Perisher - the ultimate undersea test

Commander Willem Jan Rouwhorst, watches Lt Cdr Ian Shropshall.
Commander Willem Jan Rouwhorst, watches Lt Cdr Ian Shropshall.

Images that provide a glimpse into one of the world’s most intense military training courses, the Submarine Command Course, have been released.

Known in the Royal Navy as Perisher, due to its high failure rate, the course is mandatory for any naval officer wishing to command a submarine – with those who fail having to immediately leave the Submarine Service forever.

HNLMS Van Amstel and Groningen seen through the submarines periscope.

HNLMS Van Amstel and Groningen seen through the submarines periscope.

The Royal Navy is a world leading provider of Perisher for prospective commanders of nuclear submarines, with the Dutch and Norwegian Navies specialising in diesel-electric boats. All three nations regularly work with each other and a variety of international partners, including the Australian, Canadian, French and US Navies.

The UK’s Lieutenant Commanders Ian Shropshall and James Collie took part in the Dutch run course which took place in the Norwegian Fjords in February 2016 on board the HNLMS Bruinvis, ahead of their fourth and final stage of Perisher on board a Royal Navy nuclear submarine in June.

The images show Lt Cdr Shropshall conducting visual safety drills, called ‘eyes only’, where he had to successfully locate and evade fast moving warships that were charging towards his boat.

Commander Justin Codd, the Royal Navy ‘Teacher’ who is in charge of the UK Perisher programme, said: “Understanding how other nations’ navies and types of submarine work makes Royal Navy warfare officers better submarine captains. Conducting visual safety drills is pretty much the same on all classes of submarine and requires our commanders to have exceptional mental arithmetic and spatial awareness abilities as they look to avoid up to four warships that are aggressively trying to hunt them down.”

Lt Cdr Shropshall added: “Although the drills were conducted in English, I quickly learned that issuing the Dutch command of ‘vek targen’ (to dive away) worked best as we looked to remain at periscope depth for as long as possible before diving under a 5,000 tonne warship coming at us at more than 30 knots!”

Following the April course, the remainder of the Dutch students have continued with their tactical training in Holland and at sea. Lt Cdrs Shropshall and Collie have re-joined their fellow students prior to their final tactical assessment at sea in the summer.

The UK Submarine Service conducts operations around the world where their stealthy qualities are used to support the UK’s national security by conducting range of tasks including war fighting, maritime security and international engagement.