Innovative solutions boost submarine fleet

Published on CMDR Fenn Kemp (author), LSIS Bradley Darvill (photographer)

Location(s): Rockingham, Western Australia

Able Seaman Maritime Logistics-Supply Chain Natalie Warren-McCarthy brain storms with a team of Submariners from the Australian Submarine Force as they take on the marshmallow challenge at an Innovation workshop and forum held at HMAS Stirling as part of the New Generation Navy (NGN) and Plan Pelorus strategies. (photo: LSIS Bradley Darvill)
Able Seaman Maritime Logistics-Supply Chain Natalie Warren-McCarthy brain storms with a team of Submariners from the Australian Submarine Force as they take on the marshmallow challenge at an Innovation workshop and forum held at HMAS Stirling as part of the New Generation Navy (NGN) and Plan Pelorus strategies.

Thinking outside the square has delivered increased capability of Australia’s Submarine Force with the 'generation of a fifth submarine crew' earlier this year. 

That win came as submariners of all ranks gathered at HMAS Stirling earlier this month to re-enforce their positive approach towards creative problem solving. 

The group of 23 sailors and officers left their ranks at the door for the innovation seminar, which was one of several held across Fleet in recent months. The seminar focused on tackling issues through teamwork and creative thinking. Among them was Able Seaman Natalie Warren-McCarthy.  

"Brainstorming is always a good friend," Able Seaman Warren-McCarthy said. 

"The key to innovation is working together to come up with new and improved ideas."

It’s that positive attitude which the Commander of the RAN’s Submarine Force Captain Matt Buckley said is now increasingly common across his command. 

"Innovative approaches to challenges can be applied at all levels," Captain Buckley said. 

"Importantly, they don’t have to be linked to an increase in resources. Fundamentally innovation allows us to harness the ideas and experience of a highly trained workforce such as we have in the RAN."

Captain Buckley points to the recent resurgence in submarine capability as proof that his team is thinking increasingly outside the square. The 'Five Boat Force' (5BF) program came in response to the Submarine Force’s increase in available platforms while workforce shortages still exist.   

"In essence the 5BF program adopted a different crewing model for our Submarines in long term maintenance in Western Australia as well as those being delivered from Full Cycle Docking in Adelaide," Captain Buckley said. 

"When we put our heads together we realised that these boats didn’t need the same construct as a full deployable crew. The result was the generation of a fifth submarine crew in January this year while maintaining the integrity of the remaining crews and our key shore based positions. That’s a brilliant result."

Like any innovative solution, all of those involved in managing the Submarine workforce had to remain flexible and patient, as they took their proposal up the chain of command. Captain Buckley said both Fleet Commander and the Chief of Navy were very receptive. 

"This openness to innovation from our senior leadership group has flowed through into the Forces at the waterfront and I am seeing some tremendous initiatives now filtering up from the boats from within departments," Captain Buckley said. 

‘Innovation is also being embraced by our supporting elements ashore because our people appreciate the importance of what we are achieving by thinking outside the square.’

Back at the innovation forum, sailors like Able Seaman Warren-McCarthy were keen to embrace further innovation challenges.

"In the end not every idea has to be a new idea,’ Able Seaman Warren-McCarthy said. ‘Just spend some time thinking outside the box."

That win came as submariners of all ranks gathered at HMAS Stirling earlier this month to re-enforce their positive approach towards creative problem solving. 

The group of 23 sailors and officers left their ranks at the door for the innovation seminar, which was one of several held across Fleet in recent months. The seminar focused on tackling issues through teamwork and creative thinking. Among them was Able Seaman Natalie Warren-McCarthy.  

"Brainstorming is always a good friend," Able Seaman Warren-McCarthy said. 

"The key to innovation is working together to come up with new and improved ideas."

It’s that positive attitude which the Commander of the RAN’s Submarine Force Captain Matt Buckley said is now increasingly common across his command. 

"Innovative approaches to challenges can be applied at all levels," Captain Buckley said. 

"Importantly, they don’t have to be linked to an increase in resources. Fundamentally innovation allows us to harness the ideas and experience of a highly trained workforce such as we have in the RAN."

Captain Buckley points to the recent resurgence in submarine capability as proof that his team is thinking increasingly outside the square. The 'Five Boat Force' (5BF) program came in response to the Submarine Force’s increase in available platforms while workforce shortages still exist.   

"In essence the 5BF program adopted a different crewing model for our Submarines in long term maintenance in Western Australia as well as those being delivered from Full Cycle Docking in Adelaide," Captain Buckley said. 

"When we put our heads together we realised that these boats didn’t need the same construct as a full deployable crew. The result was the generation of a fifth submarine crew in January this year while maintaining the integrity of the remaining crews and our key shore based positions. That’s a brilliant result."

Like any innovative solution, all of those involved in managing the Submarine workforce had to remain flexible and patient, as they took their proposal up the chain of command. Captain Buckley said both Fleet Commander and the Chief of Navy were very receptive. 

"This openness to innovation from our senior leadership group has flowed through into the Forces at the waterfront and I am seeing some tremendous initiatives now filtering up from the boats from within departments," Captain Buckley said. 

‘Innovation is also being embraced by our supporting elements ashore because our people appreciate the importance of what we are achieving by thinking outside the square.’

Back at the innovation forum, sailors like Able Seaman Warren-McCarthy were keen to embrace further innovation challenges.

"In the end not every idea has to be a new idea,’ Able Seaman Warren-McCarthy said. ‘Just spend some time thinking outside the box."