Eye on the Navy – Damage Control Must Evolve

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Damage Control Must Evolve 


By Edward Lundquist

Alion Science and Technology



Damage control is an inherent Navy core competency and continues to be one of the most critical elements of Navy warfighting.  You can’t fight your ship well if you are burning and sinking.  But the new reality is the Navy needs to transform damage control


The way the Navy crews its ships dates back to World War II and perhaps even before.  The sea service has relied upon models based upon manning for “General Quarters,” or “Battle Stations,” and normal wartime cruising (condition I and III watch stations), to include maintenance, training, and daily shipboard routine, as well as specific skills and required rates. 


However, with fewer ships, fewer Sailors, and capabilities that far exceed those of previous generations, the service is finding that the old way is not the best course.  


The Navy’s new surface combatants, such as the DDG 1000 destroyer (formerly DD(X)) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), will be “optimally manned” from the keel up.  That means we’ll employ our Sailors differently on these ships, leveraging efficient manpower practices, changes in doctrine, and new technology.  To transition to the fleet of the future, the Navy has been experimenting with its current ships to understand the challenges of optimally manned ships.


The evolution has already begun.  The Navy knows it cannot ask Sailors to sustain the same workload with fewer shipmates.  To meet the manning goals of LCS and DDG-1000, the Navy will continue experimenting and modeling those concepts on today’s ships.  The service now has some unmanned spaces, remote monitoring and sensing systems, and software that can be employed during a damage control evolution to help isolate affected areas and disseminate necessary information to the Sailors that need it most. 


This is not a no-cost endeavor.  By investing in new technology, injecting a cultural shift, solid leadership, and a commitment from the waterfront, reduced manning experiments aboard three ships, the guided missile destroyer USS Milius, guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, andamphibious assault ship USS Boxer,willdevelop innovative and creative ways to reduce required shipboard manpower.


In the past, during a main-space fire, the ship would immediately go to GQ which often led to confusion as watchstanders shifted to GQ stations.  This is no longer the case.  On Milius today, for example, during a main-space fire, all the repair lockers are manned while the rest of the ship and crew continues the daily routine with direction to remain clear of the incident area. 


Optimally manned ships use a flex watch response, similar to combat condition II specialty watches, for actual incidents or training evolutions. The ship can always go to GQ, but in many cases this is not required.  Repair lockers do not use combat systems personnel, which allows them to remain engaged in combat operations.  Milius also reduced the number of personnel assigned to repair lockers and concentrated most hose teams in one main locker – repair five – with only one hose team in each of the remaining lockers.  By adjusting the paradigm, the Navy is able to maintain a high level of survivability while reducing damage control personnel by 25.


These experiments and the application of new technology have allowed a reduction in the billets authorized on Milius from 290 to 237, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Mobile Bay – already employing Smart Ship technology, from 321 to 285 and Boxer from 1,080 to 993.  This effort has led to class-wide reductions in damage control locker personnel.


Today the Navy continues to build new ships and submarines with the latest ship survivability technologies.  Highly automated systems will drive changes in our damage control doctrine, such as the Damage Control Action Management Software, a Local Area Network (LAN)-based system that improves situational awareness by using flexible graphical user displays and mapping crew recoverability actions during casualty situations.  Rugged laptops will be installed in Damage Control Repair Stations to provide real-time information during casualties and serve as a valuable training and visualization tool. 


DDG 1000 and the new CG(X) cruiser will have a state-of-the-art Autonomic Fire Suppression System (AFSS) being tested today on decommissioned platforms.  Water mist architectures will provide an affordable, effective reduction in the intensity and spread of fire while also automatically providing boundary cooling and containment of damage to the blast area.  The AFSS will have the added benefit of being environmentally sound which will dovetail with termination of HALON use when the Navy’s current supply is exhausted.


Additionally, ex-USS Shadwell in Mobile, Alabama, has played a critical role in the development of new technology and doctrine.  Elements of the Damage Control – Automation for Reduced Manning or DC-ARM program were tested aboard Shadwell.  DC-ARM is intended to demonstrate advanced technologies for detection, decision-making, command and control, and systems integration required to decrease shipboard damage control manning requirements and reduce casualty response time.  


Our future ships must be more than capable, they must be survivable.   The manning experiments in Milius, Mobile Bay, and Boxer; the Fletcher Sea Swap; technology; design work; and experimentation on ex- Shadwell and other test platforms will help us define the requirements for the Navy of the 21st century and transform the way in which we defend and protect future generations of ships and Sailors. 



Captain Edward Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior science advisor with Alion Science and Technology.  He supports the U.S. Navy’s Surface Warfare Directorate.

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