Royal Navy officers are still trained to navigate by the stars

Reassuring for those worried about over-reliance on technology, UK naval officers are still trained in celestial navigation.

The training extends to officers training with a view to navigating carriers and amphibious assault ships, according to British defence minister Penny Mordaunt.

The news comes after it was revealed that the US navy has returned to celestial navigation (also known as astronavigation) training amid concerns that computer navigation systems could be hacked.

Of course, it’s pretty difficult to “hack” stars… 

American naval officers reinstated lessons because of the escalating threat of cyber attacks nearly 20 years after celestial navigation classes were cut, reported the Capital Gazette news site in October 2015.

If you think about it, navigation by the stars has global coverage, can be used independently of ground aids, doesn’t give off signals that could be detected by an enemy nor can it be jammed – although clouds can get in the way.

In the UK, confirmation about the Royal Navy’s celestial training was set out this week in a written parliamentary answer to a question from former Labour defence minister John Spellar.

Ms Mordaunt said: “For new recruits, celestial navigational training is only undertaken by Royal Marine recruits in weeks eight and 10 of their training as part of the Royal School of Military Survey lessons.

“However, celestial navigational training (referred to as Astro(navigational) training within the Service) is taught to Naval Officers as part of targeted career training courses at the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood.”

The defence minister added: “These include: Initial Warfare Officers, the Fleet Navigation Officers Course and in a Specialist Navigation Course (for those officers undertaking specialist training in navigation at Lieutenant/Lieutenant Commander rank with a view to navigating larger vessels such as carriers and amphibious assault ships).”

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Main image: Earth within a celestial sphere (Photo credit: Tfr000 (talk) 20:06, 29 March 2012 (UTC) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons))


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