Close encounters of the third kind for Dartmouth cadets
2 December 2016

Wildcats have dropped in on officer training at Dartmouth to give would-be naval leaders a more realistic test.

The college is increasingly making use of air power to give officer cadets an insight into the ‘third dimension’ of naval warfare, including during their two-week final assessment.

COME in No.2, your time is up…

A Wildcat comes to a hover ahead of a picket boat from Britannia Royal Naval College as would-be officers of tomorrow undergo their final assessment.

Instructors at Dartmouth are increasingly making use of air power to make training of officer cadets as realistic as possible – especially during their big test.

The final two weeks at the Devon institution sees cadets take to the Dart in picket boats, where they expected to cope with a typical real-world scenario.

MARL – MARitime Leadership exercise – is a pass/fail affair with no option of a re-take and has been a mainstay of instruction at Dartmouth for decades.

In recent years, it’s been lengthened and made more challenging.

Around 140 cadets were on the water for the final MARL of 2016, planning their response to a fictional natural disaster.

The Wildcat from 825 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton was brought in to carry out search and rescue, winching and reconnaissance duties – exactly as they’d be expected to perform in the wake of a hurricane in the Caribbean.

A Merlin Mk2 from Culdose prepares to set down on the Dartmouth parade ground

“This final exercise has wrapped up a big year of aviation at BRNC – the links with the Fleet Air Arm have been stronger than ever,” said Lt Tim Curnock, Dartmouth’s Flight Training Officer.

“The helicopters provide a third dimension for cadets to consider during their exercise. Not only are they concentrating on the maritime side of naval operations, they are also being educated on how and when an aircraft can be their greatest asset.”

More than ten different aircraft types from all three Services have used Dartmouth for training this year, from the new Wildcats to Squirrel trainers and Bagger Sea Kings. The college’s three landing sites have not gone a fortnight without a helicopter using them in 2016.

“More than 250 future Naval Officers from all branches and staff have been taking airborne this year during the major exercises on Dartmoor and the riverto build awareness of the Fleet Air Arm,” Lt Curnock added.

The successful cadets from the final MARL of 2016 are due to pass out before Christmas; weather permitting, their parade will be treated to a fly-past.