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Where navigators learn to traverse the sea

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HI-TECH: A view of the Bridge Simulator (ship-handling simulator) at the Navigation and Direction School, INS Venduruthy, Kochi.
HI-TECH: A view of the Bridge Simulator (ship-handling simulator) at the Navigation and Direction School, INS Venduruthy, Kochi.

In May last, when a group of Royal Australian Navy officers paid a visit to the Indian Navy's Navigation and Direction (ND) School at INS Venduruthy here as part of Operation Northern Trident, they marvelled at its state-of-the-art indigenous simulator training facility.

Last month, United States' Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead visited the school. On Friday, it was the turn of Russian Navy officers to laud the advanced training tools set up here. “The visiting navies have been impressed with the quality and versatility of the simulators,” maintains Captain Sanjay J. Singh, Officer-in-Charge of ND School.

Last Friday, a batch of 21 officers passed out from the portals of the school after completing the ‘Long Navigation and Direction Course' over 48 weeks of demanding training, which included six-levels of training on the simulators. Lieutenant Commander Mukesh Tayal stood first in the overall order of merit, bagging the coveted Admiral O.S. Dawson Trophy at the passing-out ceremony. Lt Cdr Vishnu Vardhan Reddy came overall second.

Lt Cdrs Tayal and Reddy would now be posted as navigating officers, with independent responsibility, on the Navy's frontline corvettes. Most of the others would get postings as N-II (second navigating officers) in the operations room of larger ships. As mentioned by Captain Singh, some of these officers could even come back to the school as instructors after five to six years of being at sea, keeping watch on a warship's bridge.

The ND school offers tailor-made courses for sailors, young sub-lieutenants and officers with a few years' of experience. It has a capsule for commanding officers as well. During the Long ND course, the officers are trained for navigation and pilotage of all kinds of warships and on all facets of aircraft and helicopter control and direction both for aircraft management and safety as well as for tactical action, says Captain Singh.

Pertinently, the course has a three-month direction component. “On an aircraft carrier, it is he [the direction officer] who directs interception of enemy aircraft with own aircraft using surface radar,” says Captain Singh. The course also exposes the officers to the finer aspects of operations room management, control of action information organisation, which expands to ‘maritime domain awareness' (MDA). At the end of the course, officers are awarded M.Sc. in Nautical Science and Tactical Operations by the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat).

“There is also a component of Coast Guard officers training with us. And, all our courses are open for subscription by friendly foreign countries,” says Captain Singh.

The bridge simulator with a 180-degree display, called the ship handling simulator, gives the trainee officers an experience as close to the real as it could get. It has all the consoles: Electronic Chart Display System (ECDS), radar display plus a steering. “Various ports, sea states, climatic conditions, you name it, all that can be simulated. Here, they [trainee officers] can learn from their mistakes. Their reactions to a specific task are also recorded as they could initially show panic when faced with a difficult condition. All that is used to conduct the debrief. It is so well-subscribed that there is one more such simulator coming,” says Commander H. Aggarwal, Instructor.

Basically, navigation officers-to-be are taught how to steer a ship into and out of a port, how to take care of the traffic in the channel, how to handle tugs and the like on the simulator that gets upgraded at regular intervals. “We can even do an exercise on this, fast forwarding to the next stage to see how things are going to happen.

While one team works at the bridge, another team would be in the operations room, collating information, filtering and feeding it to the commander for tactical action. The idea is to generate a complete electronic picture of the battlefield—surface, sub-surface and aerial— with forecast,” he says.

The school also has an inflatable planetarium for astronavigation training. Its technology watch cells are constantly on the look-out for evolving technology in this field in order to review the course curriculum and to keep abreast of the best practices around the world.

S. Anandan

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