Navy's new gender-neutral carriers won't have urinals
This is a Navy illustration of the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the first of the Ford class of carriers.
July 11th, 2012
01:47 PM ET

Navy's new gender-neutral carriers won't have urinals

[Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET] 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.

Other quality-of-life updates, according to Meyer:

- Sleeping areas, or berthings, generally will be smaller, designed for fewer people per room. On current carriers, some berthings have more than 100 sailors each. On the Ford carriers, the number will be closer to 30 to 50 each.

- Heads will be attached to berthing compartments. Currently, many sailors have to traverse a passageway between a berthing and a head, meaning sailors who’ve just woken up have to dress up more for a trip to the head than they would if it were adjacent.

The new Ford-class features were first reported by the Navy Times.

Some sailors said that they're happy to lose the urinals because they're hard to clean and maintain, the Navy Times reported this week.

The Ford class is the future replacement for the Nimitz class. The Ford carriers are designed to allow more aircraft sorties, but with about 660 fewer crew members, according to the Navy.

The first three Ford carriers are scheduled to debut between 2015 and 2027, at a total projected cost of $37 billion. That cost includes non-recurring engineering expenses and research and development costs for the first carrier, the Navy says.

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (1,012 Responses)
  1. bitoy4567

    Dont be expecting me to put the toilet seat up!

    July 12, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff

    Aircraft carriers are impressive pieces of work. That's all I have to say right now.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Michelle

    Give me a break people, it's a bathroom issue not electronic warfare. For you men who just can't get used to women in your Navy, get used to it! We are here and we're not going away. I am a Navy retiree and although my sea time consists of a whole six days at sea on the now decommissioned USS INCHON, I don't see what all the complaining is about. The USS INCHON was not "outfitted for women" when I was on there so myself and the four other enlisted reservist women, got the medical overflow bunk area all to ourselves. My point is, you don't spend much time in the bathroom (unless you're sick) so quit complaining and just deal with it.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • JerseyMike

      Wow, a whole six days at sea aboard a rusted out LPH. You're a regular Chester Nimitz.

      July 12, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. vbscript2

    @Eric: If the first of these is coming online in 2015, they were probably ordered before the recession when we were in a war where we were using carriers quite regularly. By the way, we still have carriers in use all of the time, even when we're not at war. They're used for intelligence missions, peace keeping missions, disaster aid missions, and to have assets in position in case the need arises. Also, comparing the cost of healthcare (a trillion dollar or more per year industry) with the cost of three ships ($37 B over the course of about 3 decades) is rather silly. The entire cost of these ships is a rounding error in the context of the healthcare bill.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Thalassocrat

    I don't know what ships the Captain quoted in this article were on, but in my 22 years in the USN, toilets were inoperable way more often than urinals in the enlisted compartments. Additionally, heads have been in enlisted berthing compartments on all new classes of warships for years counter to the claims in the article. There is no logic in this decision other than convenience for shipbuilding. It will not work well for the crew.

    P.S. In response to Dwayne....Stuffed animals have been authorized to be out on bunks on many ships in recent years. I fear for the ship that has to de-water in an emergency situation only for that pump to be clogged.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Gregory Faith

    As a former Sailor that is fine with me until I hear the first complaint about "seat up or seat down" ecoing inside the "head of the future"!

    July 12, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Pirate77

    How could the urinals clog more than a toilet? Were the boys pooping in those instead of the toilet? I don't care one way or the other about the gender-neutral heads, but I find it hard to believe the urinals clog more.

    July 12, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • RockyR

      You ask how urinals can clog more than commodes. First, the pipes draining urinals are much smaller. Second, the amount of water used in flushing a urinal is much less. Therefore, the fluid draining from a urinal has a much higher mineral content.
      Let me expand on the significance of the latter point. The only reason that public restrooms on land have urinals is to reduce the water bill, as they use less water for flushing. A ship at sea flushes commodes with seawater, which is free and limitless. However, urinals must be flushed with FRESH water, otherwise the salt in seawater would cause them to clog even more often. Fresh water is very limited and valuable on a ship. This is another good reason to eliminate urinals on ships.

      July 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • LoginIncorrect

      Can't speak to urinal vs. toilet clooging rate, but flushing water aboard ship is salt water. The water is strained but not filtered or purified, and is full of marine life. Urine is full of nutrients for that marine life. Urinal drain pipes are smaller that toilet drains. Shipboard urinal drains do clog much more than you might expect.

      July 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Althalos93

    They're going to pee on the seats.

    July 12, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. idunno

    OK fine, as long as you women remember to put the toilet seat up. Not the other way around. Know your place

    July 12, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. Kayce Taylor

    The article is wrong about women on ships. I was aboard a Navy ship, the USS Jason, in 1982 albeit a non-combatant ship it was a deploying ship all the same.

    July 12, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Freedom Fascist

    I thought all American soldiers sat down to pee...

    July 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lou Cypher

    All this does is lead to more peeing in the sink and shower. Thank gawd urine is sterile.

    July 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Crocker

    I sure am gonna miss the smell of those urinal cakes.... otherwise known as Marine Corps breath mints.....

    July 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. yankeeshogun

    Who gives a crap?

    July 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John A

    Lets use the military for just a little more social experimentation... what do you say....?

    July 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
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