The U.S. Navy wants to install NSST
(Navigation Seamanship Shiphandling Trainer) simulators in up to a hundred
naval bases over the next six years. NSST is basically a video game that is
played out on an accurate mockup of the bridge of a ship. There is a 270 degree
video system providing photorealistic images for the sailors to view out the
windows of the bridge set. The "players" are the sailors and officer standing
watch (on duty) while at sea. The navy has been using this technology for
fifteen years now, but only in seven locations. Commercial shipping companies
use the same gear. As computers, and especially computer graphics, have gotten
cheaper, so has stuff like NSST. Currently, each NSST now costs about a million
dollars. Graphics files that displays other specific coastal areas, or harbor
areas, costs extra.
Normally, sailors and officers get most of their
training on-the-job, at least as far as working together as a team, under
realistic conditions. This is not a problem until the bridge watch team gets
caught in a nasty storm, while in formation with other ships, or some other
navigation emergency. Then, it helps to either have an old salt who's already been
through this, or people have gone through it via NSST training. The fact is,
not all the veteran sailors and officers have gone through rough weather as
often as those who have spent some time on NSST. The simulator can recreate
situations most sailors never encounter during an entire twenty year career, or
might come up against only once.
American warships are spending more time in coastal
waters, and this is where NSST can be exceptionally useful. Coastal waters vary
enormously depending on the depth of the water. layout of the coast, and
offshore islands and shoals. NSST files can created to show many different
coastal areas, accurately and capable of being tweaked (day, night, different
kinds of bad weather) for just about any situation.
NSST is accurate enough that the bridge watch teams
going through it often work up a sweat. That alone burns in the lessons, and
encourages the trainees to come back for more. Like all good video games, NSST
captures every move the users make, the better to get an accurate critique of
your play by the instructors.