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Combat Systems – the epic engineering helping our ADF members keep in touch with loved ones

02 December 2022
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It’s the small things that make a big difference for our Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel when they’re on deployment – like having access to stable internet to call loved ones.

We caught up with Liana, a Combat Systems Integration Engineer at Navantia Australia, who works daily on making things like this possible. She shares more about her role and career journey below.  

Tell us a bit about where you work and what you do. 

“I’m Liana and work for Navantia Australia. A lot of the work Navantia does here in Australia is engineering upgrades. When something needs to be updated on one of our Royal Australian Navy’s LHDs (Landing Helicopter Dock), we take it from a broad idea, through the engineering design process and then over to the installation on the ship. I’m a Combat Systems Engineer – which sounds very epic from the title combat! In this role I work on communications systems (radios, antennas etc), navigation systems (radar, GPS) and weapon systems.

I’m based in Sydney, not far from the Navy’s Fleet Base East, where the LHDs, AORs, DDGs and LLCs we are working on are homeported. Mostly I’m in the office but a few times a month I head down to the base and get to go out on the ships.

What did you study/what was your career path to get into Combat Systems Engineering? 

I studied Electrical Engineering. Then as I started working, I ended up looking at communications systems a lot more. Things like radios, antennas, electromagnetic theory – which is what I ended up specialising in. That was what drew me then into combat systems, which as I said mostly encapsulates communications, but also navigation and weapon systems as well.

What does a day-to-day look like in your role? 

Day-to-day I’m in an office with lots of other engineers working on a specific project. A recent example of a project was it was identified that there wasn’t very good internet on the LHD for entertainment (for example social media) or for calling family members when they’re out on deployments.

We installed a new satellite communications antenna on the ship to provide more stable internet. My role was to integrate the equipment and antenna that we had with the ship. It involved figuring out how to run cables to that antenna that was external to the ship from the equipment below deck, and how all this equipment interacted together. The LHD is a very long ship, meaning that these cable routes are also really long. I think the longest one we had was more than 120 metres, winding all through the vessel. 

In this process I worked with a team of other engineers from a range of other disciplines. For example, I worked with an Outfit Engineer, who did the foundation that the antenna sits on, as well as a Structural Engineer to make sure the vibrations were okay for the antenna. 

At times throughout the project, I also had the opportunity to actually be on the ship – checking out that installation and seeing that it all went okay and doing some testing. 

That’s always the fun part, you get your hard hat out, your boots, and go all over the ship while the work you have planned is happening. It’s great seeing it all happen and it’s such a different experience from the office.  

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I really, really love my job! In terms of the role itself, I like problem solving and get a lot of satisfaction when I’m working on and solving a problem.

Within my team it’s the culture of senior engineers helping and teaching the more junior engineers. When we have a junior engineer join the team, especially if they’re fresh out of university, we put a lot of effort into bringing them up to speed and up skilling them.

I enjoy that I’m able to work so closely with so many different engineering disciplines and learn a little bit about the other areas that I don’t know much about”.

To download and read Liana’s story, head over to the Naval Shipbuilding College website. 

If you are interested in finding out more about the jobs available in shipbuilding now and in the future, join the NSC’s free Workforce Register today.

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