Shipboard navigation. Missile launch and guidance. Aircraft instrumentation. The work of America’s Navy hinges on some of the most advanced and complex electronic and mechanical equipment in existence. Those interested in installing and maintaining these intricate systems serve a variety of roles in the cutting-edge field of Navy electronics.
Electronics Job Description
The specialists who work with Navy electronics can be experts in electrical, engineering, computer and aerospace fields. As part of this talented and important group, you will help operate and manage the advanced electronics systems and subsystems present on some of the world’s most advanced ships, submarines and aircraft – as well as ashore. Your focus: anything from weapons to communications to surveillance.
No degree is required to work in this community, but the training and hands-on experience you’ll receive is an education in its own right.
Specific Job Responsibilities
Whether troubleshooting the computer-controlled weapons system on an F/A-18 Hornet on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier or changing circuit cards and tracing electrical wiring diagrams in an air-conditioned shop, working in Navy electronics is nothing short of dynamic.
In general, as a member of this field you may:
- Provide communications support to the Fleet
- Repair and calibrate precision electronic equipment
- Test, install, and maintain aircraft instruments and electrical equipment, including generators, motors, and lighting systems
Specifically, if you’re interested in applying your skills on board cutting-edge Navy submarines, there are highly specialized opportunities in the Submarine Electronics/Computer Field (SECF):
FIRE CONTROL TECHNICIANS (FT) operate, test and maintain submarine combat control systems. They participate in weapons handling functions and operate and maintain non-tactical computer systems and peripherals. They are also responsible for a huge array of weapons, which can include torpedoes, Tomahawk® cruise missiles and even nuclear ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in the world.
SONAR TECHNICIANS, SUBMARINE (STS) specialize in underwater acoustic technologies. They operate a submarine’s sonar, oceanographic equipment, and auxiliary sonar to conduct underwater surveillance, collect scientific data and track enemy targets. They also perform maintenance on the submarine’s highly sensitive, highly classified sonar hardware.
ELECTRONICS TECHNICIANS (ET/RF AND ET/NAV) focus on installing, administering and maintaining onboard communications and navigations systems. ET/RFs are responsible for all operational and administrative aspects of submarine radio communication equipment, systems and programs (including submarine LAN systems). ET/NAVs are responsible for all operational and administrative aspects of submarine navigation and radio equipment, systems and programs.
Beyond that, if you’re interested in pursuing an electronics career that requires advanced nuclear training and involves working with nuclear reactor control, propulsion and power generation on Navy nuclear-powered submarines or aircraft carriers – there are also highly competitive electronics positions in the area of nuclear operations.
At sea and ashore, you could be serving with and be repairing systems and equipment on Navy aircraft, submarines, surface ships and landing craft at bases, ports of call, critical disaster areas and development areas. Typically, you’ll be working with industry-leading technology and highly specialized personnel in an intense, fast-paced environment with little room for error.
Training, Education & Advancement
For any job in this area, you’ll learn the fundamentals of electronics through on-the-job training and formal Navy schooling at A-school, and much of this technical and operational training translates to credit hours toward a bachelor or associate degree. You may also have the chance to continue your education with the help of the Navy through opportunities like the Navy College Program and Tuition Assistance.
There are also advanced training programs associated with electronics that are available to those who are interested and qualified. Refer to the Navy Submarine Electronics/Computer (SECF) Program and the Navy Nuclear Field (NF) Program sections below.
NAVY SUBMARINE ELECTRONICS/COMPUTER (SECF) PROGRAM
To become an FT, STS, ET/RF or ET/NAV and receive extensive training in electricity, electronics, computers, digital systems, fiber optics and electronics repair, you will complete:
- Training requirements at Basic Enlisted Submarine School
- “A” School requirements associated with your rating
Basic Enlisted Submarine School – Upon completion of Recruit Training (Boot Camp), all those accepted into the SECF program attend a four-week group instruction submarine course in Groton, CT, that provides indoctrination in basic submarine systems. The SECF specialty area that you will move on to will be determined at the completion of this phase.
“A” School for FTs – This 27- to 33-week course in Groton, CT, will provide you with a basic knowledge of electronics, mathematics and computer theory to support the operation and basic maintenance of submarine weapon control systems. You will receive group instruction and training in practical application and equipment labs. You could also receive further training at a “C” School that provides learning in advanced maintenance, TLAM (Tomahawk® Land-Attack Missile) Strike and both computer and computer language skills, including maintenance, operations and security of the systems you will be operating and maintaining.
“A” School for STSs – This 18-week course in Groton, CT, will provide you with a basic knowledge of electrical skills, electronics, computers and sonar fundamentals. You will receive group instruction and training in practical application and equipment labs. You could also receive further training at a “C” School that provides advanced maintenance instruction on specific equipment as well as Advanced Oceanography and Acoustic Intelligence Analysis.
“A” School for ETs (ET/RF and ET/NAV) – This nine-week course in Groton, CT, will provide you with a basic knowledge of electricity, electronics and technical computer skills. This will be immediately followed by a 14 to 28-week course – in either Groton, CT; Kings Bay, GA; or Bangor, WA – that will provide further training specific to the communications (ET/RF) or navigations (ET/NAV) specialty you will be entering – as well as assignment to a fast attack or ballistic missile submarine. You will receive group instruction and training in practical application and equipment labs. You could also receive further training at a “C” School that provides advanced maintenance instruction on specific equipment you will be operating and maintaining.
NAVY NUCLEAR FIELD (NF) PROGRAM
To learn more about the additional training involved with becoming a nuclear-trained ET, refer to the Navy Nuclear Field (NF) Program section on the nuclear operations page.
A four-year degree is not required to become a member of the Navy electronics community. There are some specific requirements that apply to electronics jobs in advanced programs such as SECF and NF. Contact a recruiter for details.
After the Navy
You’ll learn teamwork, attention to detail, and leadership, along with computer and electronics operation and repair skills that transfer directly to the civilian job market. Your extensive training may also prepare you to work as a:
- Computer programmer
- Mechanic (radio, electronics, airplane)
- Electrical instrument repair technician
- Data communications specialist
- Technical writer
- Rocket engine component mechanic