Submarine Command Course

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The Submarine Command Course (SMCC), previously known as the Commanding Officers Qualifying Course (COQC), and informally known as the Perisher because of its low success rate, is a training course for naval officers preparing to take command of a submarine.

Created by the Royal Navy during World War I, the course was originally intended to address the high attrition rate of submarine commanders, as the previous method of handing down knowledge from officer to officer was prevented by wartime deaths. Following World War II, the Royal Netherlands Navy became involved in the course; the Dutch later partnered with the British to run the course, and following the British conversion to a fully nuclear submarine fleet, took over responsibility for running the course for diesel-electric submarines. Officers from other nations regularly participate.

The four-month course is run in four stages, the first and third involve learning ashore in simulators, while the second involves learning at sea. The fourth phase is the assessment, during which the candidates (of which the maximum is six) show their ability to command a submarine unaided during war-like conditions. The success rate for the SMCC is only 70% and, on failing, candidates are prevented from serving on submarines in any capacity.

Formation and history[edit]

Prior to World War I, knowledge relating to command of a submarine was passed on from a boat's commander to his replacement.[1] However high attrition rates during the war meant this training could not always be passed on, and the less experienced submarine commanders were in turn more likely to make errors resulting in their death and the loss of the boat.[1] In 1917, the Royal Navy established the COQC for potential commanding officers.[1]

Following World War II, the Royal Netherlands Navy began to send officers to the course.[1] Until 1995, the Royal Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy were jointly responsible for running the SMCC.[1][2] Following the Royal Navy Submarine Service's transition to a nuclear-only submarine fleet, the Dutch took full responsibility for running the SMCC for diesel-electric submarines.[1][2]

The SMCC was ISO certified in 2004.[2]

The SMCC is attended by submariners from other navies, including the Royal Australian Navy, the Brazilian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Danish Navy (prior to their withdrawal of their submarine capability), the Republic of Korea Navy, and the United States Navy.[1][2]

Course structure[edit]

The diesel-electric course is four months long, with a combination of simulator time ashore and sea time under war-like conditions while operating off the coasts of Norway and Scotland.[1] At most, six students will participate, under the tutelage of an instructor referred to as Teacher.[1] The course has four stages, the first of which is training on Dutch Walrus class submarine simulators at Den Helder.[1][2] The second stage, known as COCKEX (a corruption of the old COQC name plus the standard shorthand for exercise), takes the candidates to sea, where they practice the skills learned in the simulators, along with tactical safety training.[1][2] They return to the simulators for stage three, where they are taught both the tactical aspects (including rules of engagement, evasion measures, and interception procedures) and personnel management skills (including stress management, maintaining working conditions, and medical skills) of commanding a submarine, while learning other skills required for command.[1] On conclusion, the students return to sea for the 'Cockfight', where Teacher evaluates each submariner's ability to command a submarine independently.[1] During this, the candidates will be run through multiple war-like exercises with little respite between each.[2] One example of the type of exercise, from the 2004 course, required the candidate to take his submarine into a harbour (simulating a naval base) to lay mines, with less than 6 metres (20 ft) of clearance between the fin and ferries passing overhead, and even less distance between the keel and the harbour floor, while a warship used active sonar to hunt for the submarine.[2]

The course's nickname of the 'Perisher' comes from the low success rate of 70%, combined with the fact that students who fail the course are, in most cases, no longer permitted to serve on submarines in any capacity.[1][2] According to Commander Marc Elsensohn, Teacher for the 2004 diesel-electric course, the main reasons for failing are that the candidate regularly loses situational awareness, or shows a narrow focus or over-reliance on one tool or aspect of operations.[2] Making mistakes does not cause a student to fail automatically, as long as the mistake is recognised and corrected before the submarine is endangered.[3] If a candidate fails the course, the submarine surfaces and the submariner is removed by helicopter or boat at the first opportunity.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Davidson & Allibone, Beneath Southern Seas, p. 108
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Steketee, 'Perisher' sets the pass mark for submarine command
  3. ^ Davidson & Allibone, Beneath Southern Seas, p. 109


  • Davidson, Jon; Allibone, Tom (2005). Beneath Southern Seas. Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 1-920694-62-5. OCLC 69242056. 
  • Steketee, Menno (1 December 2004). "'Perisher' sets the pass mark for submarine command". Jane's Navy International. 

External links[edit]