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10 Years of Shipbuilding - The Trial Blazer

Following on from the recent success of the first phase of sea trials for the second Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD), Brisbane, Jim Hillock has demonstrated the critical role he plays as part of the Australian shipbuilding and integration industry as the Sea Trials Director for the AWD program.

As one of the only people in Australia to direct the sea trials process for a ship the size, scale and capability of AWD, Jim’s experience working on more than seven different classes of ships has positioned him well to lead this role for the industry.

“From working on patrol boats to frigates and destroyers, my varied background in the naval environment has led me to this exciting role in a program of national importance – that is what motivates me to come to work every day,” said Jim. 

Having served in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) for more than two decades, Jim has always had an interest in being part of Australia’s naval sector. His time in the RAN saw him undertake 14 deployments across the world, eventually leading him to work on the AWD program as the Deputy Director of Capability Development. 

It was as a result of his time working on the AWD program that Jim transitioned from Navy to industry, taking on the role as Project Manager in the Combat System team for Raytheon Australia. “Transitioning from a Navy environment to the shipbuilding industry was an easy choice for me to make. It ticked all the boxes – I was still involved with the sea, and by working in the maritime industry I was able to continue doing something worthwhile for my country,” said Jim. 

After almost a decade working in combat systems for the AWD program, and a stint at Defence SA as the Director for Maritime, Jim returned to Raytheon Australia as the AWD Sea Trials Incident Manager in 2016, and was promoted as the Sea Trials Director this year.

“My core role as the Sea Trials Director is to coordinate all of the various teams working in the shipyard. A sea trials environment is very unique – you bring together a team of personnel from all aspects of a shipbuilding and integration project and get them to work together as one collective team.”

The sea trials process is the first time that a ship is taken to sea in order to perform testing on all the ship’s functions, and establish a fully operational condition before the ship is delivered to the RAN. The first phase of sea trials which Brisbane has recently completed focuses on the operation of the platform systems, followed by the second phase of trials, which allows for the testing of the ship’s combat system.

“As we progress towards the next phases of sea trials for Brisbane, we are implementing key learnings from Hobart’s sea trials process. When we took Hobart to sea trials last year, only 20 per cent of the team had been to sea before. Now with Brisbane, this team has the experience and skills to apply their knowledge learned from Hobart, and this will all benefit our third destroyer, Sydney.”

“As we mature these key skills as part of the AWD program, we have built not only an industry, but an Australian capability that will be here for a very long time. This capability reaches across the entire shipbuilding and integration industry – everyone here holds a unique skill, and those skills are being built upon every single day through the production and integration of our Air Warfare Destroyers,” said Jim.

The Trial Blazer

“We are not only building an industry, but we have built a capability in Australia that will be here for a very long time.”
Jim Hillock - Sea Trials Director, Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance (