were still head and shoulders above what he trained
with when he joined the Navy.
“We’d have small remote-control models and a
large pool. On a larger scale, when I was a lieutenant
j.g., we’d have small vessels,” he said. “We’d go to a
pond, sit in them, and do some driving.”
Robertson elaborated on the safety issue, and how
useful COVE is in hopefully averting possible future
“We have the capability to record incidents at sea
and replay them on COVE — for example, unfortunate
circumstances [of a] close call or collision between a
Navy ship and another vessel,” he said.
Such re-creations can provide for dramatic classroom experiences. Students all gather and learn
from each other’s errors. The virtual view they get
of those mishaps is very high in quality. To see such
action re-created in such high fidelity, Robertson
said, is powerful.
The COVE system also has proven to be a useful
tool in training prospective engineering officers and
chief engineers. As with the ship-driving sequence,
the engineer-training systems at Newport replicate
those found on ships. Officers can practice light-off
procedures for engines, motors and generators.
“They can go through all the proper procedures to
bring up an engineering plant so that it’s ready to get
a ship underway,” Robertson said.
The protocol allows instructors to pose 100 different challenges along the way. Maybe a pump doesn’t
start, or a particular system or sub-system loses
lubrication oil. Candidates have to follow the correct
casualty-control procedures to resolve each issue.
They can repeat procedures 10 or 15 times — whatever it takes so that the processes become absolutely
“The level of accuracy [in the simulators] is such
that when these folks walk out of my school and onto
their ship, they can demonstrate a series of drills for
their CO [commanding officer] and get certified right
there,” Robertson said.
Enlisted Sailors, too, are reaping the benefits of
Robertson cited the school’s basic valve-maintenance
course as an example — which involves a task that historically has provided its share of headaches to the fleet.
During the four-day course, trainees use software
applications that display three-dimensional modeling of a valve system, which can be exploded to show
each component with the flick of a finger on a screen.
Students can manipulate the exploded diagram in any
direction or degree.
“They can see all the gaskets and every bolt that
makes up the valve. They can put it together nut by nut,
gasket by gasket, plunger by plunger — as many times
as they want, until they’re comfortable,” Robertson said.
At that point, the students — usually from the
machinist’s mate, gas-turbine mechanic and electrical
communities — would move into an actual lab. There,
they have access to all the tools they need to properly
take apart, perform maintenance and reassemble the
With the LCS now emerging from its infancy as a
program, the COVE system is proving an invaluable tool
to move officers through the Deck Qualification course.
Lt. Mike Annunziata, who came through the LCS
course as a student not long ago, now is an instructor.
He came into the LCS program from a cruiser, with a
traditionally manned crew.
The COVE simulators, Annunziata said, helped him
learn the visual cues he needs to develop a cadence
for maneuvering the Navy’s newest class of warships.
Once he completed the course, he deployed to the Gulf
of Mexico on LCS 2, USS Independence, from the shore-based LCS training facility at San Diego.
Even though the ship would become “squat and less
maneuverable” in the shallow waters near the Gulf
Coast, Annunziata said, the mission offered nothing for
which he was not prepared.
“We were ready for real-world scenarios, through
the training classroom,” he said. “We were ready to
Midshipman 2nd Class Brandy Kinnunen, an incoming junior of the
Marquette University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps unit,
and Lt. Nicole Bibber, an instructor at the Surface Warfare Officers
School, discuss operating a Naval Seamanship & Shiphandling
Conning Officer Virtual Environment (NSS COVE) simulator Aug. 10.
COVE systems now are commonplace at Navy learning centers, with
some 60 in use around the world.