5 June 2017
The new Submarine Bridge Trainer (SBT) officially opened at Trident Training Facility (TRITRAFAC) Bangor during a ribbon cutting ceremony, June 5.
Rear Adm. John Tammen, commander, Submarine Group 9, Capt. John Fancher, commanding officer of TRITRAFAC Bangor, and Rear Adm. Moises DelToro, commander, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, cut the ribbon to officially open the new trainer.
“What we are doing here today, is making the long-term investments needed to making sure that we stay at the top of our game,” said Tammen. “Today’s strategic deterrence is not what it was in the 80s, there are a lot more adversaries out there, and we are not resting on our laurels as we wait for Ohio replacement. What we are doing is continuing to invest in our future and the most important part of our future is the people. So we are making this investment into this state of the art bridge trainer, to make sure that our crews, when they throw off that line, are ready to do their mission.”
The SBT gives submarine bridge team members the ability to navigate, pilot and moor the boat to and from a pier, while interacting with a complex visual and auditory environment, with all of the relevant ship sensors and systems.
“Our job here at Trident Training Facility Bangor is to provide premiere world-class training to the submarines stationed in the Pacific Northwest,” said Fancher. “What you see here today is a new incredible facility that blows me away. I am so excited about the capability this new trainer brings to the submarine force and the increased ability that they will have to maintain their proficiency and safely navigate out of port.”
In this near life-size mockup of a generic submarine sail, Sailors are surrounded by a 360-degree horizontal and 70-degree vertical dynamic environment that includes 18 channels of visual imagery and 16 channels of 3D sound. A dual attack center has also been completed that will provide ship systems and periscopes required for surfaced events.
“One of the most important, dangerous and critical times when driving a submarine is navigating on the surface, because you are close to land and other surface contacts,” said Capt. John Fancher, commanding officer of Trident Training Facility Bangor. “It is not only one of the most critical things that we do, but it is also one of the things that we actually do the least amount of times during a deployment. This trainer allows us to practice piloting, navigating and managing surface contacts in real life scenarios. This allows us to practice it to a fidelity that is just about as good, and in some respects better, than actually being on the boat.”
Construction for the SBT began October 2015, with the actual trainer installation beginning October 2016. Construction for the trainer was completed May 26, 2017. The total cost for the new trainer, including the development of trainer and building construction, cost $7 million.
“This innovative trainer allows submarine crews to safely navigate through challenging environments in a realistic training scenario which closely emulates what they would actually see from the bridge of a submarine,” said Cmdr. John Correll, Training and Readiness officer at commander, Submarine Group 9. “This realistic trainer is vital to maintaining proficiency and certification on a two-crew submarine, while one crew is assigned ashore.“
Four Submarine Bridge Trainers have been approved for construction throughout the fleet. The first trainer is located at the Naval Submarine School (NAVSUBSCOL) located in Groton, Connecticut, and was ready for training in August 2012. The second trainer was built in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and was ready for training in October 2013. Trident Training Facility Bangor was the third site, and the fourth site will be King’s Bay, Georgia in 2020.
“This is the first guided-missile (SSGN) and ballistic-missile (SSBN) SBT design; the sail and dome are larger than the two previous SBTs and the engineering development model,” said Steve Stephenson, the Technical On-Site Agent for Naval Sea Systems Command. “King's Bay will begin construction of the same design next year, once the facilities are modified. This is also the first SBT to receive the new laser projectors, which operate up to 30 times longer than the previous projectors with significantly less maintenance.”
SBT instructors were required to learn all of the SBT's functions. Training included two classroom sessions, to familiarize themselves with the functions of the trainer, and three hands on training days, to apply the lessons learned. According to Chief Electronics Technician James Short, SBT instructor, the most beneficial training was when they ran the SBT in all modes with the Ohio’s Gold crew prior to the ribbon cutting, as it showed the trainers the systems limitation and gave in-depth, hands on training to both staff and the crew.
TRITRAFAC Bangor plans to have the Blue and Gold crews assigned to the guided-missile submarines USS Ohio (SSGN 726) and USS Michigan (SSGN 727) certified through the SBT this year. The 16 SSBN crews will certify in the SBT based on the needs of Commander, Submarine Squadron 17 and Commander, Submarine Squadron 19 along with various SSBN upgrade plans.
“This is by far the most advanced trainer that I have experienced at TRITRAFAC Bangor,” said Fire Control Technician 2nd Class Christopher Goetz, assigned to Ohio’s Gold Crew, the test submarine crew for the Submarine Bridge Trainer. “With the 360-degree view, the vibrations you feel while on the bridge, the realistic wind and climate changes and the high tech binoculars that let you see into the distance, it really prepares you for being on a real submarine.”
Currently, Submariners use two separate trainers to get the experience and training necessary for certification: the Submarine Piloting and Navigation (SPAN) 2000 Trainer and the Virtual Environment Submarine Ship handling Trainer (VESUB). The SPAN Trainer equipment has representative controls, alarms, displays and indications of actual shipboard equipment, including the periscope, primary navigation plotting table, and a secondary plotting table, and the VESUB system consists of a head-mounted display, PC graphics (beyond entertainment) and automated environment data base generation. The new Submarine Bridge Trainer combines and expands upon these two trainers to allow for better communication between the bridge and the control center, in a much more realistic and advanced environment. The new trainer also allows commanding officers to fully participate in the team training.
“To me, there are few things as important as this bridge trainer and I really want to highlight that,” said Tammen. “I want our adversaries to know that we are investing just as much into people as we are into the platforms, and quite frankly, the excellence that our Sailors provide with strategic deterrence in the SSBN world and conventional deterrence from the SSGN world is so very important. I can’t overemphasize how important this trainer is to our Sailors which results in global stability overall.”