Sailors’ brainwaves reap rewards at international awards

Board games which give sub-hunters the edge over the enemy below and a sensor which assists flying from the Royal Navy’s carriers have won international awards.

Designed, tested and introduced by Royal Navy employees, both projects were singled out by IdeasUK which recognises innovation and ideas which have improved a company or organisation – in Britain and beyond.

Games for Tactical Training, developed by former lieutenant commander Ed Oates based at Culdrose, uses card and board games to help Merlin aircrew on the Applied Warfare Course improve their submarine-hunting skills.

Ed, who is an instructor at Culdrose after serving as an Observer in Sea King and Merlin helicopters, hit upon adapting well-known games as a quick, cheap and effective way to train students.

Family favourite Battleships morphed into a submarine hunt game, the Asian strategy game Go turned into another helicopter search, nicknamed Pingers, while a card game based on Snap has taught NATO codewords. In addition, there are now computer games, specially-coded to run on MOD web browsers.

Introduced in 2019, the games have uncovered forgotten parts of the Royal Navy’s heritage, updating them for a modern age, and have potential to be adapted in other areas of training sailors.

The team have found students have engaged more strongly with games – and remember the skills learned and the thought processes used.

Hard work and dedication to improvement has helped make a real difference to the Navy and will have a lasting impact.

Robert Annis, the Royal Navy's 'ideas manager'

Collectively, the various games earned Mr Oates and his team the Continuous Improvement award, while Commander Kevin Miller collects the Value for Money award for his ‘Wind Speed and Direction Sensor Optimisation’ for the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

Despite five sensors being provided to HMS Queen Elizabeth to accurately measure wind speed and direction – crucial for the safe operation of helicopters and F-35 jets on her flight deck – none was cleared to support the safe conduct of aviation aboard when the carrier began her sea trials in 2017.

A temporary solution was installed, which drastically reduced the operating limits of the deck, so a special team was formed to oversee the design, construction, testing and installation of a permanent sensor – all inside 12 months.

The team not only succeeded, but produced a device which is one of the best of its kind in the world, and has also been fitted to HMS Prince of Wales, giving both carriers more freedom to operate their air power to the limit.    

Both winning ideas emerged from the Navy’s Brainwave initiative, which encourages ‘bottom up’ ideas from across the Service.

“We are proud that this year the Royal Navy had two successful category winners. Both their hard work and dedication to improvement has helped make a real difference to the Navy and will have a lasting impact,” said Robert Annis, Brainwave’s ‘ideas manager’.