Surface Forces: August 23, 2003


A recent U.S. Navy survey of it's sailors and officers confirmed what warship designers had been hearing increasingly for the last two decades. In short, sailors and junior pretty officers (E-5 and E-6) are increasingly unhappy with their ship board accommodations. Hammocks were still used for sleeping on many American warships during World War II. But in the late 1930s, newly built ships had bunks for everyone. The bunks were more popular, but they took up more space. This was taken care of by the introduction of more compact engines and other equipment. The hammocks didnt completely disappear until after World War II. The bunks provided were cramped, and stacked in tiers at least three bunks high. This was tolerated during the period of conscription, which ended in the 1970s. In the current survey, all sailors, petty officers and officers were unhappy with the shipboard living conditions, with only 41 percent grading them as satisfactory. The lower ranking sailors (grades E2-E6) were even less satisfied. It's been proposed that the next generation of ships use a lot more automation, and have smaller crews. This would allow for better living quarters. Merchant ships have learned this lesson in the last few decades, providing private, or two man, cabins for all sailors. This appears to be the goal of warship designers, with smaller berthing areas, perhaps even four man cabins for lower ranking sailors. The sailors also want things like Internet connections in their berthing areas, and larger lockers for their clothes and stuff (like laptop computers or game consoles, which are increasingly popular at sea.) The navy is convinced that such upgrades in living accommodations will be essential if they are to continue attracting enough sailors to keep the ships at sea. 


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