Best of Navy innovation

Published on CAPT Roger Brennan (author), CPL Kylie Gibson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06), Science, Technology & Innovation, Indo-Pacific Endeavour

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Marine Technician Sarah Battenally conducts a sediment and water test on the ship's marine diesel fuel during AUSINDEX 2019. (photo: CPL Kylie GIbson)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Marine Technician Sarah Battenally conducts a sediment and water test on the ship's marine diesel fuel during AUSINDEX 2019.

Soon to be decommissioned, HMAS Newcastle is home to one of the Royal Australian Navy’s innovation hubs that is currently deployed on INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019 (IPE19).

The deployable innovation workshop, which sounds as if it should be in Silicon Valley rather than a Navy warship, is led by Leading Seaman Sarah Battenally.

The marine technician has notched up a series of accolades throughout her 10-year career.

“I’ve had a few good gigs,” Leading Seaman Battenally said.

“I was lucky enough to be picked up for the V8 Super Cars program as a pit stop mechanic in 2015, and I also did some work at defence recruiting and then worked at the guided missile frigate (FFG) system program office in condition assessment.”

It was there she and a committee of forward-thinking mariners lobbied Navy to fund the Fleet Base East Centre for Innovation.

The Centre was established in 2017 and was set up as a space for sailors who want to learn new skills and demonstrate dynamic ways of practising their craft on the high seas.

“The centre came out of a necessity for change to happen quicker,” Leading Seaman Battenally said.

“The Navy has a lot of sailors at the working level who have great ideas but they don’t come to fruition; the centre is there to support and help them to be actioned.”

Leading Seaman Battenally was posted to Newcastle in December 2017 after the warship’s return from the Arabian Gulf and, by the following August, had established the deployable innovation workshop on board.

Newcastle’s Command Warrant Officer, Jason McGraw, chairs the ship’s innovation committee and said the feedback from senior leadership was excellent.

“There are now deployable innovation workshops on four of the Navy’s major fleet units,” Warrant Officer McGraw said.

“The workshop recently designed and printed 3D ship and aircraft models, which have been presented to operations room staff across the INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR Task Group.”

The models have since been used by staff to train for complex naval manoeuvres.

The success of the workshop has seen its client list grow and, as Newcastle decommissions in June, the enthusiasm for fresh thinking and change will go on.