By Jennifer Blaess, RA

Following the tragic USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain collisions in 2017, U.S. Fleet Forces conducted a comprehensive review that, among other findings, identified a lack of knowledge in basic seamanship among the officers navigating the ships and recognized the need for increased virtual training capability and expanded hands-on training of surface warfare officers. In response, the U.S. Navy created a training program targeted to develop technical and leadership expertise.

However, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, headquarters for the forward-deployed U.S. 7th Fleet, lacked a dedicated facility to carry out this critical Navigation, Seamanship, and Shiphandling Training (NSST). Leadership identified a mission-need date of March 31, 2022. Due to the long lead time required to build a new facility (planning, solicitation, and award typically take five years for military construction), the Navy requested an interim solution to a permanent facility.

Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Far East was assigned as the responsible party to execute the interim project and quickly got to work executing a fast-tracked design and construction award for an interim facility ahead of the permanent trainer that is scheduled for completion in 2025.


NAVFAC Far East awarded the $15.7 million firm-fixed-price contract in November 2020, with the work to be completed in two phases. Phase 1 includes all necessary building improvements and is scheduled for completion by December 2021. Phase 2 accomplishes the interior fit-out and is planned for completion and occupancy no later than the mission need-date.

As this interim facility was a high priority to deliver critical skills to the sailors stationed there, NAVFAC Far East fast-tracked the scoping and solicitation of the architect and engineering (A-E) services contract. An initial site investigation task order was able to be awarded in just 21 days. The design task order was awarded in 53 days—representing an acceleration of the acquisition timeline by 75 days. The structure of the A-E design contract also incorporated concept designs in the initial site investigation report and a reduction in government review periods to shorten the overall design schedule from 300 days to 200 days.

Performing quality assurance during the project planning has played a key role in on-time, on-budget performance. At each design milestone the team focused efforts on the routing of quality assurance actions and took calculated risk-compressing timelines, trusting in one another’s high level of technical competence and experience to deliver an expedient outcome.

The government design management team coordinated closely with the A-E firm and turned around requests for information as quickly as possible, often the same day.

NAVFAC Far East implemented several strategies to ensure a successful construction award, such as providing potential bidders with the 100 percent draft design for review and comment and having the A-E incorporate the contractors’ comments into their final design. Consequently, pre-bid inquiries were minimal.

Integrating constructability during design in this way could prove to be a harbinger of things to come. NAVFAC is progressing with a plan that would integrate advanced work packaging into future projects. To do so requires detailed planning and the creation of a construction execution plan at the nascent stages of a project.

Collaboration has been a foundational aspect of the success to date. The team, composed of in-house engineers, contract specialists, and the A-E firm, prioritized efforts to ensure the project’s successful solicitation for construction award.

The interim training facility will be carved out of an existing electrical substation facility and incorporate the virtual trainer, classrooms, administrative spaces, and provide all necessary lifesafety improvements. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY TANYA KING


The interim project is designed to provide a state-of-the-art integrated bridge and combat information center training capability to meet mandated NSST and radar navigation course requirements. An existing electrical substation facility will be modified to incorporate the virtual trainer, classrooms, administrative spaces, and provide all necessary life-safety improvements for a code-compliant facility. The scope of work includes replacement of the building’s HVAC and plumbing systems and upgrading its electrical systems.

The substation will remain fully operational throughout construction and the useful life of the temporary training facility. This requirement posed a unique challenge and resulted in fire protection enhancements to include an automatic wet-pipe sprinkler system, fire pump, and a fire alarm/mass notification system. Rated walls will separate the transformer room from the occupied spaces. The two-level communicating space in the trainer portion of the facility will be enclosed by smoke barriers. In addition, the change of occupancy classification to include business use and the building construction type necessitated a separation distance and a fire barrier between the substation and an adjacent warehouse. The exterior wall on that side of the building will be demolished and rebuilt at a proper distance and fire rating.

The planned construction includes two mezzanines installed approximately 13-ft above the ground level to accommodate and support the design load of the trainers. Elevating the bridge trainers above the existing one-story floor will replicate real-world conditions of the bridge location above the water line. The mezzanines will be supported on new steel columns and concrete foundations, separate from the existing building structure. High bay space will include clear ceiling heights of 26-ft in order to accommodate training equipment and simulators.

The trainer floors will be a raised access type with underfloor cableways capable of supporting a concentrated load capacity greater than 1,000-lb/ft2. Power and cableway boxes will be on a flexible whip so they can be easily moved and placed directly under the trainer consoles. There will be one floor box every 50-ft2 within the training space.

The projection display systems, estimated to weigh 4,000-lb, will be mounted on overhead structures independent of the building’s existing structural frame. Essentially the facility will have an internal steel “skeleton” to support the equipment and a catwalk for maintenance. This additional structure also will support the fire suppression system. Sound dampening around the bridge area will be installed to minimize the acoustic reflection from the curved display screen, and sound generating equipment will be audibly isolated from the bridge area to support sound signal recognition training. All surfaces and objects within sight of the bridge will be a dark color and free of any light sources (including reflected light) to support critical nighttime training. All lighting, including for fire egress, will be located as far from the display screen as allowable and also be situated to prevent casting light onto the display screen.


The adaptability of the project team to deliver an interim solution that meets the Navy’s needs, such as carving out the necessary physical space from an existing electrical substation, exemplifies a commitment to readiness of the surface combat crews and to NAVFAC’s ability to deliver on all three lines of effort of its Strategic Design 2.0—Enable Warfighter Lethality, Maximize Naval Shore Readiness, and Strengthen the SYSCOM Team.

Remarked Capt. Tim DeWitt, CEC, USN, NAVFAC Far East Commanding Officer: “NAVFAC Far East remains focused on delivering a state-of-the-art facility that will provide the solution needed to increase capability, improve shipboard safety for our sailors, and integrate technology to provide a better training experience for those assigned to protect and defend the maritime interests of the United States in the Indo-Asia Pacific Region. I am proud of our team for finding creative solutions to get this shipboard trainer fleet-ready in record time for those who need it most—our sailors.”

Jennifer Blaess, RA, is Design Manager, NAVFAC Far East;

[This article first published in the May-June 2021 issue of The Military Engineer.]