Virtual Training Makes Ship Driving a Reality
By: LCDR Theodore Mac O. Quidem, USS HIGGINS Combat Systems Officer
SAN DIEGO – Six junior officers assigned to the USS Higgins(DDG 76) took the Basic Shiphandling Course to receive instructions on the maneuvering characteristics of the Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer at Naval Base San Diego Sept. 15th-19th.

The junior officers are becoming better ship handlers, giving rudder commands, and seeing first-hand how controllable and uncontrollable forces impact a ship, all while the Higgins remains moored.

In the beginning, the students go through classroom training on the basic forces that effect the movement of a ship and how to manipulate those forces to get the desired effect from the ship as it glides through the water.

Ensign Candice Lovelace, Higgins’ Combat Electronics Division Officer, who enjoyed the pace of the course, said, “At [the previous course], they would gloss over material and not go in-depth. Here at basic shiphandling [the new course], they ensure you understand the topic before moving on.”

After classroom training, the students went to a full bridge simulator where they applied knowledge gained from the lessons. The simulator replicates the bridge of a warship complete with chart table, electronic chart navigation screen, radar repeater, and marine radios. Realistic three-dimensional images, depicting any harbor in the world, are projected on to large LCD displays mounted just outside the bridge “windows”. During simulated heavy weather, students often found themselves swaying to maintain their balance since the simulated bridge seems to be moving even though the simulator is completely stationary.

“[The instructors] do an outstanding job of breaking down the information and making it easy for us to understand. Driving in the simulators is as much fun as driving the ship,” said Lt. Alan Thompson, Higgins’ Information Warfare Officer.

Ensign Daniel Choi, Higgins’ Strike Officer, said, “The training is excellent. I’m learning a lot in such a short amount of time.”

When Higgins returns to sea, there will be six junior officers with the basic knowledge to drive a Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer all thanks to “at sea” training provided inport via the Basic Shiphandling Course.

Higgins is stationed at Naval Base San Diego. The 505ft long Arleigh Burke class destroyer was commissioned April 24, 1999 and deploys with Carrier Strike Group 11.
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