Royal Australian Navy

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Royal Australian Navy
2002 RAN badge.jpg
Type Navy
Size14,215 Permanent personnel [1]
8,493 Reserve personnel [1]
48 commissioned ships
3 non-commissioned ships
Part of Australian Defence Force
Headquarters Russell Offices, Canberra
Motto(s)Serving Australia with Pride
March"Royal Australian Navy"
Anniversaries10 July
Commander-in-chief General Sir Peter Cosgrove
As Governor-General of Australia
Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell
Vice Chief of the Defence Force Vice Admiral David Johnston
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan
Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Mark Hammond
Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead
Naval ensign (1967–present) Naval Ensign of Australia.svg
Naval jack Flag of Australia (converted).svg
Aircraft flown
Reconnaissance Sikorsky MH-60R
Trainer Bell 429 GlobalRanger
Transport NHIndustries NH90

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force, called the Commonwealth Naval Forces. Originally intended for local defence, the navy was granted the title of 'Royal Australian Navy' in 1911, and became increasingly responsible for defence of the region.

Navy Military branch of service primarily concerned with naval warfare

A navy or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions. It includes anything conducted by surface ships, amphibious ships, submarines, and seaborne aviation, as well as ancillary support, communications, training, and other fields. The strategic offensive role of a navy is projection of force into areas beyond a country's shores. The strategic defensive purpose of a navy is to frustrate seaborne projection-of-force by enemies. The strategic task of the navy also may incorporate nuclear deterrence by use of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Naval operations can be broadly divided between riverine and littoral applications, open-ocean applications, and something in between, although these distinctions are more about strategic scope than tactical or operational division.

Australian Defence Force combined military forces of Australia

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and a number of 'tri-service' units. The ADF has a strength of just under 80,000 full-time personnel and active reservists, and is supported by the Department of Defence and several other civilian agencies.

Federation of Australia process by which six separate British self-governing colonies became the country of Australia

The Federation of Australia was the process by which the six separate British self-governing colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia agreed to unite and form the Commonwealth of Australia, establishing a system of federalism in Australia. Fiji and New Zealand were originally part of this process, but they decided not to join the federation. Following federation, the six colonies that united to form the Commonwealth of Australia as states kept the systems of government that they had developed as separate colonies, but they also agreed to have a federal government that was responsible for matters concerning the whole nation. When the Constitution of Australia came into force, on 1 January 1901, the colonies collectively became states of the Commonwealth of Australia.


Britain's Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron was assigned to the Australia Station and provided support to the RAN. The Australian and New Zealand governments helped to fund the Australian Squadron until 1913, while the Admiralty committed itself to keeping the Squadron at a constant strength. [2] The Australian Squadron ceased on 4 October 1913, when RAN ships entered Sydney Harbour for the first time. [2]

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

The Australian Squadron was the name given to the British naval force assigned to the Australia Station from 1859 to 1911.

Australia Station British-and later Australian-naval command responsible for the waters around the Australia.

The Australia Station was the British, and later Australian, naval command responsible for the waters around the Australian continent. Australia Station was under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, Australia Station, whose rank varied over time.

The Royal Navy continued to provide blue-water defence capability in the Pacific up to the early years of World War II. Then, rapid wartime expansion saw the acquisition of large surface vessels and the building of many smaller warships. In the decade following the war, the RAN acquired a small number of aircraft carriers, the last of which was decommissioned in 1982.

Blue-water navy maritime force capable of operating globally, essentially across the deep waters of open oceans

A blue-water navy is a maritime force capable of operating globally, essentially across the deep waters of open oceans. While definitions of what actually constitutes such a force vary, there is a requirement for the ability to exercise sea control at wide ranges.

Today, the RAN consists of 48 commissioned vessels, 3 non-commissioned vessels and over 16,000 personnel. The navy is one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the South Pacific region, with a significant presence in the Indian Ocean and worldwide operations in support of military campaigns and peacekeeping missions. The current Chief of Navy is Vice Admiral Michael Noonan.

Pacific Rim

The Pacific Rim comprises the lands around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Basin includes the Pacific Rim and the islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Rim roughly overlaps with the geologic Pacific Ring of Fire.

Chief of Navy (Australia)

The Chief of Navy is the most senior appointment in the Royal Australian Navy, responsible to the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) and the Secretary of Defence. The rank associated with the position is vice admiral (3-star).

Michael Noonan (admiral) Senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy

Vice Admiral Michael Joseph Noonan, is a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the current Chief of Navy since 6 July 2018. He previously served as Commander Border Protection Command from 2013 to 2015, and Deputy Chief of Navy from January 2016 until March 2018.


The Commonwealth Naval Forces were established on 1 March 1901, two months after the federation of Australia, when the naval forces of the separate Australian colonies were amalgamated. A period of uncertainty followed as the policy makers sought to determine the newly established force's requirements and purpose, with the debate focusing upon whether Australia's naval force would be structured mainly for local defence or whether it would be designed to serve as a fleet unit within a larger imperial force, controlled centrally by the British Admiralty. [3] In 190809, the decision was made to pursue a compromise solution, and the Australian government agreed to establish a force that would be used for local defence but which would be capable of forming a fleet unit within the imperial naval strategy, albeit without central control. As a result, the navy's force structure was set at "one battlecruiser, three light cruisers, six destroyers and three submarines". [4]

Colonial navies of Australia

Before Federation in 1901 five of the six separate colonies maintained their own naval forces for defence. The colonial navies were supported by the ships of the Royal Navy's Australian Station which was established in 1859. The separate colonies maintained control over their respective navies until 1 March 1901, when the Commonwealth Naval Forces was created.

Admiralty British Government ministry responsible for the Royal Navy until 1964

The Admiralty, originally known as the Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs, was the government department responsible for the command of the Royal Navy first in the Kingdom of England, later in the Kingdom of Great Britain, and from 1801 to 1964, the United Kingdom and former British Empire. Originally exercised by a single person, the Lord High Admiral (1385–1628), the Admiralty was, from the early 18th century onwards, almost invariably put "in commission" and exercised by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who sat on the Board of Admiralty.

On 10 July 1911, King George V granted the service the title of "Royal Australian Navy". [5] The first of the RAN's new vessels, the destroyer Yarra, was completed in September 1910 and by the outbreak of the First World War the majority of the RAN's planned new fleet had been realised. [4] The Australian Squadron was placed under control of the British Admiralty, [6] and initially it was tasked with capturing many of Germany's South Pacific colonies and protecting Australian shipping from the German East Asia Squadron. Later in the war, most of the RAN's major ships operated as part of Royal Navy forces in the Mediterranean and North Seas, and then later in the Adriatic, and then the Black Sea following the surrender of the Ottoman Empire. [4]

George V King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India

George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936.

HMAS <i>Yarra</i> (D79) River-class torpedo-boat destroyer

HMAS Yarra, named for the Yarra River, was a River-class torpedo-boat destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Ordered in 1909 for the Commonwealth Naval Forces, Yarra was temporarily commissioned into the Royal Navy on completion in 1910, and handed over to Australian control on arrival in Australia.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

In 1919, the RAN received a force of six destroyers, three sloops and six submarines from the Royal Navy, [7] but throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, the RAN was drastically reduced in size due to a variety of factors including political apathy and economic hardship as a result of the Great Depression. [8] In this time the focus of Australia's naval policy shifted from defence against invasion to trade protection, [9] and several fleet units were sunk as targets or scrapped. By 1923, the size of the navy had fallen to eight vessels, [8] and by the end of the decade it had fallen further to five, with just 3,500 personnel. [9] In the late 1930s, as international tensions increased, the RAN was modernised and expanded, with the service receiving primacy of funding over the Army and Air Force during this time as Australia began to prepare for war. [9]

Early in the Second World War, RAN ships again operated as part of Royal Navy formations, many serving with distinction in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and off the West African coast. [10] Following the outbreak of the Pacific War and the virtual destruction of British naval forces in south-east Asia, the RAN operated more independently, or as part of United States Navy formations. As the navy took on an even greater role, it was expanded significantly and at its height the RAN was the fourth-largest navy in the world, with 39,650 personnel operating 337 warships. [9] A total of 34 vessels were lost during the war, including three cruisers and four destroyers. [11]

After the Second World War, the size of the RAN was again reduced, but it gained new capabilities with the acquisition of two aircraft carriers, Sydney and Melbourne. [12] The RAN saw action in many Cold War–era conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region and operated alongside the Royal Navy and United States Navy off Korea, Malaysia, and Vietnam. [13] Since the end of the Cold War, the RAN has been part of Coalition forces in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, operating in support of Operation Slipper and undertaking counter piracy operations. It was also deployed in support of Australian peacekeeping operations in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. [14]

RAN today

Command structure

The strategic command structure of the RAN was overhauled during the New Generation Navy changes. [15] The RAN is commanded through Naval Headquarters (NHQ) in Canberra. [16] The professional head is the Chief of Navy (CN), who holds the rank of vice admiral. [17] NHQ is responsible for implementing policy decisions handed down from the Department of Defence and for overseeing tactical and operational issues that are the purview of the subordinate commands. [18]

Beneath NHQ are two subordinate commands:

Fleet Command was previously made up of seven Force Element Groups, but after the New Generation Navy changes, this was restructured into four Force Commands: [21]


As of October 2018, the RAN fleet consisted of 48 warships, including destroyers, frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. [22] Ships commissioned into the RAN are given the prefix HMAS (His/Her Majesty's Australian Ship). [23]

The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet: [24] [25]

In addition, three other bases are home to the majority of the RAN's minor war vessels: [26] [27] [28]

Current ships

The RAN currently operates 48 commissioned vessels, made up of eight ship classes and three individual ships, plus three non-commissioned vessels. In addition, DMS Maritime operates a large number of civilian-crewed vessels under contract to the Australian Defence Force.

Commissioned vessels
ImageClass/nameTypeNumberEntered serviceDetails
HMAS Collins, Collins class HMAS Collins Kockums photo.jpg
HMAS Collins, Collins class
Collins class Submarine62000Anti-shipping, intelligence collection. Diesel-electric powered.
HMAS Canberra, Canberra class HMAS Canberra arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for RIMPAC 2016.jpg
HMAS Canberra, Canberra class
Canberra class Landing helicopter dock22014Amphibious warfare ships with option of aircraft carrier.
HMAS Hobart December 2017.jpg Hobart class Destroyer2 (1)2017Air Warfare Destroyer. One more to be commissioned.
HMAS Perth, Anzac class HMAS Perth entering Pearl Harbor in June 2012.jpg
HMAS Perth, Anzac class
Anzac class Frigate81996Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with 1 helicopter. Two more were built for the Royal New Zealand Navy.
HMAS Newcastle, Adelaide class US Navy 100624-N-6854D-014 HMAS Newcastle (FFG 06) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to support RIMPAC 2010.jpg
HMAS Newcastle, Adelaide class
Adelaide class Frigate21985General-purpose guided-missile frigate with 2 helicopters. Four more ships have been decommissioned.
HMAS Broome, Armidale class HMAS Broome (ACPB 90).jpg
HMAS Broome, Armidale class
Armidale class Patrol boat132005Coastal defence, maritime border, and fishery protection. One has been decommissioned
HMAS Yarra, Huon class RAN-IFR 2013 D3 81.JPG
HMAS Yarra, Huon class
Huon class Minehunter61997Minehunting. Four active, two laid up.
HMAS Leeuwin, Leeuwin class RAN-IFR 2013 D3 179.JPG
HMAS Leeuwin, Leeuwin class
Leeuwin class Survey ship22000Hydrographic survey
HMAS Benalla, Paluma class HMAS Benalla (A 04) at IFR.jpg
HMAS Benalla, Paluma class
Paluma class Survey launch41989Hydrographic survey
HMAS Choules FBE 2014.JPG HMAS Choules
(Bay class)
Landing Ship Dock12011Heavy sealift and transport
HMAS Success HMAS Success July09.jpg
HMAS Success
HMAS Success
(Durance class)
Replenishment ship11986Replenishment at sea and afloat support
HMAS Sirius HMAS Sirius 2009.jpg
HMAS Sirius
HMAS Sirius Replenishment ship12006Replenishment at sea and afloat support. Modified commercial tanker.
Non-commissioned vessels
ABFC Cape St George, Cape class Cape St George, on Darwin Harbour.jpg
ABFC Cape St George, Cape class
Cape class Patrol boat22015Cape Byron and Cape Nelson were leased from the Australian Border Force to supplement Armidales during classwide remediation maintenance. ADV (Australian Defence Vessel) ship prefix.
STS Young Endeavour Melbourne International Tall Ship Festival 2013 (9713636920).jpg
STS Young Endeavour
STS Young Endeavour Tall Ship11988Sail training ship


Fleet Air Arm

The Fleet Air Arm (previously known as the Australian Navy Aviation Group) provides the RAN's aviation capability. As of 2018, the FAA consists of two front line helicopter squadrons (one focused on anti-submarine and anti-shipping warfare and the other a transport unit), two training squadrons and a trials squadron. [29]

LADS Flight

In addition to the helicopter squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, the RAN operates an additional flying unit that comes under the operational responsibility of the Australian Hydrographic Service. The Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight contains the sole remaining fixed-wing aircraft operated by the RAN, and is based at HMAS Cairns in Cairns, Queensland. [30]

Clearance Diving Branch

Clearance Divers during a ship boarding exercise in 2006 as a part of RIMPAC exercises. CDT-1.jpg
Clearance Divers during a ship boarding exercise in 2006 as a part of RIMPAC exercises.

The Clearance Diving Branch is composed of two Clearance Diving Teams (CDT) that serve as parent units for naval clearance divers:

When clearance divers are sent into combat, Clearance Diving Team Three (AUSCDT THREE) is formed.

The CDTs have two primary roles:


HMAS Canberra, a Canberra-class landing helicopter dock, being fitted out in 2013 LHD Canberra fitting out.JPG
HMAS Canberra, a Canberra-class landing helicopter dock, being fitted out in 2013
Hobart, the lead ship of the RAN's new class of air-warfare destroyers, under construction in 2015 HMAS Hobart under construction April 2015.JPG
Hobart, the lead ship of the RAN's new class of air-warfare destroyers, under construction in 2015

There are currently several major projects underway that will see upgrades to RAN capabilities:

Current operations

The RAN currently has forces deployed on four major operations: [41]


A female RAN officer in 2014. Women serve in the RAN in combat roles and at sea. Royal Australian Navy officer during RIMPAC 2014.jpg
A female RAN officer in 2014. Women serve in the RAN in combat roles and at sea.

As of June 2011, the RAN has 14,215 permanent full-time personnel, 161 gap year personnel, and 2,150 reserve personnel. [42] The permanent full-time force consisted of 3,357 commissioned officers, and 10,697 enlisted personnel. [42] In June 2010, male personnel made up 82% of the permanent full-time force, while female personnel made up 18%. [43] The RAN has the highest percentage of women in the ADF, compared to the RAAF's 17.8% and the Army's 9.7%. [43]

The following are the current senior Royal Australian Navy officers:

Ranks and uniforms

Royal Australian Navy sailors in 2010 Safety briefing aboard HMAS Tobruk in 2010.jpg
Royal Australian Navy sailors in 2010

The uniforms of the Royal Australian Navy are very similar in cut, colour and insignia to their British Royal Navy forerunners. However, beginning with the Second World War, all RAN personnel began wearing shoulder flashes reading Australia, a practice continuing today. These are cloth arcs at shoulder height on uniforms, metallic gold on officers' shoulder boards, and embroidered on shoulder slip-ons.

Commissioned officers

Commissioned officers of the Australian Navy have pay grades ranging from S-1 to O-11. The only O-11 position in the navy is honorary and has only ever been held by royalty, currently being held by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The highest position occupied in the current Royal Australian Navy structure is O-9, a vice admiral who serves as the Chief of the Navy. O-8 (rear admiral) to O-11 (admiral of the fleet) are referred to as flag officers, O-5 (commander) and above are referred to as senior officers, while S-1 (midshipman) to O-4 (lieutenant commander) are referred to as junior officers. All officers of the navy receive a commission from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. The commissioning scroll issued in recognition of the commission is signed by the Governor General of Australia as Commander-in-Chief and the serving Minister for Defence.[ citation needed ]

Naval officers are trained at the Royal Australian Naval College (HMAS Creswell) in Jervis Bay and the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. [45]

Commissioned officer rank structure of the Royal Australian Navy
Admiral of the Fleet Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Commodore Captain
Royal Australian Navy OF-10.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-10.svg Royal Australian Navy OF-9.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-9.svg Royal Australian Navy OF-8.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-8.svg Royal Australian Navy OF-7.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-7.svg Royal Australian Navy OF-6.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-6.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-5.svg
Commander Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Sub Lieutenant Acting Sub Lieutenant Midshipman
Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-4.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-3.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-2.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-1.svg Royal Australian Navy (sleeves) OF-1.svg UK-Navy-OFD.svg


Chaplains in the Royal Australian Navy are commissioned officers who complete the same training as other officers in the RAN at the Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell. RAN regulations group RAN chaplains with commanders for purposes of protocol such as marks of respect (saluting); however, RAN chaplains have no other rank other than "chaplain", and their rank emblem is identifiable by a Maltese cross with gold anchor. Senior chaplains are grouped with captains, and principal chaplains are grouped with commodores, but their chaplain rank slide remains the same. Principal chaplains, however, have gold braid on the peak of their white service cap.[ citation needed ]

depiction of RAN Chaplains shoulder rank slide Royal Australian Navy Chaplain rank slide.png
depiction of RAN Chaplains shoulder rank slide

Other ranks

Other ranks
Warrant Officer of the Navy Warrant Officer Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer Leading Seaman Able Seaman Seaman
Royal Australian Navy OR-9b.svg Royal Australian Navy OR-9a.svg Royal Australian Navy OR-8.svg (No rank) Royal Australian Navy OR-6.svg Royal Australian Navy OR-5.svg (No rank) Royal Australian Navy OR-3.svg Royal Australian Navy OR-2.svg
Royal Australian Navy sailors from HMAS Sydney during Operation Northern Trident 2009 CIS Department Halifax.jpg
Royal Australian Navy sailors from HMAS Sydney during Operation Northern Trident 2009

Royal Australian Navy Other Ranks wear "right arm rates" insignia, called "Category Insignia" to indicate speciality training qualifications. [46] [ better source needed ] The use pattern mirrors that of the Royal Navy, and has since formation.[ citation needed ] Stars or a Crown are added to these to indicate higher qualifications.[ citation needed ]

Special insignia

The Warrant Officer of the Navy (WO-N) is an appointment held by the most senior sailor in the RAN, and holds the rank of warrant officer (WO). However, the WO-N does not wear the WO rank insignia; instead, they wear the special insignia of the appointment. [47] The WO-N appointment has similar equivalent appointments in the other services, each holding the rank of warrant officer, each being the most senior sailor/soldier/airman in that service, and each wearing their own special insignia rather than their rank insignia. The Australian Army equivalent is the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army (RSM-A) [48] and the Royal Australian Air Force equivalent is the Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOFF-AF). [49]

See also

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Operation Navy Help Darwin was a disaster relief operation initiated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) following the destruction of Darwin, Northern Territory by Cyclone Tracy during the night of 24–25 December 1974. 13 ships, 11 aircraft, and 3,000 personnel were sent to Darwin in the largest disaster relief operation undertaken by the RAN in its history. The RAN task force was present from 31 December 1974 to 31 January 1975.

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At the end of the Cold War in 1989 the Royal Navy structure was as follows:



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