Surface Forces: Damage Control Upgrades

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December 8, 2023: The U.S. Navy recently developed and purchased improved thermal imaging devices that are built into the visor of the breathing mask worn by members of damage control teams. Team members frequently have to enter and make their way through smoke-filled areas of the ship. Previously there were only a few handheld thermal imagers per vessel to enable fire-fighters to quickly orient themselves after entering a smoky room. In response to requests from members of damage control teams, the Navy developed and purchased a new self-contained breathing apparatus that has a thermal imaging heads-up display built into the face mask. Now, every first responder has thermal imaging capability without having to hold a thermal imaging device.

In peacetime, navies have a difficult time getting officers and crews of ships to take damage control training and readiness seriously. Navies insist this is not the case, but every time there is a real emergency there are unexpected situations requiring damage control teams to quickly improvise. It was difficult to realistically simulate damage control situations for training exercises. That meant the training was not as effective as required and that was demonstrated when a real damage control situation occurred.

A decade ago, the U.S. Navy adopted a new damage control training practice already in use by other navies. This involved following the example of other navies and using video game technology to create FPS (First Person Shooters, without the shooting) games that enable sailors to practice the many damage control procedures they must use to operate, maintain, and save the ship they are assigned to. Damage control on ships, especially warships, is the most dangerous work the crew can engage in. Training for this work is difficult and, according to those who have had to deal with the real thing, never realistic enough. This was where video game tech serves as a useful solution because even ordinary tasks are learned faster and more convincingly via a video game.

The navy used commercially available CryEngine 3 software to develop their snip operating simulator, which included damage control. Two years earlier the Australian Navy used this approach in order to train the crews of its new LHD amphibious ships. The Australians also used CryEngine to create a 3-D, multi-player, FPS simulation to help sailors deal with a wide array of damage control situations. Up to a hundred sailors could participate at the same time, in a very accurate computer-based representation of the LHD. Each sailor controls an avatar, which is a computer-generated sailor representing himself and has to make all the right damage control moves, in cooperation with other sailors, to succeed.

The Australian LHD simulator also used the CryEngine engine A game engine is the basic computer code for a game. Add your own graphics and scenario information and you have a new game or simulation. Most commercial games either build their own engine or, more frequently, rent one from someone else. The CryEngine system has become the most popular solution for affordable and effective custom simulations.

CryEngine first appeared in 2002, has been regularly updated and continues to be the most effective way to develop highly realistic simulations for entertainment or training systems. The current version of CryEngine is CryEngine 5 and CryEngine 6 is being developed. CryEngine proved to be the solution to the need for a tool that can create high-end damage control simulations for many different numerous ship classes. This made damage control simulations for so many different ship types affordable. This resulted in a major improvement in damage control skills for navies that used this system.

 

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