This linked news story is about a new navigation system designed to replace paper charts on submarines.
Submarine Force Forges Ahead with Electronic Navigation to Enhance Capabilities
The submarine force is advancing toward its goal of "paperless" navigation with the Voyage Management System (VMS), an electronic navigation tool currently aboard all Navy submarines.
The Navy appears to be taking a slow and cautious approach at rolling this system out, requiring crews to still maintain paper charts until the system and crews are certified. With any computerized system it may improve efficiency but it will not totally eliminate error. As a former NavET and current IT professional I can't help but think of that old adage "garbage in garbage out". The unknown will still be there and this system is probably not intended to prevent another USS San Francisco type grounding.
I'm also wondering if this is intended for Piloting in and out of port as well as voyage management . In any case, system and data management becomes the task instead of chart maintenance. The more things change the more they stay the same, or am I just being to cynical.
Update 03/24/05: In light of the recent NJPs handed down to SSN711 navigation division crewmembers I feel my statement above was a little shortsighted. One of the issues identified in the NJP was the crew's failure to update the charts with the latest and any historically relevant Notice to Mariners. Bubblehead at "The Stupid Shall Be Punished" has an excellent post that can provide the details that are public about the NJP. This new Voyage Management System could have (if maintain with updates) alerted the crew of the potential "discolored waters" hazard. Again, It appears that maintenance of the data was the issue not the system employed.