NAVAL ELECTRONIC SENSOR OPERATOR
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
I’m Leading Seaman Christopher Glibbery from Middleton, Nova Scotia, a Naval Electronic Sensor Operator on HMCS St. John’s.
And I’m Master Seaman Clint Mack from Barrie, Ontario, a Naval Electronic Sensor Operator aboard HMCS Winnipeg.
MACK: A warship carries some of the most advanced weapons on any ocean. Somebody needs to be trained on how to fire them and you must know what you’re aiming at. That’s where we come in. Naval Electronic Sensor Operators or NES Ops fill three of the most important roles in modern naval combat: to detect, identify and engage the enemy.
GLIBBERY: As part of our ship’s Combat Team, working at consoles in the Operations Room, we zero in on hostile ships, aircraft and submarines by their individual radar signatures.
MACK: Every ship, every radar, every piece of electrical equipment out there will transmit at a certain frequency to a decimal point and there are no two radars that are alike. It’s called fingerprinting.
GLIBBERY: We also listen to radio communications from other vessels, aircraft and shore stations providing the information to our commander.
MACK: So when we’re out and about doing our operations, it’s key to know who’s around beause we don’t actually see these ships, we use our radars to pick them up well in advance of actually having visual contact of them. So we’ll pick up an emitter, anywhere upwards of 400 miles away.
GLIBBERY: We’ll try to identify what kind of radars they are and once we find out what kind of radars, usually we can narrow it down to a specific aircraft or ship that carries that radar. Knowing that, we know what weapons it carries and we know a bit about friendly/enemy, all the details to go with that.
MACK: If it’s a hostile emitter, we elevate our status in ops, like we don’t want them to get too close and we’d be taking steps to either steer them away or prepare to defend ourselves in case they do something else.
When the order is given, NES Ops launch our anti-air and anti-surface missiles and fire the main gun that can blast four shells a second.
GLIBBERY: We’re 240 strong on the ship, so our defence systems, we rely primarily on missiles, first of all to take out any targets that come in. If our missiles miss or malfunction or fail, we’ll use the 57 mm Bofors gun and it’ll take out a significant-size target and if that also fails, then we have our close-in weapons system, the CIWS, six barrels that shoot about 4500 rounds per minute, lays a wall of lead into the air and it’ll take out any missiles or aircraft last minute.
MACK: We also operate radar-jamming equipment to make sure that the enemy can’t spy on us and deploy decoys to confuse them.
GLIBBERY: To succeed in this trade, you’ve got to have a sharp ear, tremendous patience and the ability to cut through the static to separate friend from foe.
MACK: As a NESOp, the most fun I’ve had is when we go into task groups, we’ll be sailing with the Americans and we play our war games and they’ll have fake targets and warships at sea that we fire at. And when we play our games, in 15 years that I’ve been in, I’ve never lost a game.
GLIBBERY: I love gunnery. I absolutely love doing gunnery. When we go out there and we shoot at gunnery buoys or small fast boats that we put in the water as targets, gunnery is incredible. The whole command team, the ops team, we all get together to make sure our rounds hit the target and it’s a good show whenever we do go out to sea to fire weapons.
MACK: Well, the first shot I ever did, I hit my rad-op, which is like a paper-maché bomb that they trail behind an aircraft and my first round that went out blew it up which didn’t allow the other 17 ships in line to fire at it, so that was pretty exciting for me.
GLIBBERY: To become a NES Op, you’ll go through your basic military training in Quebec and then your basic naval training on either the east or west coast.
After that, the actual Naval Electronic Sensor Operator course is held at the Fleet School in Esquimalt, B.C., and lasts about twenty weeks.
MACK: The focus is on the high-tech aspects of the trade: radio and radar theory and systems; electronic warfare and intelligence gathering, and how to collect, identify and disseminate classified information.
GLIBBERY: When you graduate, you’ll be assigned to your first ship.
MACK: Your first posting as an NES Op will be aboard a frigate or destroyer based on either the Atlantic or Pacific coast, but your missions could take you anywhere in the world whether it’s anti-piracy or anti-smuggling patrols, in support of Air Force or Army combat operations, or humanitarian relief.
GLIBBERY: First things that you’re going to be utilizing that you learn from school is your electronic warfare capabilities of identifying radars that are out there, putting together briefs and you’re presenting the knowledge that you’re slowly learning to command, to the ops room. You learn about all the different bits of equipment that we utilize once you get to a ship. As well, you’re doing communications interception and you’re shadowing some of the more senior positions like fire control, weapons systems, whenever there’s gun shoots. And then from there, we step up into our training into the weapons systems. You become a fire-control operator. You slowly develop all your skills. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but eventually it comes together and it’s a really good thing.
GLIBBERY: For me, I was 20 years old and I had a great passion, actually, to travel around the world, so I decided I was going to join the Navy. Several times a year, the ship goes out to different ports, so the variety in the Navy is spectacular.
MACK: I got to see the world. I’ve been to 22 countries so far and along the way, I’ve learned a lot of life skills. I’ve learned a lot about myself working in an environment with a bunch of different people and you get to accomplish a common goal.
GLIBBERY: The camaraderie on the ship, the family relationship that you start to develop with each other – it happens right off the bat. As soon as you get to the ship, you start fitting in, there’s laughing, joking, practical jokes, pranks. It’s a good life, you’re always working together, you’re always training together and these people not only become like family, they become great friends.
NAVAL ELECTRONIC SENSOR OPERATOR
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES