Navy Outfits Sailors on Destroyers with Tablets

TabletThe Navy has begun a new pilot program to put tablets on board a destroyer in order to reduce paperwork and more efficiently streamline maintenance procedures, service officials said.

Roughly 20 wireless tablets will soon arrive on board the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer currently pier side in Norfolk, Va., Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski, director, assessment division, told in an interview.

The idea is to automate a wide range of what Shelanski called “maintenance and material management” functions by using wireless digital technology to replace time-consuming paperwork.

“Sailors have said ‘we like the warfighting first but we can’t seem to get there. Our daily activities are filled with all this administrative stuff. There’s all this training we got to do, recording of the training and paperwork we need to do,’” Shelanski explained. “We’ve fallen behind in our ability to modernize and digitize certain processes.”

The idea for the program emerged online through a Navy global online discussion forum with sailors.

“One sailor’s good idea could have implications for the entire fleet,” said Lt. Jackie Pau, Navy spokeswoman.

Currently, a lot of routine maintenance work such as checking pumps, weapons, electronic systems and binoculars is done using manual systems and the printing of vast amounts of paperwork, he added.

The pilot program on the USS Laboon involves the use of new software for the hand-held devices to use as they catalogue and collect maintenance information on the ship.

Shelanski said the Navy will likely look into using hand-held device, smart phones and other wireless devices much more broadly on board vessels.

“We’re moving ahead with a big Navy vision as to what we are going to do. We’re going to automate all those procedures that before were done by hand,” he explained.

Today’s Navy sailors are well prepared to respond to this kind of initiative as they are accustomed to smart phones, hand held devices and wireless technology, Shelanksi added.

More sailors and Navy officers get internet connectivity while deployed on ships today using the Navy and Marine Corps network – however access to the Internet is often limited due to bandwidth and informational assurance or security issues.

Additional wireless connectivity would help expeditionary surface missions greatly by increasing real-time links between larger ships and the small boat missions used to support them, Shelanski said.

“When our ships are out doing counter piracy or maritime security operations, often times we’ll take a small ship and we’ll go out and investigate a ship – check the cargo. How do you talk to those guys? How do you better connect our Navy guys going off to do this mission,” he said.

He said wireless connectivity could, for example, allow sailors to send back pictures of the people and cargo they are inspecting in real time.

Overall, the Navy is more broadly looking at harnessing lessons from the experience of a handful of smaller pilot programs involving wireless devices and merging them into one larger effort.

“We’ve put together a meeting with all of the Navy entities to bring together lessons learned from all these small programs to advise and focus our vision,” he said.

For instance, there is wireless technology currently used on submarines and Naval Air Systems Command did a test pilot placing a microwave antenna on a ship to create a 4G network, Shelanski said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at

25 Comments on "Navy Outfits Sailors on Destroyers with Tablets"

  1. Oh great, more ways to hack into the ship

  2. What's wrong with screaming at each other through long tubes? This is what happens when unions don't run the show.

  3. Sounds like a brilliant idea to me. The AF is shifting to electronic flight pubs on tablets to save money, time, weight and fuel. Costs AMC around a million dollars a year just for the printing of paper pubs, to say nothing of the weight, space, and fuel costs. Also, just because you are transmitting over wi-fi doesn't mean the signal isn't encrypted.

  4. The most optimistic part of me says that this may spur the Navy to take electronic threats more seriously and work on real security for wireless networks.

    The realist says it'll be another potential door for a black hat to infiltrate.

  5. Sounds to me like this “new” Navy is so busy trying to cover their ass with paperwork that they can NO LONGER complete their mission. That’s sad!

  6. No doubt these will be crappy Microsoft tablet-just another wide open door for the hackers to walk through

  7. This is neat. It is like Star Trek with the PADDs. Geordi LaForge would be pleased!

  8. Frederick Corbin | August 17, 2014 at 7:46 am | Reply

    My concern is what happens when the main frame is hacked and the tablets are rendered useless? An onboard back up data bus system that allows the ship to fight and function efficiently would be of paramount importance in my opinion.

  9. I am curious how WiFi works through so many walls of aluminum and steel….

  10. Well, i hope they put up some fantastic protection and security. I am more worried about accidental leaks by the crew. So, i hope the extremely limit these devices to do only work.

  11. It definitely has it's place, but it also definitely better not be used some things (which I'm certain it won't be). But are we going to be build a less stealthy version for export? And a VSTOL variant for the Marines? That's what Congress should be asking…

  12. Question… why would you need to encrypt maintenance records? Walk into any space on the ship and the 13 week report is glaring at you. I don't think any of you understand what these tablets are being used for. There are a ton of processes that are completely unclassified that can be transitioned to paperless. Watch logs can be set up on tablets or computers that back up the data at a regular period, no WiFi needed. Handheld electronics are already being used to scan IDs when you visit large bases. The fear of being "hacked" for mundane processes is just technophobia. The Navy can't claim to be taking on Cyber warfare and then cower when it comes to a tablet. Push them out for everyday processes and keep them out of secure spaces. Simple as that and you'll save so much time and paperwork.

    "More sailors and Navy officers get internet connectivity while deployed on ships today using the Navy and Marine Corps network" Check your facts author, NMCI is for shore facilities only. Not for ships…

  13. George w. McCormic | August 18, 2014 at 9:35 am | Reply

    Makes it easier to gun deck inspections reports

  14. What… more MAFS and SAFS to fill out?????

  15. Great idea! Automate morning muster, watch lists, maintenance checks, possibly even some routine log entries. But, the whiners. Get a life. I turn a deaf ear on whiners, no matter what they have to say. Too much training? Too much paperwork? Too much admin? Let's see, your courses for advancement are automated. Your Personnel records are digitized. Pay is automated. Navigation, Combat Information, Engineering controls, Supply Inventory, is mostly automated — even some ship defense in combat . Whine, Whine, Whine. Get a life and quit whining, and spend more time enjoying your job, your training, your advancement, your pay, your liberty, and maybe you can find ways to use the awesome technology that is available for something productive, and enjoy the best damn job you could ever have — the United States Navy!!

  16. Elgin Daniel Davis | August 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Reply

    Sounds like a great idea for spot checks and pms they could store mrc’s on them instead of carrying around that binder it will be much easier for the divisional DCPO on ships

  17. Wasn't the "paperless Navy" of fifteen years ago supposed to eliminate routine paper aboard the ships? Wasn't the Navy touting itself as the leader along those lines?

  18. So does this mean we'll be seeing more product placement in the next season of "The Last Ship"?

  19. I was in the Navy…when the ships were made out of Wood…and the men were made out of Steel….maybe we should build our ships out of wood…so that the Y-FI WORKS…DON'T U THINK !!!!

  20. Will these tablets be running Android, Apple or Windows? Either way, these will be interesting to root, or otherwise experiment on with.

  21. Ret mil and student | August 20, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Reply

    Hope it is not apple crap. This is a failed attempt and a fad that will be riddled with problems. My college forced everyone to sign up for a "free" iPad and took all textbooks away… It sucks to try and type and read on these dinky devices. Idiots will say, "get a keyboard for it and it will be easier…" Well, duh. Now you have a disjointed laptop… Should have got a laptop in the first place! These are just stupid and a waste of time and money… Speaking from experience, not from concept.

  22. The next level is to see the computer as the basis for sensors, measurement, diagnostic software, medical interfaces, etc.

    There is brilliant software that could literally save the Navy billions.

  23. Better to let the USN sailors watch porns on their tablets than let them sexually assault teenage girls around the world.

    The military industrial complex should bear the cost though.

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