New simulators enhance training for boat coxswains

This article has photo gallery Published on Royal Australian Navy (author), POIS Nina Fogliani (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Cerberus, VIC

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Cerberus

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Matthew Lewis tests the new Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) simulator at the Boatswains Faculty, HMAS Cerberus. (photo: POIS Nina Fogliani)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Matthew Lewis tests the new Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) simulator at the Boatswains Faculty, HMAS Cerberus.

The Seamanship School at the Royal Australian Navy’s Boatswains Faculty at HMAS Cerberus has two new simulators that will help ensure new boat coxswains go to sea much better prepared to hit the water at speed.

The combined Jet RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) Course now has two moving platform J3 Jet RHIB simulators that deliver a full immersive experience.

The simulators are motion enabled with accurate boat and water physics incorporated into the program to ensure it responds the same as an actual J3 Jet RHIB manoeuvring in the water.

Boatswains Faculty Training Manager, Chief Petty Officer Alan Neil said the simulators would give trainee boat coxswains the opportunity to experience the varying sea conditions that they could expect in a blue water environment.

“Some of our initial boat coxswains have never driven a car and now they’re expected to be an exceptional boat driver, so using a simulator as an introduction is smart business.

“We’ve just had our first class practice on the simulation, with the boat coxswains exposed to coming alongside various types of vessels, such as an Anzac class Frigate, an Armidale class Patrol Boat and a submarine, in order to gain an appreciation of the differences in boat handling requirements.

“The boat coxswains also conducted man overboard drills and used the elements, wind and waves, to assist in recovery,” Chief Petty Officer Neil said.

“We found the trainees grasped boat manoeuvring concepts quicker when using a whiteboard next to the simulators to demonstrate manoeuvres such a Williamson turn: the circular turns conducted for man overboard scenarios.

“This form of training was more efficient than starting on the water, and the students grasped the concepts very quickly,” he said.

RHIB simulation is a practical introduction for boat coxswains to become familiar with boat controls and manoeuvring and also night navigation scenarios, prior to undergoing ‘on water’ assessments.

Boat coxswains will initially practice in benign conditions, but the simulator can be dialled up to higher and more challenging sea states as the boat coxswains hones their skills.

The simulator can also be used as a tool to assess the boat coxswain’s understanding of the rules of the road (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea).

To achieve this, the boat coxswain follows a pre-planned course that’s set in the chart plotter on the console and other vessels are introduced, forcing the boat coxswain to employ good judgement and decision making based on their understanding of the rules of the road.

They may need to manoeuvre off the pre-planned course to avoid a collision and then get back onto the course to finish the exercise.

Royal Australian Navy Small Boat Instructor, Leading Seaman Matthew Lewis said the simulators provided a realistic experience.

“Each simulator handles and moves as close to a 7.2m RHIB as a simulator possibly can without it being the real thing.

“As instructors, they allow us to control variables such as the weather, traffic on the water, location and change between day and night, which provides us with lifelike situations that the trainees will experience once out in the fleet.

“The movement of the platform reacts as a RHIB would when conducting turns, and provides students with the opportunity to experience the motion of the RHIB before heading out onto the water,” Leading Seaman Lewis said.

The RHIB simulator will not replace on water training in an actual vessel, but it allows for the on water time to be used more efficiently, with the trainee boat coxswains having experienced numerous conditions and scenarios before they enter the real environment.

As a result, they will have a better understanding of boat manoeuvring, and the forces at work in various sea states, prior to joining the fleet.