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As a Combat Systems Specialist (CSS) you will work in a team to operate military radars and sonars to understand what ships, aircraft and submarines are in the vicinity of a warship, whether threat or friendly force. If necessary, you'll operate remotely controlled weapons systems to defend and defeat the enemy. You’ll also act as a crucial communications link between maritime helicopters and home plate (the Ship).

  • Service
  • Specialisation
    Navigation, Combat and Security
  • Location
  • Starting Trade Training

Life as a Navy Combat System Specialist

A glimpse into a typical day as a Combat Systems Specialist (CSS) aboard the HMNZS Te Mana, an Anzac class frigate. See what it's like to live on a Navy ship, launch torpedos, detect targets and threats, be the heartbeat of the war-fighting effort and so much more.

About the role

As a Combat System Specialist, you will work with a large team in Ships Operations Rooms using military radar and information systems to build a picture of the environment surrounding a warship. You will locate, track and classify surface ships, submarines and aircraft to inform action - whether to intercept pirates or drug smugglers, check fishing boats for quota compliance, conduct a search and rescue, hunt terrorists and weapons smugglers or let the whale pass by.

Combat System Specialists are integral to protecting the Ship through successful engagement of targets with both shipboard and airborne weapons. A key part of the role is operating remotely controlled weapons systems, including the Phalanx CIWS, Typhoon and Mini-Typhoon heavy machine gun to defeat threats. You’ll also be responsible for directing Maritime Helicopters in tasks such as Search and Rescue or anti-submarine warfare.

In this role, you’ll contribute to the daily operations of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and take part in missions such as boarding fishing vessels in the Ross Sea (Antarctica) or ensuring maritime trade routes remain open in the South China Sea, Malacca Straits and Arabian Gulf. As you operate in these areas, you'll become familiar with many ports and cities, especially those of Sydney, Freemantle and Singapore where the RNZN spends a lot of time.

Job on base

When working on shore, you will work at the Combat System Trainer. This is a high fidelity simulator that replicates the Operations room aboard our Anzac class Frigates: HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana. The training allows other Combat System Specialists to progress through their career and will also allow you to upskill  and grow your knowledge.

Job on deployment

At the early stages of your career, you will be posted to our Patrol vessels, working to locate and identify surface ships of interest. Your core role will be to contact these vessels via radio, collect information from them and prepare them to be visited by the Ship’s boarding team.

Boarding may take place during fisheries patrols in support of the Ministry of Primary Industries, or during customs patrols to support NZ Customs Service and maintain the integrity of Aotearoa’s maritime borders. In these roles you will also work closely with Fisheries Officers both around New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. It is on board Patrol vessels that you will operate the Typhoon Weapon system to defend the ship.

On-board our purpose built warships, you’ll be responsible for operating the Combat Management System to operate radars and other sensors to locate and detect threats for the ship to engage and destroy. Our Anzac class Frigates predominantly operate around the Arabian Gulf and South China Sea with partner Navies. It is on-board Frigates that you will operate the Phalanx CIWS and Mini-Typhoon Weapon system to defend the ship and direct the Ship's helicopter.

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Career progression and training

Career progression

Basic Training

Job Training

Ongoing Training

On completion of basic trade training, you will become an Able Combat Systems Specialist (ACSS) Phase One and post to a Patrol vessel to consolidate your learning and put your sailor skills to practice.

After 12 to 18 months on a Patrol vessel you will conduct your ACSS Phase 2 course to learn the specialised Anzac Frigate systems, before posting to HMNZS Te Kaha or HMNZS Te Mana.

After an additional two years, you will conduct the Leading Hand Combat System Specialist Course (LCSS). This covers more in-depth areas of warfare and how to combat threats to the ship to ensure success of the mission. On this course, you will deepen your knowledge of the Frigate Combat Management System, gain supervision and leadership skills, and learn to direct Ship's helicopters in missions such as search and rescue or anti-submarine warfare.

Upon successful enlistment into the Navy you will be posted to Devonport, Auckland. Here you will do 16 weeks of basic military training to find out if you have what it takes to be in the Navy, and learn various subjects including:

  • Teamwork and support
  • Naval history and customs
  • Drill and parades
  • Core mariner skills and weapons training
  • First aid and firefighting
  • Physical fitness
  • Self-discipline

Able Combat Systems Specialist (ACSS) Phase One

Duration: 9 Weeks | Location: Devonport, Auckland

Subjects include:

  • Operation of the Typhoon Weapons system
  • Operation of Radars
  • Introduction to Amphibious Warfare
  • Detection, Tracking and Reporting of Surface Vessels of Interest
  • Military Communication via radio
  • Operation of Naval Command and Control Systems
  • Radar theory


ACSS Phase Two

Duration: 18 Weeks | Location: Devonport, Auckland

Subjects include:

  • Operate Mini-Typhoon weapons system
  • Prepare and Fire Torpedoes
  • Operate Advanced Military Radars
  • Operate Sonar
  • Operate ANZAC Frigate Combat Management System 330

Throughout your career as a Combat System Specialist, you will continually be training both ashore and at sea.

Ashore, you will train and update your skillsets in our weapons simulators and state-of-the-art Operations Room Simulator - the only one of its kind in New Zealand. This training ensures you remain competent to conduct operations at sea as part of a large team. There will also be opportunities to go to other nations and conduct training, predominantly in Australia, England and Canada. Our Petty Officer Combat System Specialist course is conducted with the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom.

At sea, you will conduct exercises onboard RNZN ships to refine the training you receive ashore and improve on teamwork in the Operations Room. We train with partner Navies from around the world including Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, UK and USA around Australia and the Malacca Straits (Singapore).


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Salary and benefits

Careers in the Navy are well-rewarded, diverse and exciting. As you become more experienced and move up through the ranks, gaining additional skills and qualifications, your salary will rise accordingly.


Under Initial Training


Starting Trade Training


Future Potential Earnings

Figures updated on July 1st 2023

Benefits and allowances

Earn a competitive salary while training or learning your trade, along with additional allowances for time spent in the field, at sea, overseas, or deployed on operations.

In addition to salary and allowances, other benefits of joining the New Zealand Defence Force include:

Access to your Service marae or tūrangawaewae

Sponsored tertiary study programmes at all levels

Free access to gyms and swimming pools on camp and bases

Opportunities to travel

Free and subsidised medical and dental care

Subsidised food and accommodation on camps and bases

Free and subsidised insurance cover

Help to buy a home and save for retirement

Entry requirements



Fitness and medical


Period of Service

  • Be a minimum of 17 years of age upon entry.
  • Be free of any criminal conviction for the previous two years.

3 years secondary school. Note, qualifications may be used to assess trade suitability.

There are strict citizenship and security requirements to gain the SV security clearance required for this trade. You must be free of any criminal convictions.

Find out if you’re eligible here.


There may be a return of service period for this trade.

Please contact our 0800 number or talk to your Candidate Experience Facilitator for more information.

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