ABOARD THE HNOMS FRIDTJOF NANSEN – By name, the Norwegian ship HNOMS Fridtjof Nansen is a frigate. But with its Aegis combat system, weaponry and size, the vessel is much more powerful and capable than what the U.S. Navy would put in that category.

"This is really a destroyer," says Cmdr. Per Rostad, the ship’s commanding officer.

And yet, it’s a destroyer with a crew of only 120, compared to the listed U.S. Navy DDG 51-class Arleigh Burke destroyer crew size of 276.

"Automation is the key," Rostad said during a tour of the ship while it was participating in the 2014 Rim of Pacific (Rimpac) exercises off the coast of Hawaii.

A network of sensors spiderwebs throughout the ship, making it possible for Rostad, his officers and crew to monitor the health of systems, identify existing or potential problems and quickly decide what needs to be done to make any repairs or perform any preventative maintenance.

The bridge is operated by a crew of six. "But we could really just do it with one person," Rostad says, noting the console and computer setup that provide the kind of vessel command and control the U.S. has been trying to engineer into its ships and operate effectively on board for years.

"The U.S. Navy is very interested in what we have," Rostad says. U.S. Navy officials have been studying the Danish ship concepts and systems, he says.

The Navy had tried to use some automation to reduce manning aboard its Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), but later had to increase the crew size to keep up with maintenance and station watches.

Rostad acknowledges that sometimes he has to forego some maintenance to maintain operational tempo.

The U.S. is now building a bigger destroyer, the DDG 1000 Zumwalt class, with a crew of about 130 based on some of the same automation and reduced manning principles.