When I received orders as the commanding officer of pre-commissioning unit Milwaukee (LCS-5) Crew 111, our littoral combat ship (LCS) was the Porsche of warships, the Navy’s newest, fastest, and most maneuverable. She was powered by two Rolls Royce jet engines and two Colt-Pielstick diesel engines, which provided more than 100,000 horsepower, rocketing the sleek 389-foot hull through the water at 50 miles per hour. With 8,900 sensors, increased automation, and a new manning concept, she required a crew of only 53 sailors, just one-third the size of previous warships of comparable size and complexity. From a sheer efficiency standpoint, I thought state-of-the-art technology plus innovative manning concepts would equal smooth sailing, correct?
Not so fast. Never before have I worked so hard as I did leading a brand-new crew on a brand-new warship to one of the best winning streaks in our new class of warship’s young history. Cutting-edge technology is only as good as your weakest teammate. At the end of the day, even with thousands of sensors and increased automation, there was no replacing the human component in preparing our ship for success.