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Royal Navy enters the Metaverse with new Virtual Reality simulators

14 February 2023
The Royal Navy is embracing Virtual Reality to train sailors of tomorrow in cutting-edge new navigation simulators.

Sailors will don headsets to take them into a naval ‘metaverse’ immersing them in key – and sometimes dangerous – manoeuvres, all from the safety of a naval base.

 

The VR headsets will be just one facet of new state-of-the-art replica ship’s bridges, with software capable of recreating the entire fleet, harbours and waters around the globe, and challenging weather conditions by day and night.

 

HMS Collingwood in Fareham, home of warfare training, Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, spiritual home of naval officers, and the home of the Submarine Service in Faslane will all receive the new trainers.

 

The investment is part of the modernisation of Royal Navy training by Project Selborne – a 12-year programme overseen by Capita to update and deliver a raft of training across many naval disciplines and branches.

 

The Navy’s existing simulators have trained thousands of navigators, officers of the watch and bridge teams for two decades.

 

They’ve received regular updates and undergone enhancements to keep pace with seafaring and technological changes in that period – such as the Fleet’s switch from paper to digital charts to navigate the Seven Seas.

 

Three full mission bridge simulators and two smaller ones will be installed at Collingwood and Lieutenant Commander Mark Raeburn, who’s in charge of Navigation Training there, said the advent of the new facilities meant more sailors could be trained and earn more practical experience rather than spend time in the classroom.

 

“Nothing beats practical experience and our Fleet Navigators and Specialist Navigators will continue to be assessed at Sea on the Navigation Training Ship HMS Severn but the new simulators should markedly increase the preparedness of the students,” he explained.

 

“As the suite of simulation will also be increased at Dartmouth and Faslane this will allow cohesive training on the same software – before we have had to rely on disparate software systems with no commonality of training.”

 

Although initially the simulators will operate independently, in the future they will link up allowing students across the three sites to train together simultaneously.

 

The new bridge trainers can recreate single warships or auxiliaries sailing from one port to another, to complex task group manoeuvres or a replenishment at sea – the challenging transfer of supplies between ships on the move (chiefly fuel, but also food, ammunition and general stores) – all minus the costs and potential dangers of the real thing.

 

Advanced engineering and hydrodynamic vessel modelling in the simulators ensure vessels, objects and equipment behave realistically, while Virtual Reality headsets will be used to provide an immersive training experience for evolutions such a ship handling and Replenishment at Sea.

 

“A number of naval academies world-wide are today heavily using our simulator systems for education and training purposes,” said Andreas Jagtøyen, Executive Vice President of Digital Ocean, Kongsberg Digital.

 

“The Royal Navy contract is a recognition of our technology and will further strengthen our position within the naval simulator training domain.”

 

The first students are due to use the simulators in September.

 

Imagery courtesy of Capita/Kongsberg.

Nothing beats practical experience and our Fleet Navigators and Specialist Navigators will continue to be assessed at Sea on the Navigation Training Ship HMS Severn but the new simulators should markedly increase the preparedness of the students.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Raeburn

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