U.S. Navy Midshipmen Returning to the Sextant
The Capital Gazette reports that the U.S. Naval Academy has restarted teaching midshipmen celestial navigation as a measure against the risk of cyber-attack.
"We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great," said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, deputy chairman of the academy's Department of Seamanship and Navigation. "The problem is," he added, "there's no backup."
Midshipmen at the Naval Academy started receiving a three-hour instruction program this summer. The Class of 2017 will be the first to graduate with the instruction.
The academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, had previously ended celestial navigation courses for midshipmen in 1998.
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy ended its celestial navigation course about 10 years ago. However, some theory is still taught, and cadets use a sextant on board the tall ship Eagle.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York has continuously taught celestial navigation and is helping the Naval Academy rebuild its program.
Captain Shashi N. Kumar, a dean at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, told Ocean Navigator a few years ago that he could not imagine calling himself a mariner if he were completely ignorant of celestial navigation.
The move away from reliance on GPS is part of a larger trend in cyber security. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a security force that guards high-ranking Russian officials, for instance, reverted to using typewriters after revelations about U.S. digital spying capabilities. German officials have considered a similar move.