Not all optics in the west

Published on WO William Mansfield (author), ABIS Julianne Cropley (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Stirling

Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Robert Hambridge uses the Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR) during the Optical Fibre System Element Group Workshop at Fleet Support Unit - West. (photo: ABIS Julianne Cropley)
Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Robert Hambridge uses the Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR) during the Optical Fibre System Element Group Workshop at Fleet Support Unit - West.

Optic fibre expertise is a growth industry in Navy, and no more so that at Fleet Support Unit - West.

The Optical Fibre Systems Element Group workshop is staffed by highly trained Electronics Technician sailors who construct and repair systems required by the Fleet.

Ships and submarines increasingly use optical fibre networks, with the Restricted High Fleet Information Environment (RHFIE), the Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network (MTWAN) and onboard internet cafés three of the more commonly known. But to give this some context there are estimated to be over 20,000 optical fibre connections on the new Air Warfare Destroyers.

Able Seaman Electronics Technician (ET) Samantha Ray is trained by Leading Seaman ET Josh Nevermann on how to conduct a fusion splice during the Optical Fibre System Element Group Workshop at Fleet Support Unit - West.

Able Seaman Electronics Technician (ET) Samantha Ray is trained by Leading Seaman ET Josh Nevermann on how to conduct a fusion splice during the Optical Fibre System Element Group Workshop at Fleet Support Unit - West.


Under the guidance of Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician David White and Petty Officer Electronics Technician Brad Barr, workshop has saved expenditure on maintenance and repair.

To gain a position within the team, sailors are vetted for their skill of hand, ability to learn new skills and past performance as a technician. Candidates are then required to attain a Certificate III in Telecommunications and ultimately an open cabling licence. The qualifications and licence are all a legal requirement to work on the systems in accordance with Defence communications standards.

The team recently undertook work on the systems of HMAS Arunta and repaired several faults. The Acting Regional Manager of Fleet Support Unit - West, Lieutenant Brian Gall said that the program and work undertaken was a win-win situation.

“The increased capability that the group gives Navy has the potential to save Defence thousands of dollars while giving the sailors technical and challenging work," he said.

In addition to conducting repairs onboard, Petty Officer Barr has instigated a training package for the ship's own Electronics sailors who are responsible for the upkeep of the systems at sea. The training includes practical use of the testing kits and basic repair procedures to reduce system downtime from faults in the future.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20143840.