International students take the ‘hot seat’ on HMS Sutherland

HMS Sutherland gave would-be warfare officers from four allied navies the chance to taste the fire and fury of combat with a week’s training off the south coast.

As well as training its own men and women to perform the demanding and highly-responsible role of principal warfare officer –the person who fights the ship on behalf of the captain – the Royal Navy also opens the course to students from friendly navies around the globe.

Those officers begin with limited warfare knowledge and, through a programme of theoretical and practical lessons, develop their core war-fighting skills.

Coursework combined with a period at sea onboard a warship – in this instance the Devonport-based Type 23 frigate – are used to fuse the learning and ensure a student can act as a warfare officer and provide tactical advice to the Commanding Officer.

The four students – from Pakistan, Singapore, Chile and Malaysia – were tested in the three dimensions of naval warfare: above, on and below the water.

During the week at sea the students were put through their paces, dealing with simulated enemy submarines, aircraft and ships.

They were called upon to deliver naval gunfire support with rounds from the frigate’s main 4.5in gun hammering targets, fend off an air attack off Plymouth, then cope with the all-out naval conflict that is a Thursday War.

By the time the students joined the Fighting Clan they had five months’ instruction from the International and Commonwealth Training Unit at HMS Collingwood under their belt – and just two to go.

We were deeply impressed by the professionalism, ‘can do’ attitude and warm welcome received. We truly appreciated the support provided by the highly-experienced instructors and sailors onboard.

Lieutenant Commander Zeeshan from the Pakistani Navy

“The quality of training we received at HMS Collingwood equipped us for a fulfilling week at sea onboard HMS Sutherland,” said Lieutenant Commander Zeeshan from the Pakistani Navy.

Among the latter was Lieutenant Commander John Richardson from the Maritime Warfare Centre at HMS Collingwood.

“This period at sea enables students to demonstrate their skills in medium and close range gunnery – and in a multi-threat environment,” he said.

“The air defence exercise and Thursday War allowed each of the students to experience the pressure of sitting in the ‘hot seat’ and coordinating the tactical picture.

“I’m delighted that the students acquitted themselves well and gained valuable experience in a realistic environment.”

Sutherland’s Commanding Officer Commander Tom Weaver said he hoped the students learned much from their hands-on experiences aboard his frigate alongside a ship’s company well-honed in all aspects of modern naval warfare.

“My team relished the chance to support the students and offer advice,” he added. “Successfully firing over 50 rounds from our 4.5in” gun and over 200 rounds from our automatic small calibre guns certainly will have enhanced their experiences.

“From all of the ship’s company we wish them luck for the remainder of their course and their subsequent careers in their respective navies.”

There’s a brief respite from war for Sutherland now before she takes part in this autumn’s Joint Warrior exercise off the west coast of Scotland which starts in the first week of October.