When the entire ship shudders violently after a missile strikes it, rookie sailors in the Navy's latest war-game simulator find out what it was like when the USS Cole was hit nearly seven years ago.
Sirens blare, lights go out, walls collapse and smoke billows in after the deafening explosion. Naval recruits scramble through the ruins, helping injured sailors while responding to the mock terrorist attack.
It's all part of "boot camp" on the USS Trayer, the Navy's new virtual-fighting ship, christened last week at the Great Lakes Naval Station in suburban Chicago. Since then, nearly 1,000 recruits have run the floating obstacle course -- dubbed Battle Stations 21 -- to hone their maritime skills.
And though the sailors navigate what amounts to an armored theme-park ride, the last thing on their minds is Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando.
The themed entertainment community played a key role in creating what is being called "the world's largest training simulator," an $83 million project involving a full-size replica of a modern guided-missile destroyer -- like the USS Cole -- housed in a complex at Great Lakes.
The Navy says training on the Trayer is definitely no walk in the theme park. Special-effects are so authentic, the action so real, many recruits have been visibly scared during the 12-hour exercise, officials said. Some have been brought to tears.
"Battle Stations 21 is no ride; it is a practical exam," said Lt. Andrew Bond, the Trayer's top training officer at Great Lakes. "And it is frightening. When it goes dark, that smoke pours in and steam hits the backs of their necks when they're trying to get out; it can be very scary."
The simulator is housed in a 157,000-square-foot building and floats in a man-made harbor of 100,000 gallons of water.
Audio is sourced from multiple Alcorn McBride Digital Binloops. Simulation control is provided by PLCs. The system is synchronized using V16s.