Sparky essential to ships green team

This article has photo gallery Published on CMDR Chloe Griggs (author), LCDR Andrew Thorpe (author), ABIS Steven Thomson (photographer)

Location(s): Fleet Base West

Topic(s): Fleet Base West, HMAS Arunta (F151), Defence Force Recruiting

Petty Officer Electronics Technician David Brown adjusts the Radar Set Controls aboard HMAS Arunta while at sea.  (photo: ABIS Steven Thomson)
Petty Officer Electronics Technician David Brown adjusts the Radar Set Controls aboard HMAS Arunta while at sea.

Who keeps the ‘eyes and ears’ of an Australian Navy warship ready for peak performance? While the medical folk look after the literal versions, the electronics technicians are responsible for the ongoing serviceability radar, sonar and weapon system equipment.

Petty Officer Electronics Technician David Brown has 17 years experience in the Royal Australian Navy and said that his job has changed dramatically in two decades.

One significant example is the difference in the Anzac class ship's – since the recent upgrade program, systems have changed considerably.

“This is a much-improved platform,” he said.

“Significantly, the anti-ship missile defence system has been installed on the ship as well as several other modern equipment upgrades that electronic technician sailors are responsible for.”

Petty Officer Brown is part of a 191-strong ship’s company in HMAS Arunta, which has recently returned from operations in the Middle East.

During the nine months away he had plenty of time to not only familiarise himself with the new set up but to also impart his knowledge by providing on the job training to the junior members of the ship’s electrical department.

Keeping the systems fully functional as the ship conducted counter terrorism, counter piracy, and counter narcotics patrols of the waters in the region was key to the conduct of the deployment.

“It’s an interesting time to serve again in the Middle East and be a part of Australia’s contribution to counter the flow of illegal drugs and weapons in that area,” he said.

“The actions of others are very unpredictable and there is always a real threat while deployed there.”

Petty Officer Brown said the high level of training and preparedness that Australian ships achieve before deploying means they are ready for every situation.

For electronics technicians that means training throughout their careers to understand all the electronics associated with guns, missiles, radar, sonar, navigation, combat data, communications, electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems.

With Navy upgrading and changing systems between classes, it’s a career–long learning curve in order to maintain, repair and operate the variety on hand.

Petty Officer Brown also served in Arunta’s sister-ship HMAS Perth for two years just after the first Phased Array Radar System was installed.

He said it was a challenging and rewarding experience setting to work the new systems and being a part of Australia’s ‘showcase’ ship.

“I was on Perth for the ship’s first live harpoon missile firing,” he said.

“This was a special occasion and it was a privilege to be involved in such a historic event.”

But for the sailor who now has significant responsibility of keeping situational awareness for a highly potent warship on point, the Navy wasn’t always in his sights.

“I didn’t have any immediate family who had served in the Australian Defence Force but I was attracted to the Navy to learn a technical trade,” he said.

“I was also attracted to the overseas travel, the healthy lifestyle and the ability to gain a greater appreciation of global issues.”

Electronics technicians are affectionately known as ‘greenies’ to those in the Navy, due to the green colour being allocated to ‘electrical’ officers during the Second World War. The branches of naval officers were distinguished from each other with coloured bands and thus the sailors of the Electrical Officer became known as ‘greenies’. This tradition continues to this day.

For more information about the role of an electronics technician visit