Staff Spotlight: Engineering Australia’s Submarine Future

Before moving to France to undertake specific design training for Australia’s Future Submarine, we sat down with Adrian Cox to explore his career path which has led him to Naval Group.

Can you please briefly explain your role and responsibilities at Naval Group Australia?

I am the Platform System Engineering Lead for the Future Submarine Program (FSP). In February I will move to Naval Group’s shipyard in Cherbourg, France to gain the necessary knowledge required to upkeep, update and upgrade the design of twelve regionally superior submarines during their operational life. In a few years time I will return to Australia where I will become one of the Engineers forming the  FSP’s Australian Design Authority.

What made you want to be an Engineer?

As a child I had a very keen interest in why things worked, always pulling things apart and putting them back together. As I got older the interest kept growing and it became a natural choice to want to study engineering related subjects through school and university, ultimately becoming an Engineer.

How did you get to where you are today? What study or training did you have to undertake?

Hard work! It took a lot of determination and effort to be disciplined with study over the many years and even as an engineer now, the learning always continues.

I studied a Bachelor of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering which required industry experience in my third and fourth years. I obtained industry experience at a number of places including a local motor mechanics, a car manufacturer and a shipyard. Each of these experiences added valuable practical experience to the theories taught in my undergraduate degree.

I was fortunate to be employed by a shipyard a part of their undergraduate program and completed my fourth year thesis based on aspects of the Collins Class Submarine. At the completion of this I was accepted into their two-year rotational undergraduate program, gaining further experience across the business in both South Australia and Western Australia.

After completing the undergraduate program I completed a Masters in Marine Engineering while working fulltime, which enabled me to become further trained and skilled in specific areas that are relevant to all maritime platforms.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The most enjoyable aspects of my role are from the areas that provide technical challenges as I enjoy the learning and knowledge development required to solve a problem.

What has been one of your career highlights to date?

Completing a Master’s degree while working full time rates pretty high in my mind as it has been one of my most stressful and challenging achievements.

From a technical point of view though, working on a Collins Class Submarine has to be some of the most exciting work I have been a part of. Leading the team responsible for developing a solution and meeting the customer and crew needs is very exciting. The challenges and pressure of working alongside the crew, the customer and other engineers to find the root cause of a particular problem and then to turn around a safe solution quickly so the submarine can return to service is very satisfying as an Engineer.

Adversely, what has been a major challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges has been being a part of a program where the scope changed.  I overcome this by adapting, being proactive, always embracing a can-do attitude and keeping my eyes open for opportunity. If you can master these attributes, it goes a long way to being able to take on many situations and challenges throughout a career and come out with positive outcomes.

What does it mean to you to be one of the first Engineers to be sent to France for the Future Submarine Program? 

I think it is a great honour and responsibility and I feel privileged to be at the forefront of this national endeavour. This Program is history making for Australia and to have the opportunity to be part of it at such an early stage is something I have been working towards for many years now, so it is very exciting to have those aspirations materialise now.

How have your prepared for the move to France? And how has Naval Group assisted?

There are some clear differences between France and Adelaide, such as weather, culture and language. Naval Group has supported myself and the other engineers moving to France by organising culture and language lessons.

An orientation trip to France in late 2017 was also provided to help us and our families understand where we were going to move, meet our French counterparts that we will be working with and familiarise ourselves with the place we will be calling home for the next few years.

What are you most excited about moving to France?

I think the most excitement comes from taking on a new challenge and adventure. Not only will the work aspects be new and challenging, but from a personal point of view it will be exciting living in France and being able to experience and learn about a new culture and people. The ability to meet new people, travel and explore more of Europe will certainly provide some highlights and new experiences too.

What would be one piece of advice you could offer someone interested in pursuing a similar career path?

Put in the hard yards early. Make study and networking a priority as these will be key investments that grow over time. Take on as many opportunities as you can along the way because it is not always clear at the time what doors they may open for you in the future.


If you want to be part of this massive undertaking and if you want to work alongside some of the brightest technical minds from both France and Australia, then you should consider becoming a part of the team who will design and build Australia’s next generation of submarines. Visit our careers pages to discover what opportunities are available.