Full Time | NCM

Naval Electronic Sensor Operator

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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




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.




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.

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

Following Environmental Training, Naval Electronic Sensor Operators attend the Canadian Forces Fleet School in Esquimalt, British Columbia, 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

Available specialty training

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
  • Instructional techniques

Available advanced training

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

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.

Direct entry options

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through direct entry.