Navy To Unveil ‘Unisex’ Aircraft Carriers

With women now common on board combat ships, the Navy is taking a step that some will likely consider unusual:

The U.S. Navy’s new class of carriers will be the first to go without urinals, a decision made in part to give the service flexibility in accommodating female sailors, the Navy says.

The change heralded by the Gerald R. Ford class of carriers - starting with the namesake carrier due in late 2015 - is one of a number of new features meant to improve sailors’ quality of life and reduce maintenance costs, Capt. Chris Meyer said Wednesday.

Omitting urinals lets the Navy easily switch the designation of any restroom - or head, in naval parlance - from male to female, or vice versa, helping the ship adapt to changing crew compositions over time, Meyer said.

The Navy could designate a urinal-fitted area to women, of course, but the urinals would be a waste of space. Making the areas more gender-neutral is a relatively new consideration for the service, with most of its current carriers commissioned before it began deploying women on combat ships in 1994.

But it wasn’t the only reason for the move.

Urinal drain pipes clog more than toilets and therefore can be smellier and costlier to maintain, Meyer said.

“There’s a lot more at play in the design objectives than (making the toilet areas) gender-neutral. We’re saving money in maintenance costs, and we’re improving quality of life,” said Meyer, manager of the Future Aircraft Carriers Program for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

When you’re dealing with limited space, as you do on any Naval vessel, you’ve got to do whatever you can to make sure things operate efficiently. This is actually a fairly smart move on the Navy’s part, I think.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. rodney dill says:

    When you’re dealing with limited space, as you do on any Naval vessel, you’ve got to do whatever you can to make sure things operate efficiently

    It would be interesting to see the analysis of how the “space” (or efficiency) gained from toilets weighs against the “space” given up, in that multiple urinals probably have a smaller footprint than multiple toilets. I’m not saying its incorrect, just that it might be a humorous read.

  2. gawaine says:

    Does that mean I don’t have to lift them up anymore to check underneath?

  3. rodney dill says:

    I think it means they’ve found a way to give head room, where its required.

  4. MstrB says:

    Besides, the carrier already floats in the world’s biggest urinal.

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    A few years ago, I read a story about how urinals are becoming a new trend in new-home construction. The idea that it has a smaller “footprint” than a toilet, allows men to conduct their business more efficiently, etc. etc.

    But some of the Navy’s arguments make sense — urinals are harder to clean, and eliminating them (har!) simplifies the supply/spare parts chain, and it makes all bathrooms heads potentially unisex…

    I just hope they worked out the plumbing kinks that shut down half the George Bush’s toilets on a recent tour.

  6. Boyd says:

    While I won’t dispute their overall conclusions (because they obviously know things that I don’t, even after a 20 year Navy career), I do have to throw a BS flag on one line:

    Urinal drain pipes clog more than toilets and therefore can be smellier and costlier to maintain, Meyer said.

    There’s no reason or excuse for that. If you need bigger drain pipes, then use ’em! If there are other urinal design features that cause this to happen, fix them!

    And in my own little git-offa-my-lawn rant about the “good old days,” I lament the loss of the trough urinal. It worked, it’s certainly space-efficient, and wouldn’t get in the way (too much) of the women if a head was being used for females.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    “There’s a lot more at play in the design objectives than (making the toilet areas) gender-neutral. We’re saving money in maintenance costs, and we’re improving quality of life,” said Meyer, manager of the Future Aircraft Carriers Program for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

    “improving quality of life”?

    Are you sure this wasn’t lifted from The Daily Show?

  8. JKB says:

    I got to go with the BS flag here. Not only are urinals quicker to use, they could be diverted right over the side sea or into separate MSD that would be cheaper to process than the standard black water MSD system from the toilets. If they are clogging more, it is because they aren’t running enough water through them, since it is sea water, the MSD is the limiting factor.

    What they need is to do research into a female urinal for efficiency purposes. It’s easy, get some drunk girls and watch how they deal with their urges on the street after the bars close.

  9. Al says:

    [Insert standard rant about aircraft carriers being a waste of time, money and lives because they’re as obsolete as the battleship was in 1941 here.]

  10. MattT says:

    So will it be a violation of the UCMJ to leave the seat up?