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Until now, Navy ships have relied on schematics, like those pictured here, to track the status of spaces effected by floods, fires and other damage control issues. With a new computer system, however, laptops and software are joining firehoses and breathing apparatus to help save the ship.
Until now, Navy ships have relied on schematics, like those pictured here, to track the status of spaces effected by floods, fires and other damage control issues. With a new computer system, however, laptops and software are joining firehoses and breathing apparatus to help save the ship. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A nearly completed technology update on all of the Navy’s cruisers and destroyers is designed to save time, save lives and save the ship.

Installation of the new Damage Control Tactical Management System, a computerized network of laptop computers, has been completed on all but two Yokosuka-based 7th Fleet ships, said DCTMS Project Manager Terry Nash.

The system replaces a more time-intensive, manual system of tracking damage status during combat or other shipboard emergencies.

During general quarters — a heightened state of readiness during combat — a ship’s central engineering control space, called Damage Control Central, acts as both an emergency command center and a public works hub.

Central supervises a network of small “repair lockers” — spaces scattered throughout the ship that act like local fire departments. Crewmembers manning the lockers perform medical, firefighting and public-works duties.

Before the upgrade, Central plotted the repair lockers’ progress — flooding in via a barrage of phone calls, radio communications and handwritten notes — using written symbols on schematics called damage control deck plates.

The plates — basically a diagram of the ship — identify where things are and let users quickly track what is on and offline.

The new DCTMS opens lines of communication by networking repair lockers and central in a virtual environment. Each locker has its own plotter who inputs onto a shared set of virtual DC plates. Changes are seen in real time by all users.

“In a land far, far away, we used DC plates and grease pencils to plot damage,” Nash said. “If you made a mistake, you used your shirt to wipe it off.”

Nash was at Afloat Training Group, Western Pacific, earlier this month teaching sailors how to use the new system being installed by Naval Sea Systems Command.

“It is a like playing a video game,” he said.

The system, which places a dedicated laptop in each locker, can use information it collects to generate drills a ship’s damage control sailors can use to hone their skills, he added.

According to Ensign Daniel Bradshaw, a repair locker officer on Yokosuka-based destroyer USS Lassen, the new system greatly increases a ship’s flexibility.

“If we lose a (damage control) locker, we can just plug the laptop into any LAN drop and still be able to plot because everything is stored on the ship’s server,” Bradshaw said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Carin Deitler, a plotter in the Lassen’s Damage Control Central, said DCTMS will streamline communication and save time “because not as many people trying to talk at once. That way, I can focus on helping people find safe routes around the ship.”

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