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Naval Combat Information Operator

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time

In Demand

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As a member of the military, Naval Combat Information Operators are responsible for the operation of all shipboard surveillance radars and associated equipment of the shipboard intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

As members of the ship’s Combat Information Organization, Naval Combat Information Operators assist and advise the ship’s leadership in navigation, anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. Their primary duties are to:

  • Configure and operate:
    • Command and control system
    • Ships’ radars
    • Intelligence, surveillance and recognizance systems
    • Multi-tactical data links
    • Global command and control system -maritime
    • Information processing systems
    • Ship borne integrated communication equipment and related sub-systems
  • Analyse equipment and system performance on all combat information equipment
  • Perform basic on-line fault diagnostic procedures
  • Collect, correlate, record, analyse, display, and disseminate all tactical information
  • Maintain classified logs and publications

Work environment

At sea, Naval Combat Information Operators work mostly within the ship’s Operations Room with some of the most modern and sophisticated equipment at sea today. Onboard ship, Naval Combat Information Operators experience the unique adventures and challenges that come with work at sea.

As with all sea-going personnel, Naval Combat Information Operators work with their fellow shipmates in out-of-occupation duties such as sentry or lookout duty, line handler for replenishment at sea, and as ship hand for entering and leaving harbour. They participate in search and rescue events and person-overboard emergencies, act as a member of the ship’s emergency response team for security watches, and routinely perform ship maintenance and repairs. During emergency procedures, they fight fires as members of a fire attack team, and provide damage control in the case of a breach to the hull. If necessary, a Naval Combat Information Operator may serve as a member of the naval boarding party in order to inspect the cargo of suspect vessels and detain the vessel’s crew during inspections.

If you chose a career in the Regular Force, upon completion of all required training, you will be assigned to your first base. While there is some flexibility with regards to postings (relocations), accommodations can’t always be made, and therefore, you can likely expect to move at some point in your career. However, if you decide to join the Primary Reserve Force, you will do so through a specific Reserve unit. Outside of training, your chosen Reserve unit will be your workplace on a part time basis, and you will not be obligated to relocate to a different base. As part of the Primary Reserve Force, you typically work one night per week and some weekends as a minimum with possibilities of full-time employment.

Career Overview





PETTY OFFICER 2nd CLASS NICHOLAS BUCKLE: I’m Petty Officer 2nd class Nicholas Buckle from Cornwall, Ontario. I’m a Naval Combat Information Operator on HMCS Halifax.

Naval Combat Information Operators, or NCI Ops, are the expert eyes and ears of the operations room. NCI Ops work with some of the most modern and sophisticated equipment at sea today, using some of the world’s most sensitive, accurate radars and computer systems to help commanders make tactical decisions in real time.

NCI Ops operate all surveillance radars and other detection equipment to build a picture of all aircraft and vessels in the area. As part of the ship’s operations team, operators assist and advise the ship’s commanders in anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. This means operating and configuring the ship’s advanced radars and tactical data links, as well as analyzing equipment and system performance. 

BUCKLE: The ship gathers a lot of information as it travels. It’s just constantly gathering information. What we do is take that information and we paint a picture with it so that the Commanding Officer and his team can make the best decision they can with the most accurate information they have.

NCI Ops can also operate unmanned aerial vehicles, which extend the ship’s surveillance capabilities.

A typical day at sea for any sailor can include practical experience and team training such as simulated fire, flood or medical emergencies called “damage control”, that involve the entire ship’s company. As sailors, NCI Ops also have duties such as line handler, and as ship-hand when entering or leaving harbour.

As secondary duties, NCI Ops may also have the opportunity to become a ship’s diver, and become a member of a naval boarding party or a Naval Tactical Operations Group.

When not on duty, sailors have time to exercise and relax with colleagues. They eat their meals together, have personal access to internet and email, and communicate regularly with friends and family back home by satellite telephone.

At sea, Naval Combat Information Operators always know what the ship is doing. They work closely with other allied ships to share information on the big picture.

BUCKLE: You’re always in the know of what’s going on. That really is the coolest part of the job, you really feel like you’re part of the team. Everything that you do feels like it contributes to the end goal of the team and that gives you the reward for a hard day’s work.

After completing their training, Naval Combat Information Operators are assigned to a ship in either Halifax, Nova Scotia or just outside Victoria, B.C., where they put their training into practice and integrate into the ship’s company.  

NCI Ops must have a strong attention to detail and an eagerness to continually learn about new equipment and protocols.

There are many opportunities for advancement in this occupation, including the option of specializing as a shipborne air controller. That means being responsible for the control of helicopters and planes operating with the ship. NCI Ops can also volunteer for submarine service.

BUCKLE: I became a shipborne air controller in 2010 after a rigorous course. I wanted to be more challenged in the Operations Room. I really wanted to see the full breadth of operations that a naval ship can do.

Naval Combat Information Operators are an integral part of operations and provide key data to the ship’s captain to accomplish any mission around the world. But it’s about more than just the ship – it’s about people, friends and family.

BUCKLE:  The best thing about 12 years of service in the Royal Canadian Navy has been the friendships I’ve made. Every time you deploy, every time you work with a team, every time you build those connections, they all build your circle of friends larger and larger. And you feel like you really belong in this place… I joined the Royal Canadian Navy to see the world, and in 12 years I got to see the world. The ship goes on every ocean to every continent and it brought me to places I never would have went myself. And it gave me experiences I never would have gotten otherwise.





Related Civilian Occupations

  • Marine Information and Systems Operator
  • Maritime Traffic Controller
  • Dispatcher and Radiotelephone Operator


The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Naval Combat Information Operators attend either the Naval Fleet School Pacific in Esquimalt, British Columbia or the Naval Fleet School Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for approximately 26 weeks, to prepare for their role as the ship’s Anti-Submarine Plotting Operator. Training includes:

  • Operate personal computers
  • Basic radar and radio theory
  • Radar systems operation/check
  • Internal and external communications technique
  • Tactical display preparation set up and update
  • Tactical information correlation
  • Use of publications, ship’s logs, files and state boards
  • Evidence and intelligence gathering
  • Basic relative velocity
  • Conduct search and rescue procedures
  • Underwater Warfare Organization

Additional training in tactical network planning and procedures, sensor and intelligence information correlation as well as personnel management and leadership are available to those who demonstrate the required ability and potential. Available courses include:

  • Instructional techniques
  • Ship’s team diver
  • Ship’s team diving supervisor
  • Naval boarding party
  • Naval combat information operator Iroquois class classification
  • Basic submarine qualification
  • Naval combat information operator submarine qualification
  • Submarine control room watch supervisor
  • Global command control systems – maritime instructor

Those who demonstrate the aptitude may have the opportunity to specialize as an Information Management Director, responsible to Command for the management of information networking and the dissemination of all-source information. Required courses include:

  • Operations and exercise planning – tactical procedures
  • Sensor and intelligence information interpretation
  • Advanced network planning and management courses

Entry plans

No previous work experience or career related skills are required. CAF recruiters can help you decide if your personal interests and attributes match the criteria for this occupation.

The minimum required education to apply for this occupation is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondary 4 in Quebec.

Foreign education may be accepted.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Naval Combat Information Operators serve with the Royal Canadian Navy. They are employed to assist and advise the ship’s leadership in the conduct of naval operations such as maritime surveillance, navigation and search and rescue. They are responsible for the employment of the ships command and control systems, including shipboard intelligence, surveillance and recognizance systems. When they are employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve at a CAF home port location within Canada.

Find a Recruiting Centre

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic training, and Naval environmental training, Naval recruits train for the Naval Combat Information Operator qualification at the Canadian Forces Fleet School in Halifax, Nova Scotia for approximately 8 weeks.

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.