Navigators of the future were put through their paces around the Western Isles, facing choppy weather and intense training.
HMS Severn is the Royal Navy’s dedicated navigational training ship and has been off the coast of Scotland with her latest cohort of navigators.
The specialist navigators course (SPEC N) is designed to train officers in directing task groups through the most challenging of waters at high speed. To add to the difficulty, they learn to maneuver without the use of GPS or a gyro compass.
During their visit to the Outer Hebrides, Severn passed close to sheer cliffs and rocks at speeds above 20 knots while the trainees ‘passed’ navigational instructions to ‘ghost consorts’ – imaginary vessels in the task group.
This gave students the chance to practice monitoring the location and presence of other ships as well as keeping Severn on track.
Once qualified, the students will be assigned to navigating capital ships (such as aircraft carriers and assault ships) or as staff navigator on a flag officer’s staff.
Their skills and knowledge of operating without traditional navigation systems will give the Royal Navy the edge and the ability to dominate adversaries in warfare situations should those systems be damaged or knocked out.
Severn’s commanding officer, Commander Phil Harper, is one of the most experienced navigators in the Fleet. Having completed the Spec N course himself and a Chartered Master Mariner, he is well placed to guide the students on their path to success.
He said: “The technical challenges of this course coupled with the stunning scenery of the Hebrides and Western Isles make this the highlight of the ship’s calendar.
“Having a ship specialized in delivering navigational training means that the Royal Navy gets a better navigator at the end and also gains a platform for developing techniques and advancing the science of tactical navigation.”