A junior sailor serving in the submarine HMAS Sheean has developed a more reliable method of delivering radio communications that could bring major benefits to the fleet for years to come.

Able Seaman Nathan Mayfield took a fresh look at the current fleet-wide high frequency (HF) radio procedures used by the crews of ships to communicate with each other and realised they were not being used to their full potential. 

Able Seaman Mayfield’s ideas revolved around a radio technology called 3G ALE (Third Generation Automatic Link Establishment), which provides more robust HF communications that could potentially be used when regular satellite communication links are down. 

“My light-bulb moment came when I was reading through equipment manuals to better understand the new submarine communications' centre,” Able Seaman Mayfield said. 

“Having read about the capabilities of the equipment suite on board and following discussions with 152 Signals Squadron and Leading Seaman Aaron Hill from Australian Clearance Diving Team Four, I realised that this existing non-utilised capability could be integrated into fleet procedures.” 

Sheean’s weapons electrical maintenance supervisor, Petty Officer Sara Clarke, said the recently introduced Fleet Optimisation Program provided a channel for Able Seaman Mayfield to submit his proposal.

Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Mark Hammond introduced the Fleet Optimisation Program in March this year. 

Its aim is to attract new ideas that improve the availability, sustainability and lethality of the fleet, as well as develop measurable improvements in Navy capability. 

“The Fleet Optimisation Program is a great initiative and inspired Able Seaman Mayfield to make a more detailed proposal that could test his ideas,” Petty Officer Clarke said. 

Sheean’s communications and information systems’ team has proven the 3G ALE concept alongside, and is looking to test the procedures at sea.  

Sheean’s signals and communications officer, Lieutenant Lachlan Darrow, said Able Seaman Mayfield’s proposal addressed a capability gap and could have benefits across a range of platforms. 

“This capability can be used to replace current HF procedures or become the primary method of HF communications with current procedures as a backup,” Lieutenant Darrow said. 

“It can be used in task group workings, fleet HF broadcasts, as a platform-specific communication circuit and during periods where conventional HF communications may not be possible.” 

It isn’t the first time Able Seaman Mayfield has turned his mind to innovation. 

In 2019, he was awarded a Chief of Navy Excellence Award for his work on the 3D design, testing and manufacture of an electrical interlock device that provided electrical safety for the Collins-class submarine fleet.