The RNZN uses virtual reality simulators to train personnel in key ship handling and engineering tasks. The simulators use a combination of realistic physical interiors and flat-panel displays to create a challenging training environment.
Using simulators the Navy can train personnel in a wide range of situations from normal procedures to realistic emergencies. The Bridge Simulator and MESTE (Marine Engineering Synthetic Training Environment) enable the RNZN to train ship handlers and marine technicians faster and in realistic situations, without risk to people or ships.
Before simulators were introduced personnel were trained onboard ship, which reduced the availability of ships for operational taskings. The focus of ships is now to provide the final level of training for personnel who have achieved competence in simulated environments.
The Royal New Zealand Navy Bridge Simulator consists of three mock up ships bridges including an exact replica of an ANZAC frigate's full mission bridge. Each bridge is capable of operating in an independent exercise or as part of a combined exercise and can be programmed to simulate any of the RNZN ships and several different types of Merchant ships.
From the control room training staff can adjust the sea conditions and navigational situations to test particular skills and introduce unplanned events to an exercise.
The key skills taught on the Bridge Simulator are ship handling and navigation practices such as entering port or navigating at night. As well as developing individual skills such as Officer of the Watch, Communicator and Helmsman, the Bridge Simulator develops team skills in realistic situations where all members of the bridge team need to work together.
MESTE (Marine Engineering Synthetic Training Environment) is a virtual reality training system for marine technicians which is based on the ANZAC Class frigate and Protector Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV).
The MESTE is a series of rooms fitted out with computer consoles, wall mounted touch-screens displaying 3-D animations of machinery, and realistic control panels and switchboards all interconnected to a bridge simulator.
By realistically duplicating the operation of machinery, bridge and power systems on actual ships the simulators enable trainees to complete full mission training, including extreme emergency breakdown situations without needing to tie up expensive units.