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Collision sub was hosting ‘Perisher’ course

The Royal Navy submarine HMS Ambush was being used to train new commanders when it was involved in a glancing collision with a merchant vessel while submerged off Gibraltar, it was reported yesterday.

Details of the training were revealed by The Times, which said the Commanding Officer of HMS Ambush, Alan Daveney, is among the senior officers whose actions will be scrutinised by Royal Navy investigators probing the circumstances leading to the crash.

“The experienced officer was aboard at the time along with a group taking part in a notoriously difficult year-long course to become submarine commanders,” The Times reported. The Ministry of Defence has not commented on the report.

HMS Ambush sustained external damage to its conning tower but its nuclear plant was unaffected and there are no safety concerns.

Likewise, no one was injured in the collision and the merchant ship was able to continue its journey.

The submarine had been operating off Gibraltar for over a week in an exercise involving warships and helicopters designed to test the small group of aspiring Commanding Officers, the Chronicle understands.

The five-month Submarine Command Course, known by submariners as ‘the Perisher’ because of its high failure rate, tests students’ skills and temperament to the limit and is overseen by a senior commander referred to as Teacher.

Only 70 percent of the officers undertaking Perisher succeed, while those who fail can never serve on board submarines again. Those who pass get to command a submarine.

The first four months of the course are conducted in simulators but the final month is at sea and the aspiring commanders must take control of a submarine under the watchful eye of Teacher.

Students must complete a range of tactical scenarios in deep and shallow water covering all areas of a submarine’s activity, including operating at periscope depth.

The students, who are experienced submariners themselves, are expected to take fast decisions under stressful conditions including simulated attacks by ships and aircraft.

It is not clear whether HMS Ambush was under the command of one of the trainees at the time of the collision off Gibraltar.

The first time a Perisher course was run on board HMS Ambush was last year.

It was also the first time that the full course had been run on an Astute-class submarine, which costs over £1.1bn each are the most modern vessels in the Royal Navy’s underwater fleet.

 

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