Full Time | Part Time | NCM

Naval Combat Information Operator

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Naval Combat Information Operators are responsible for the operation of all shipboard surveillance radars and associated equipment of the shipboard intelligence, surveillance and recognizance 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




I’m Leading Seaman Heshan Modaragamage from Kitchener, Ontario. I’m a Naval Combat Information Operator aboard HMCS Montreal.

And I’m Master Seaman Brad Saunders from Goose Bay, Labrador. I’m a Naval Combat Information Operator currently serving aboard HMCS Charlottetown.

MODARAGAMAGE: A warship is built for one purpose – to go to war – but before a shell can be fired or a missile can be launched, we’ve got to know where the enemy is: how far, how fast, how big and how strong.

Naval Combat Information Operators, or NCI Ops, are the expert eyes and ears of the Operations Room, using some of the world’s most sensitive, accurate radar and computer systems to help our commanders make tactical decisions in real time.

The NCIOp position is probably the most vital position in the operations room for command. Command doesn’t have time to take all the information that’s being inputted into the ship because there is a lot of information, so what the NCIOp will do, we’ll take that information and we’ll put it into a picture that Command can actually look at, without having to read different sources of information or listen to communications and they can make their decisions based off that.

SAUNDERS: As part of the ship’s Combat Team, NCI Ops assist and advise our commanders in collision-avoidance navigation and anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.

Our missions can range from intercepting drug smugglers to tracking down pirates off the coast of Africa.

MODARAGAMAGE : When we’re doing an exercise or if we have a real-time threat, then the atmosphere changes quite a bit. It gets quite intense in the ops room where not just the NCIOps, but all the other trades come to life and everybody just works together to properly build the picture and fight the war.

SAUNDERS: Everybody’s on the same page. We know what we’re looking for, we know what we need to do. As a well-trained ops team, everybody works together. It’s a pretty interesting situation when that’s going on.

NCI Ops spend most of their career at sea, aboard a surface ship or submarine, on missions that can last from a few days to several months. It’s a great opportunity to see the world while doing something that you love.

SAUNDERS: Chasing down pirates and hunting enemy subs sounds like something out of a video game or a Hollywood movie, but it’s what we train to do every day. You plot their course and try to figure out where they are and where they’re going and then it’s up to our commanders to decide what to do about it.

MODARAGAMAGE : The best experience that I’ve had in the Navy was when we were deployed in the Arabian sea and we stopped multiple pirate attacks. We would get calls over VHF, a boat saying they’re in distress and they think they’re being under attack. And our ship would come up on speed and intercept and stop the attack. It makes you feel like you’ve actually made a difference and helped somebody that day.

MODARAGAMAGE: Like all sailors, you’ll complete your basic military training in Quebec and basic naval training in Nova Scotia or B.C. before you move on to your specialized training to become an NCI Op.

SAUNDERS: The Naval Combat Information Operator course is held at Esquimalt, British Columbia.

You’ll learn how radar and radio systems work and how to interpret the data that they collect in a Naval operational setting. The courses are rigorous and hands-on and the learning curve is pretty steep.

MODARAGAMAGE: When you successfully graduate, you’ll be assigned to your first ship.

SAUNDERS: Your first posting as an NCI Op aboard a frigate or destroyer will last about four to six years and your missions could take you almost anywhere around the world.

A lot of our deployments start off, you do localized fisheries patrols. It’s a good way to start out or you could get thrown right into the loop and get sent on a Gulf trip or a NATO trip overseas.

You’ll work regular shifts, called watches in the Operations Room, the nerve centre of the ship.

MODARAGAMAGE : Coming into the operations room for the first time as an Ordinary Seaman NCIOp is overwhelming.

SAUNDERS: But once you realize you have a team all around you that trains together as you develop as a combat team on a warship, you tend to learn each other’s abilities and know how to work with everybody around you and a good effective combat team is able to take a situation that seems like it’s chaos and just work with it and produce a picture that is well-informed and correct.

As you gain experience, your role will expand to collecting and evaluating radar data for anti-surface and anti-air operations.

MODARAGAMAGE: You never stop learning, upgrading and training on some of the most advanced radar and computer systems anywhere. There are always opportunities for specialized and advanced training in exciting fields like intelligence gathering, submarine control room watch duties, tactical network planning and ship-borne air control where you are responsible for the tactical employment and flight safety of helicopters and planes operating with the ship.

MODARAGAMAGE: I wanted to serve in the Canadian Forces and serve the country. I was not born in this country. I actually immigrated to this country, so I wanted to give something back.

SAUNDERS: I’ve been to Germany, Poland, Estonia, Gibraltar – great place to be – the Mediterranean, all up and down the Eastern seaboard of North America, down to Haiti recently. You’re always seeing different things, different ports, so it’s like your office is mobile throughout the world.

It’s not even areas of warfare that you get a sense of pride from. The humanitarian relief we provided to Haiti is a huge thing that I’m very proud of and you come back to your home port and your family knows that you’ve been away and you’ve done something that’s going to make a difference in the world.




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.

Basic Military Qualification

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.

Basic occupational qualification training

Naval Combat Information Operators attend the Canadian Forces Fleet School in Esquimalt, British Columbia, 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

Available specialty training

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
  • 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

Available advanced training

Those who demonstrate the aptitude may have the opportunity to specialize 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

Specific Navy training

Naval recruits attend the Canadian Forces Fleet School either in Esquimalt, British Columbia, or Halifax, Nova Scotia, for approximately five weeks. Training includes the following topics:

  • Naval history and organization
  • Shipboard firefighting and damage control
  • Shipboard safety
  • Watchkeeping duties
  • Seamanship

Required education

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondaire IV in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

Serve with the Reserve Force

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.

Part time employment

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.

Reserve Force training

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 Working Environment

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 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.