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U.S. Navy surface combatant ship crew training involves a combination of shore-based, onboard pier-side, and underway training. Underway training is expensive, however, and it increases wear and tear on operating equipment. Furthermore, constrained budgets and increasing recapitalization costs have forced the Navy to examine various methods — such as increased use of simulators — to reduce the annual operating costs of the fleet.

Technological improvements have increased the fidelity and realism of simulators, and simulation is being used more widely for training within the U.S. Navy, in other navies, and in commercial shipping companies. Although the Navy’s surface combatant community currently uses simulators in its training regimen, an increased use of simulation could potentially improve training efficiency, sustain training readiness, and reduce underway days. Focusing on the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class of surface combatants, RAND examines the training requirements of surface forces, determines where credit is granted for the use of simulation, estimates what training is done underway, examines simulation technology, and identifies areas where simulation could be substituted for underway training without any decrease in readiness.

The authors find that although most exercises are done underway, many could be done in port with or without the use of simulators. Accordingly, the Navy should consider (1) investing in shore-based engineering simulators, (2) directing that exercises that can be done in port be done in port, and (3) accelerating the upgrades that are slowly providing DDG-51–class ships with an embedded engineering training capability.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Overview of Navy Surface Combatant Training

  • Chapter Three

    Underway Days and Underway Training at the Unit Level

  • Chapter Four

    Which Exercises Must Be Done Underway and Which Could Be Done In Port

  • Chapter Five

    Engineering Simulators Offer Opportunities for Increased Proficiency and a Potential Reduction in Underway Training

  • Chapter Six

    Additional High-Frequency Exercises that Can Be Done In Port

  • Chapter Seven

    Findings and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    List of Surface Exercises Required for Surface Combatants

  • Appendix B

    Survey of Available Simulators

  • Appendix C

    Surface Propulsion Training Devices

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Navy. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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