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Would-be submarine commanders put to the test aboard HMS Artful

HMS Artful hosted the Perisher course
18 June 2021
Five students were put through their paces on the demanding Perisher course as they bid to become submarine commanders.

Those who pass the course will go on to command submarines carrying the nation’s nuclear deterrent – or the hunter-killer submarines which protect them from hostile threats.


Much of Perisher – officially the Submarine Command Course – takes place in classrooms and simulators ashore. A highly experienced hand-picked former commanding officer, known as ‘Teacher’, and his staff rigorously test the students over several months – if they are not good enough then they do not proceed to the sea phase.


For the final few weeks, the course shifts to a submarine with warships, a second submarine, helicopters and the UK’s new P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft posing as adversaries to give the students ­and the hunters a thorough workout in shallow, confined waters and the open ocean.

Teacher is Commander Ben Haskins, who brought five students to Artful for the ultimate four-week test.

The students were put through a series of high-tempo scenarios, including gathering intelligence on shore installations and warships.  Real ‘eyes-only’ training saw the students rely on nothing but the visual system and a stop watch to keep the submarine safe with warships operating in close proximity including conducting ‘charges’ to test the students’ ability to take the boat deep at the right time.

We congratulate the successful Perishers and our focus now returns to the operations that lie ahead

Commander Murray Adam, CO HMS Artful

There were also interactions with other submarines requiring the students to demonstrate the skill, determination and cunning to achieve the aim. All of this training happened around the clock further challenging the students’ ability to properly manage their sleep to avoid fatigue and maintain focus to make the correct decisions.

One scenario saw Artful act as the submarine threat for HMS Queen Elizabeth during Exercise Strike Warrior with fellow Carrier Strike Group ships along with P8s and Merlin helicopters playing the air and surface threats.

Three students successfully completed the course and were informed of their success with the famous, “Congratulations Captain”. At this point the stress and tension of the sea phase lifts but the skills and lessons learnt will follow them into their next assignment as submarine Executive Officers.

Once Teacher and the students departed, it was business as usual for Artful, whose commanding officer, Commander Murray Adam, said: “This has been a very busy few months for the ship’s company of HMS Artful, who have excelled themselves in delivering whatever has been asked of them.

“We congratulate the successful Perishers and our focus now returns to the operations that lie ahead.”

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