December 7, 2020 – Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) has taken delivery of the first of eight new boats which are set to revolutionize training at the world-renowned College.
The new ‘Sea Class 15’ work boats will replace the aged picket boats currently used by Officer Cadets for exercises on the River Dart.
Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Mike Garner, the project lead, said: “These boats will be a game-changer in the way we conduct our training. The picket boats are largely riverine craft, operated within the confines of the River Dart. The new boats are much better suited to operating in open waters, allowing them to break away from the confines of the River Dart providing us with new and exciting ways of developing training. The equipment onboard, and the new range capabilities that are now available to us, will allow the college to use them much more like small ships oppose to just river boats.”
The 15 meter boats are being introduced under Project Vahana – a broader program to upgrade more than three dozen of the RN’s workboats (all under 20 metres long).
Staff at BRNC have been getting to grips with an 11-meter version of the boat since the end of last year.
Lt Cdr Garner said: “Our river team are now qualified to drive the boats and our attention is now turning to the larger task of qualifying the wider training staff at BRNC. They work in a completely different way to the picket boats, so we now need to take our time to understand their capabilities and redesign and reinvent our training programs, as we wait for the remaining seven boats to arrive. It’s a huge challenge, but this will eventually result in, arguably, the biggest change to our training for around 40 years and will give us bigger and better options to build that Naval Officer of the future.”
Under Project Vahana the new boats will support diving and survey operations, ferrying crew of HMS Prince of Wales ashore, or conduct general duties.
Some, such as inshore survey vessel HMS Magpie, have already been delivered under the £48m contract with defense firm Atlas Elektronik.
They’re built to a generic design, with additional features depending on their task. In the case of the replacement pickets that means a cabin with bunks, living and working space.
The new boats will be in-service at BRNC towards the Autumn next year.