Submarine officers to train on land
Engineers from Vancouver's MDA have helped create a submarine control room simulator
Peter Wilson, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, April 13, 2007
Canada's submarine commanders and their officers will be getting their crucial hands-on training on dry land, starting this fall thanks to engineers from Vancouver-based tech giant MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.
They'll be put through their paces in Halifax in a replica of a Victoria-class sub's control room that's as realistic as is practical.
"We have curved bulkheads in the ceiling," Tom Henry, MDA's director of defence and security information systems, said in an interview. The simulated control rooms are being built in Britain and then shipped to Halifax.
same layout as the subs. We have the red lighting and all of the systems there, the sonar and so on are in replica cabinets."
The commanders need this level of realism, said Henry, because when they're giving orders to their officers they need everyone to be in exactly the place they would be on a real mission.
"They turn and talk to people, usually in a quiet voice, because they spend their lives sneaking around down there."
The idea --said Henry, whose company carried out the contract worth about $17 million with British Aerospace and Lougheed Martin -- is to make the submariners respond to different kinds of situations.
"They're learning how to handle the vessel safely," said Henry, who added that while MDA was not the prime contractor, its part in the creation of the replica was significant.
"How do you safely come to periscope depth without tipping over or broaching or hitting a surface ship? How do you navigate into a harbour in a submarine?"
Once the control room replica is in place in Halifax, MDA has the contract for maintaining it.
At the moment the company is advertising for a trainer to keep the control room operational and also to set up simulated scenarios for the sub's commander.
"So that person will plan a scenario and set up the trainer so that the submarine is somewhere in the ocean and there's a ship over here and a Halifax ship over there and maybe a Russian submarine somewhere in the vicinity and they all move in scripted manners," said Henry.
"And in fact the instructor can take over and actually control some of these things, so if he has a Russian submarine he can turn it towards you and shoot a torpedo at you."
On it's own, MDA previously created, as part a $17-million contract, a classroom simulation of the operations room of a Victoria class submarines. It went into operation in October 2006 in Esquimalt and Halifax.
"When the Victoria class was procured it came with a whole bunch of machinery trainers, the ones that train the guys on the engines, the batteries, the big machinery that loads torpedoes and that type of stuff," said Henry. "But it didn't come with any operator trainers."
So MDA set about creating a realistic simulation of the operations room.
"That's a fairly small place in the bottom of the conning tower and it's a nerve centre of the sub," said Henry. "That's where the periscope is and that's where you can turn the radar on and off and put masts up and down to sense electronic signals."
The Victoria-class operations room was built as part of MDA's already-established Naval Combat Operator Trainer (NCOT) for the Canadian navy which works for Halifax and Iroquois class vessels.
The upgrade was a huge piece of work, said Henry, because MDA had to add enriched acoustic modelling to simulate the sounds made by vessels from navies around the world.
"So when these submariners, who live and die by their ears, have their headphones on and they hear 'rrrrrrrrrr' they can say that's an Arleigh Burke [a United States guided missile destroyer] and it's doing 12 knots and it's in a right-hand turn and its engines need some work."
The integration of the submarine module into NCOT meant that there could be classroom simulations of the interaction between subs and other vessels.
"So now in the NCOT trainer you can have, for instance, a Halifax-class crew in one classroom and you can have a submarine crew in the next classroom and, while they can't see or hear one another, they're in the same game."
In 2002, Canada accepted four Upholder class diesel-electric hunter-killer submarines as replacements for their old Oberons. After all four subs were leased to the Canadian Navy, the Canadian Forces renamed them the Victoria-class. HMCS Victoria operates out of CFB Esquimalt, while the three remaining boats are based at CFB Halifax.
Cost: $188 million each
Hull design: Classical teardrop shape
Length: 70.26 metres
Beam: 7.2 metres
Height: 7.6 metres
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h) surfaced, 20 knots (37 km/h) submerged
Range: 18,500 kilometres at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Diving depth: 200 metres
Crew: Seven officers, plus 40 crew members
Weaponry: six bow torpedo tubes, torpedo room houses racks for storing up to 18 torpedoes. The torpedoes, operating at 40 knots speed (74 km/h), have a range of 50 kilometres