The Digital Navy initiative


Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) Digital Navy initiative, rolled out in February, is being hailed by senior leadership as a multi-pronged approach to empower members of the naval team for the rapidly evolving digital age.

The objective is to create a fundamental cultural shift that will enable the navy to innovate with more agility in the digital domain. In doing so, the RCN is seeking to ensure Canada continues to have a relevant, highly capable naval force in the years ahead. 

“We have entered a new era where naval activities are more dependent on actions taken in the digital domain than ever before,” said Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the RCN. “From the business space to the battle space, the same digital technologies that are driving fundamental disruptive changes across the global economy are creating equally game-changing impacts throughout the naval enterprise. Increasingly, those organizations that find innovative ways to digitally empower their people will be the ones who secure for themselves future mission success. Your Royal Canadian Navy will be among this cohort.”

Leading the change is Capt(N) Mark Sheppard, a Naval Engineer who heads the recently formed Digital Navy Office located in Ottawa. His job is to drive coherence and the many specific digital innovation initiatives that are underway across the RCN. The end result will be a needed acceleration of the navy’s digital evolution, he says. The navy, he adds, is taking a leadership role in the military’s digital drive building on its proud history of leveraging digital technologies in its warships.

The Digital Navy initiative is being executed across the country. Execution has been organized along functional lines, meaning that teams in each area will have a role to play in moving the initiative forward. All elements of the naval enterprise, from the financial, business and human resource management functions, which underpin the back-end of business to ships that execute the RCN’s mandate at sea, will be engaged, says Capt(N) Sheppard.

The Digital Navy initiative includes a broad range of technology projects intended to enable the navy’s digital evolution.  One such project is the RCN’s ongoing roll-out of the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 platform, which is expected to be particularly valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic in that it will provide members of the naval team an ability to work remotely outside of the Defence Wide Area Network (DWAN).

Another example is the ongoing development on the cloud-based RCN App, which will provide sailors mobile access to information and services that today are only accessible at work.

“We are quite excited about the launch of the RCN App which we are targeting for later this fiscal year,” says Capt(N) Sheppard. “We asked sailors what they would like to see in this app and received lots of feedback; we will continue these user engagements as we progress through the development phase.”

Other digitally-enabled technologies that will be advanced through the Digital Navy initiative include: 3D printing pilot projects to enhance availability of needed parts; Digital Twin technology to improve the understanding of the material state of key pieces of naval machinery; virtual reality and augmented reality goggles to better trainand assist maintainers on board ship; and robotic process automation to help automate repetitive, rules-based administrative tasks and processes. 

Linking the impressive Vertical Lift System (VLS) installed at Colwood building 66 warehouse to the Defence Resource Management Information System (DRMIS) is another example  of innovaion supported through the Digital Navy initiative. The VLS was installed last year and has significantly reduced floor space needed for storage while improving materiel accountability and safety for personnel working in local warehouses.   

A network of Digital Navy champions has been established to help advance the initiative across the navy and act as local points of contact for members of the naval team. 

There are three champions in the CFB Esquimalt area: Capt(N) Jason Boyd, Commanding Officer Naval Personnel and Training Group, who is spearheading Digital Navy efforts in the training domain; Capt(N) Sam Sader, Base Commander, who is the champion for naval bases on both coasts; and Capt(N) Martin Drews, Commanding Officer of Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton, who is the Digital Navy champion for FMFs on both coasts.

For more information about the RCN Digital Initiative visit


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  1. Ian Mack says:

    Great to see Admiral Lloyd’s legacy gaining real traction, and no guy better to lead the charge the charge than Capt(N) Sheppard. May this one sustain and prosper in a most timely manner and with all due dispatch. IDM

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