Navy

New state-of-the-art training boats for the first time in more than half a century

Eight sleek grey, futuristic-looking jet-powered boats will replace the old blue-and-white boats, active since the 1960s.

Naval leaders in Dartmouth have begun 2022 with new state-of-the-art training boats for the first time in more than half a century.

Several generations of Royal Navy officer cadets – including current First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key – have used a flotilla of eight 'picket' boats to learn the arts of navigation, seamanship and leadership at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

Eight sleek grey, futuristic-looking jet-powered boats are now replacing the previously distinctive blue-and-white boats which were retired at the end of 2021, after being in operation since the 1960s.

The new boats are part of the wider programme – Project Vahana – to replace an assortment of craft and workboats across the fleet with a small flotilla based on a modular design, to standardise maintenance and spare parts, and provide more modern and reliable training.

The 15m-long boats assigned to the college can reach speeds of 40knots (about 46mph) but are limited to just six on the River Dart.

As they are powered by twin jets, rather than old picket boats' propellers, they handle differently from their predecessors, with two weeks' training and assessment by instructors required before cadets are allowed to take them out.

Warrant Officer 1st Class Dan Powditch says this is because when they are able to venture out, they will find them "a whole different beast" from the picket boats.

Hi-tech jet boats replace Royal Navy’s veteran training craft 15012022 CREDIT Navy MOD.jpg
The 15m-long boats assigned to the college can reach speeds of 40kts, but are limited to just six on the River Dart (Picture: MOD/Navy).

The seaman specialist said: "There's quite a lot of nostalgia for the old boats – understandably given how long they have been around for and how many people have trained in them. We love them – they're the closest thing to driving a warship.

"The Vahana boats are the polar opposite: new, modern – you can drive it using a mouse – more reliable, but we can teach more people, using equipment such as ECDIS (electronic chart display and information system), which they'll find on warships.

"They'll leave Dartmouth more experienced, more capable mariners," he added.