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Naval Electronic Sensor Operator

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time

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As a member of the military, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators operate the radar and radio detection devices, radar jamming systems and decoys, and gun/missile-firing equipment carried on major naval warships.

As members of the ship’s Combat Team, they detect, locate and identify friendly and enemy submarines, ships and aircraft. They also support the defence of their ship from all threats. The primary responsibilities of the Naval Electronic Sensor Operator are to:

  • Locate and identify unknown radars
  • Listen to communications from other submarines, ships, aircraft and shore bases
  • Operate gun and missile-firing equipment used to defend the ship
  • Conduct intelligence and evidence gathering

Work environment

At sea, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators work mostly within the ship’s Operations Room where they operate some of the most modern and sophisticated warfare equipment at sea today.

As with all sea-going personnel, Naval Electronic Sensor 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 repair. 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, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators may serve as a member of the naval boarding party 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





MASTER SEAMAN MATT MARSHALL: I’m Master Seaman Matthew Marshall from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m a Naval Electronic Sensor Operator onboard HMCS Fredericton.   

Naval Electronic Sensor Operators, or NES Ops, fill three key roles in modern naval warfare: detection, identification and engagement of the enemy. As part of the ship’s operations team, NES Ops zero in on enemy ships, submarines and aircraft through sophisticated radar and electronic warfare systems. NES Ops can detect objects up to several hundred kilometres away and gather intelligence on everything above the sea so that the ship’s captain and above-water warfare team can make well-informed warfighting decisions.

NES Ops are the first line of defence on a ship and they fire the ship’s weapons to defend it against potential threats from sea, air or land.

MARSHALL:  We do everything from fingerprinting radars, to fire control gunnery and missile shoots.

Naval Electronic Sensor Operators actively defend the ship from all threats on the water and in the air. That means operating radar-jamming equipment, deploying rocket decoys to cause confusion, and firing weapons systems like the main 57-mm Bofors gun, anti-air and anti-surface missiles, and the close-in weapons system or CIWS.

MARSHALL:  Firing the guns, working with missiles, blowing stuff up — I mean, there’s nothing that feels better than training, training, training, and then at the end of the day seeing the results of your training.

The Royal Canadian Navy commonly practises their skills in task groups with other nations, in war games that simulate realistic daily military scenarios and naval confrontations. Onboard Canadian warships, NES Ops are the experts in radio and radar intercept, electronic warfare and intelligence gathering. They may also have the opportunity to specialize as a Shipborne Air Controller or operate unmanned aerial vehicles which extend the ship’s surveillance capabilities.

MARSHALL:  The atmosphere in the ops room can be pretty hectic at times. To the untrained eye it might seem pretty chaotic.  But it’s controlled chaos, everyone has a job, everyone knows where to go, what to do, how to do it and we practise through team training, simulated gunnery, simulated warfare exercises, in case anything were to actually happen.

MARSHALL:  I love sitting down and doing the fire control aspect, seeing those rounds go downrange – seeing the splash as it hits the target is really exciting. My favourite system onboard is hands down the CIWS. There’s nothing cooler than a chain gun that can shred basically anything coming towards you.

After their training is completed, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators are posted to their first ship either in Halifax, Nova Scotia or just outside Victoria, B.C., where they’re employed as a junior electronic support measures operator at sea.

Junior NES Ops complete practical training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the challenges at sea. They may deploy on exercise or domestic and international operations as a part of the above-water warfare team.

Additional opportunities are readily available such as being a ship’s diver, and being a member of a naval boarding party or a Naval Tactical Operations Group. 

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, NES Ops also have duties such as being a ship hand, or on lookout.

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.

MARSHALL:  What better way to get out and see the world than join the Navy. I’ve never had a job that was so fulfilling as this one, knowing that I made a difference at the end of the day, having a tangible result to all my hard work.





Related Civilian Occupations

  • Marine Electronic Detection 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.

Following Environmental Training, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators attend either the Naval Fleet School Pacific in Esquimalt, British Columbia, or the Naval Fleet School Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia for approximately 20 weeks. Training includes:

  • Procedures for maintaining classified material
  • Procedures for conducting intelligence and evidence gathering
  • Basic radar and radio theory
  • Electronic warfare equipment operation and checks
  • Electronic emission classification
  • Internal and external radio communications procedures

Naval Electronic Sensor Operators may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Ship’s team diver
  • Ship’s team diving supervisor
  • Instructional techniques
  • Naval boarding party

As they progress in their career, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • NATO maritime advanced electronic warfare course
  • Operational signal intelligence analysis
  • Technical electronic intelligence/radar analysis
  • Intermediate technical electronic intelligence/radar analysis
  • Advanced electronic intelligence collection analysis
  • Intermediate and advanced database 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 position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondary 4 in Quebec.

Foreign education may be accepted.