Reading sonar to track enemy targets on a Navy submarine. Manning submarine weapon systems. Navigating the deepest reaches of the oceans. Those who work in Submarine Electronics do some of the most classified and high-tech work in the world. And they help keep America safe while they do it.
Submarine Electronics Job Description
The specialists who work in the area of Submarine Electronics have highly sophisticated technical jobs – everything from operating combat systems to conducting underwater surveillance to maintaining onboard communications. As part of this close-knit team, you will develop advanced skills in a high-tech career and enjoy a special kind of camaraderie that few will ever know.
Complex thinking and challenging responsibilities are routine for technically savvy submariners. And you may have an opportunity to work on any of the following types of Navy Submarines:
- Attack Submarines (SSNs) that carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as seek and destroy enemy subs and ships.
- Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs) that can launch nuclear missiles even after a sneak attack and remain hidden underwater for months at a time. They’re also armed with torpedoes for self-defense.
- Guided Missile Submarines (SSGNs) are four submarines that were converted to guided-missile submarines with an additional capability to transport and support Navy Special Operations Forces.
- Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles (DSRVs) perform rescue operations on submerged, disabled submarines of the U.S. or foreign navies. They’re designed for quick deployment in the event of a submarine accident.
Specific Job Responsibilities
If you’re interested in using your skills on board cutting-edge Navy submarines, there are highly specialized opportunities in the Submarine Electronics area of America’s Navy:
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’re 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.
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.
Interested in submarine service? Learn more about life on a sub.
Typically, you’ll be working with industry-leading technology and highly specialized personnel in an intense, fast-paced environment with little room for error. You could be working on a range of vessels – from attack submarines to ballistic missile submarines to guided missile submarines – perhaps even special mini-subs for inserting SEAL teams into hostile target areas or deep submergence rescue vehicles.
Whatever your vessel, you can be sure you’ll be working in a challenging and exciting technical environment.
Training, Education & Advancement
To become an FT, STS, ET/RF or ET/NAV, you’ll receive extensive training in electricity, electronics, computers, digital systems, fiber optics and electronics repair. Much of this Navy training translates to credit hours toward a bachelor's degree or associate degree through the American Council on Education.
The training process calls for you to complete:
- Basic Enlisted Submarine School training requirements
- “A” School (requirements associated with your specific rating)
Basic Enlisted Submarine School – Upon completion of Recruit Training (Boot Camp), all those accepted into the Submarine Electronics program attend a four-week group instruction submarine course in Groton, CT, that provides indoctrination in basic submarine systems. The Submarine Electronics 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 9-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.
You may also continue your education through opportunities like the Navy College Program and Tuition Assistance, which pays up to 100% of the cost of courses taken at accredited institutions on your own time, while in an off-duty status. Or you can take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which allows you to receive up to 100% tuition and fee coverage, plus money for books and supplies, and a potential monthly living allowance.
A four-year degree is not required to become a member of the Navy submarine electronics community. Submarine Electronics Technicians must be U.S. citizens eligible to meet security clearance requirements. Candidates must also have knowledge of math and have a capability to work with computers and do high-tech mechanical and electrical work. Contact a recruiter for details.
After the Navy
The experience a submariner gains in the Navy is something that’s highly regarded and sought after by civilian employers in the fast-growing technology field. So success is bound to follow after Navy training and experience. This extensive training may also lead the way to work as a (an):
- Computer technician
- Electromechanical technician
- Electrical instrument technician
- Automatic equipment technician
- Electronics mechanic
- Radio officer
- Communication station manager