Meet the engineers developing cutting-edge tech for the defence industry

Image: Shutterstock

The defence industry is one of Australia’s biggest employers of engineers – developing cutting-edge technology away from the frontline.

Future submarines, Joint Strike Fighter jets and Hawkei armoured vehicles are just some of the exciting defence projects in Australia right now – and engineers are in high demand to make them happen.

Joyce Mau, a research engineer with Defence Science and Technology (DST) – an organisation within Australia’s Department of Defence – says she didn’t set out to work in defence but became intrigued at her university’s career fair. “The technology being showcased looked so impressive back then and it is even more so now,” she says.

In defence, engineers like Joyce are in high demand.

Defence is a booming area for technology advances in areas such as advanced threat detection through laser and radar technology, blast-proof materials, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicles.

Technology teamwork

Initially hesitant to study engineering, Joyce began at ANU with a Bachelor of Science and later added a Bachelor of Engineering (research and development) after trying out an engineering course during her first semester.

“I always thought I didn’t have the talent to design things,” she says. “But I learned designing is a mixture of coming up with ways to improve your piece of technology, as well as trying out other people’s ideas on a different technology and seeing if it works on yours.”

Joyce now works on technology called Single Photon Avalanche Diode cameras. These cameras will be attached to undersea drones to capture capture detailed, images of underwater objects.

Defence pathways

Many engineering degrees and specialisations are relevant to defence, including mechanical and industrial, electrical and electronic, aerospace, marine and software. And engineers wanting to work for the defence force or defence industries have lots of opportunities, whichever specialisation they choose.

There’s plenty of employment opportunities for engineers within the Australian Defence Force and the broader defence industry, too. Plus, trades and TAFE options that can kickstart your defence career. The options are endless.

Claire Harris

What degrees should I study?

Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) (Hons), UNSW ADFA
Advanced Diploma of Engineering – Technical (Mechanical), TAFE NSW
Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), ANU

What jobs could I get?

Electrical engineer: $49K–$83K
Marine engineer: $46K–$91K
Aerospace engineer: $51K–$98K

Meet more defence engineers

These three engineering graduates work on a range of diverse projects at DST – check out their profiles to find out why engineering roles in defence involve much more than military aircraft, tanks or submarines…

Although formally trained as an engineer, Tom Fahy landed a pretty unique gig. Using statistics and data analytics to uncover insights, Tom’s multi-disciplinary role sees him working in large-scale teams on assignments that directly impact defence as an industry.

Tom Fahy Research Scientist DST engineer
Defence Science and Technology (DST) Decision Scientist Thomas Fahy (middle, in plain clothes) working alongside the Royal Australian Navy. Image: DST
DST Space Systems engineer Monique Hollick.

Space systems engineer Monique Hollick currently works with not one, but two satellites. She and her team are gaining crucial knowledge about the space environment and how to improve radar technology.

Daniel Butler took his childhood love of Lego, aeroplane models and puzzles and turned it into a career. He’s now a hydrodynamicist working on the Navy’s $90 billion future submarine and frigate programs with DST.

Find out Daniel’s research into hydrodynamics is used on submarine and ship designs, plus the travels his experiments have taken him on.

Daniel Butler
Daniel Butler, Hydrodynamics researcher at DST.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2019.

CwS Engineering

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.