What is defence engineering?
Defence engineering focuses on the development and production of technology that is used to ensure national security and maintain the stability of governments and nations throughout the world.
In short, countries require arms to act as a deterrent to other nations that might seek to provoke them.
However, it isn’t the governments themselves that produce these technologies. Gigantic private companies such as BAE Systems, Thales, Selex Gallileo and Lockheed Martin, receive huge government contracts to produce these vehicles, systems and pieces of military equipment.
If you break into this area of engineering, you might be working on the new generation of fighter jets, a naval destroyer or a new batch of tanks.
Regardless of your views on war and peace, governments have bought defence technology for hundreds of years as a way of preventing conflict.
In the past, defence engineering has gone through dramatic periods of progress and production during particularly confrontational times; take World War Two for example. This trend still applies today and talented defence engineers are very much still in demand.
When it comes to working in this industry, huge budgets mean that engineering teams get the chance to focus on some of the most progressive and complex technologies that the world has ever known. Government contracts for private companies total in the billions and the resources available for defence engineers are almost limitless.
How to get started as a defence engineer
As for the engineering disciplines required in this sector, it’s virtually all of them really. Aeronautical, avionic, civil, structural, mechanical, chemical, electrical, electronic, marine and many, many more areas of engineering are required for these projects. When submarines, jets, satellites, tanks and missiles are required, defence companies need to employ the whole spectrum of specialist engineers.
The most common route into this industry is by studying an engineering degree at university. Almost any type of engineering degree will do; however, if you’re looking to specialise, then it would be an advantage if this is reflected in your choice of university degree.
There are other ‘non-uni routes’ that you can take though. Studying for a relevant HND or entering via an apprenticeship scheme will eventually allow you to become a defence engineer. However, this process tends to be a little bit longer and it’s likely that you’ll be required to study for further qualifications later.
What do defence engineers do?
So what will you be doing? Well, it all depends on the project really. For example, if it’s a submarine you will potentially be in the dockyard, out at sea or in a testing facility. If it’s an aircraft, you’ll either be at an airbase or in a factory. Regardless of what you’re working on though, all defence engineers have to follow the same principles.
Firstly, it’s all about ascertaining the fundamentals of the problem which the client is looking to solve. The next stage is research. You’ll need to delve into all of the possibilities that might help to solve a particular issue and then run tests on which ones are best suited for the task.
Designing, building and rigorously testing prototypes is the next big step. Once problems are discovered and ironed out, the solution is then presented to the client for further feedback.
Given that planes often legally require thousands of hours of flight time before they are given approval, this process can be particularly drawn out.
When everything is signed off though, it’s all about production. Job done.
Fancy being the brains behind the newest and most advanced military equipment the world has ever seen? It’s all possible with a career in defence engineering. Have a look at some of our graduate engineering jobs!