Commander Frank Owen RANR (retired) of Murrumbateman has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The letter of citation from the Governor-General commending his service to the military maritime sector, particularly to submarines, came as a pleasant surprise.
Commander Owen is the voluntary secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA), which fuels his lifelong passion for submarines and their strategic importance in Australian defence capability. He is also a former vice president, treasurer and organiser of SIA conferences since 2006.
The SIA is the nation’s peak organisation for the promotion of submarine matters, dedicated to strengthening relationships between government and industry, with submariners past and present.
A member since 1999, Commander Owen also belongs to the Submarines Association of Australia.
His interest in submarines began long before he joined the navy in 1971. His father, Bill, was a submariner in the Royal Navy and transferred to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1967.
Commander Owen trained in the UK as a submariner, qualifying in 1978.
He was a crew member on Australia’s last British-built submarine on its voyage from the UK. He became the Navy’s operational requirements manager for the build and launch of the Collins Class.
“As the Collins submarine was nearing sea trial readiness, we realised the Navy needed to have rescue capability in case of a mishap,” Commander Owen said.
“We had just 22 weeks to design and build this equipment. Our equipment is now used by the US Navy.”
Commander Owen was latterly posted to the Australian Joint Acoustic Awareness Centre and worked to advance the RAN’s sonar capability. He retired after 31 years’ service.
Now he’s the business development manager of submarine systems for Sonartech Australia, a world leader in sonar equipment technology.