Job Family: Communications Equipment Technologists and Technicians Radar and Sonar Operators
Services Offering this Occupation
Army  | Navy  | Air Force  | Marine Corps  | Coast Guard  | National Guard

Supplemental Information
Profile 1 |  Profile 2 |  Career Path
Photo 1: Equipment operator monitors radar screen. Photo 2:
Sonar operators discuss data.

Juan Delgado
Occupation: Radar and Sonar Operator

I had always been fascinated by submarines, so after enlisting in the Navy in advanced electronics, I volunteered for submarine duty. After 16 year…

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Timothy Mays
Occupation: Sonar Technician

We really don’t talk about what we do as a submarine force. That’s one reason why we call it the Silent Service. But basically I’m a so…

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Short Description
Radar and sonar devices work by bouncing radio or sound waves off objects to determine their location and measure distance. They have many uses, such as tracking aircraft and missiles, determining positions of ships and submarines, directing artillery fire, forecasting weather, and aiding navigation. Radar and sonar operators monitor sophisticated equipment. They normally specialize in either radar or sonar.


What They Do
Radar and sonar operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Detect and track position, direction, and speed of aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles
  • Analyze acoustic intelligence
  • Set up and operate radar equipment to direct artillery fire
  • Monitor early warning air defense systems
  • Send and receive messages using electronic communication systems
  • Analyze contact data to determine tactical intelligence
  • Operate submarine sonar, oceanographic equipment, and submarine auxiliary sonar
  • Detect, track, and classify surface and sub-surface contacts utilizing state of the art electronic equipment
  • Participate in weapons handling functions

Helpful Attributes
Helpful school subjects include geometry, algebra, and science. Helpful attributes include:
  • Ability to concentrate for long periods
  • Ability to work under stress
  • Interest in advanced communications and electronic equipment
  • Detail oriented

Training Provided
Job training consists of classroom instruction and practice operating radar or sonar equipment. Training length varies by specialty. Further training occurs on the job and through advanced courses. Course content typically includes:
  • Operation and maintenance of radar and sonar equipment
  • Identification of ships, submarines, aircraft, and missiles
  • Computation of aircraft or missile speed, direction, and altitude

Work Environment
Radar and sonar operators in the military primarily work indoors in security-controlled areas. They work in operations centers and command posts either on land or aboard aircraft, ships, or submarines. Some may work in a mobile field radar unit.


Civilian Counterparts
There are no direct civilian counterparts to military radar and sonar operators. However, workers in civilian occupations that use radar and sonar equipment in their jobs include weather service technicians, air traffic controllers, ship navigators, and ocean salvage specialists.

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