James Lybrand - Director of submarine operations

Running time
3 min 23 sec
Date made
Place made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I took up the role of the director of submarine operations in late 2014, having finished my command of the Dechaineux and certainly it was a job that I had wanted to do. Having completed Perisher in 2008, I spent three years in Canberra because of a, effectively a break in the ability to take over one of the submarines as CO and also to determine what the environment in Canberra was like, because, of course, submarines are all based in Western Australia, dislocated from, I guess, what we would call the strategic centre.

However, acknowledging that command was not the last step in what I wanted out of a military career, I wanted to actually see what the strategic centre was like and if I liked it, and if we liked it as a family to make a decision on what would actually happen next post command because, you know, a lot of people or a number of people will finish command and say, "That's kind of it for me, I want to do something else".

But I had my sights set on, I guess on further opportunities, you know, in command and leadership within the ADF. So having spent those three years here in Canberra, time well spent in the lead up to command and actually reinforced the view that I wanted to come back and do jobs in Canberra again which the peak submarine job from an operational perspective is the director of submarine operations or in older days, it was called FSOO - Fleet Southern Operations Officer and the change to Canberra sort of became the director.

So that role is responsible for all the operational side of submarines at sea. And if I, if I broke those in two parts, there's two kind of key contributors to the seagoing role of submarines and one is the com sub, the commander of submarine forces, which is the short that the waterside captain in charge of all the ratings train sustain aspects of submarines and then the director of submarine operations, which is responsible for all the planning and execution of activities at sea, including operations.

And I did that over a four-year period between late 2014 until late 2018. And I it was, you know, probably, you know, one of the most rewarding jobs for me that I'd done and I would include sort of command in that as well because you had an ability to shape with your counterpart as com sub and also a submarine six or captain's role in the submarine capability branch, how things were being used.

And it was also at the time at which we dramatically increased our sea time and our availability for submarines post what was called the Coles review. So we went from doing, you know, isolated sort of deployed operations for a period instead of 20, up to 2014, to actually more and more overseas operations and more and more exercise activity, to which the point where it's sort of a peak of activity, you know, that sort of continues to this day. So it was both a challenging, exciting time to employ the submarines year on year in an increasingly available way.

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