Permission to board the simulator

U.S. Navy takes the lead in battle of the training simulators with the launching of the USS Trayer.

Battle stations! The U.S. Navy has upped the stakes in the battle of the training simulators with the commissioning of its 550-foot USS Trayer Battle Stations 21.

The Trayer, dry-docked at a mock pier in the $82.5 million USS Iowa training complex in Great Lakes, Ill., simulates an Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer and some of the adventure and hard work that goes with sailing the Seven Seas.

U.S. Navy

BTS 21 is part of a 10-year, $763 million "recapitalization" of training facilities that will set new standards in simulation technology by using video screens, smells, vibrations and sound effects to educate thousands of sailors a month, according to the Navy Training Command.

There is no mention of seasickness or saltwater showers, but the Navy still promises "horrifying realism." Scenarios from historic naval engagements and disasters like the 2000 attack on USS Cole in Yemen have been incorporated into the boot camp syllabus. The results are flooded compartments, raging fires and screaming casualties all accompanied by the thrum of engines and shaking floors of a ship underway. Trainers control the various scenarios via PDAs, while future swabbies struggle to batten the proverbial hatches.

Cobbled together with "salvaged gauges, pipes and electrical gear" from mothballed ships, BTS 21's gray plywood skin masks a "vast array of multi-sensory technology, seamlessly integrated with architecture and engineering to produce state-of-the-art simulation," according to the Navy. A range of special-effects firms led by McHugh Construction of Chicago combined set design, props, lighting, fire jets, piped-in aromas and sheer Hollywood flair to create a training experience the Navy hopes will be instructive for even the most jaded of multimedia-age recruits.

The question is: What about shore leave? We can think of a couple of simulated scenarios that might tempt us to grab the old sea bag and re-up.

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