It was a career milestone for a HMAS Stirling-based submariner when he was presented with both a Chief of Navy Gold Commendation and the Inaugural Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award at the same time.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, presented Warrant Officer Marine Technician - Submariner Paul Ross with the awards during a recent visit to Navy’s West Australian base.
To win the Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award, Warrant Officer Ross identified a critical problem in the way additional personnel were accommodated on board submarines in that the current extra bunking arrangements were not ideal for use over an extended period.
Essentially, the extra beds were strapped onto the submarine’s weapons rails and slowly deteriorated over time.
Warrant Officer Ross designed a special Submarine Accommodation Capsule (SAC) that takes inspiration from a torpedo, and allows the unit to be embarked and disembarked the same way as a torpedo, by utilising existing loading arrangements.
When deployed, the SAC opens up length-ways to provide three sleeping spaces per side for a total of six bunks – lockers are also located under each bunk for personal item stowage.
“Living and working in a submarine calls for a high degree of endurance by all those who go on board, so anything we can do to increase comfort levels will benefit the whole crew,” he said.
The Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award was established to recognise the most outstanding innovation in Navy each year - marking criteria is based on quality, creativity, leadership, initiative, accountability and leverage of the nomination.
Vice Admiral Noonan said the SAC solution demonstrated the opportunities that existed for innovation in all facets of Navy life.
“Everything we do can always be improved, from the way we operate or most complex weapons systems to the everyday things we do in the business of simply being human beings.
“Often, the people at the coalface - our junior and senior sailors - gain the most hands on experiences of life at sea and therefore have the best opportunities to recognise where things can be done better.
“It is up to us as leaders to give them a voice to brainstorm their solutions, and ensure that it’s heard - because the very best innovations become realities this way.
“I congratulate Warrant Officer Ross for his clever innovation, which will make a significant impact to the lives of everyone who spends time on our submarines,” the Chief of Navy said.
As is standard for all new concept trials, feedback provided from end users has allowed for minor modifications to the unit, which now provides even more safety, comfort and security for personnel using the SAC capsules.