paths with a merchant ship in the Singapore Strait. After the report on the DDG-56 collision was published, Naval Sea Systems command conducted fleet surveys requiring some engineering recommendations according to Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Bill Galinis.

Galinis said that the results of the report on the DDG-56 collision and survey results show that "just because you can doesn't mean you should" when it comes to ship controls. Galinis said that the Navy has stood up an organization within Team Ships to "get after" bridge commonality. Galinis noted that bridge design is something that shipbuilders have a lot of say in because there was no specification that the Navy requires the builders to follow.

The top feedback from the survey was that crews wanted physical throttles back. As a result, the Navy will transition the ships back to physical controls with controls that come "almost as a kit." The Navy is still working through the details on when and how the updated controls kits would be installed.

Speaking of advanced control schemes, the Navy has an attack submarine called the USS Colorado that can be controlled with an Xbox controller.