LONDON — Synthetic familiarization training cuts in half the amount of time new British submariners require to get to grips with their new vessel, speakers said at the ITEC 2012 conference here.
New crew members due to join HMS Astute, the lead vessel of the U.K. Royal Navy’s latest class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, are introduced to the vessel via a shore-based immersive 3-D walkthrough system, said Steve Young, director of submarine training at Babcock International Group. Babcock International is Britain’s largest engineering support services company.
The synthetic training helps the Royal Navy cope with a shortage of seagoing platforms for new submariners, according to Young. The shrinking number of Royal Navy vessels, following a series of defense cuts over the years, has meant that seagoing berths are at a premium.
Trainees use a Microsoft Xbox controller and a suite of films and 3-D animations to move around a synthetic representation of Astute. The system also is used to teach new crew members drills to deal with emergencies such as firefighting, flooding, pipe bursts and hydraulic leaks.
“The benefits are reduced training time for familiarization of the layout of the submarine and the location of key equipment,” Young said.
This provides basic improvements such as freeing experienced personnel from the time-consuming task of escorting new crew members to different departments of the submarine — or even the heads — during their early days on board.
Astute’s captain, Young said, reported that the time needed for new crew members to reach an acceptable level of familiarization dropped from seven weeks to between three and four as a result of the synthetic training they received before going aboard.
It also is popular with the trainees and encourages learning and retention, he added. This is particularly important when the shore training course lasts only 10 weeks and must to cater to a wide range of educational needs.
Young said the Royal Navy is looking at expanding the training to two older classes of submarines, the Trafalgar-class nuclear powered attack subs and the Vanguard-class nuclear ballistic missile subs.