The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval force of Australia. 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; it was granted its current title in 1911. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force. Originally intended for local defence, it became increasingly responsible for the defence of the region as the British started to diminish its forces in the Pacific. The Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron, which was assigned to the Australia Station, would provide support to the RAN until naval ships purchased from Britain would arrive. 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. The Australian Squadron ceased on 4 October 1913, when RAN ships entered Sydney Harbour for the first time. The Royal Navy continued to provide blue-water defence capability in the Pacific up to the early years of the Second World War. 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. Today, the RAN consists of 46 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.



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.Dennis et al 1995, p. 516. In 1908–09, 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".Whitley 2000, p. 17. To that end, on 10 July 1911, King George V granted the service the title of "Royal Australian Navy". The first of the RAN's new vessels, the destroyer ''Yarra'', was completed in September 1910.

World War I

By the outbreak of the First World War the majority of the RAN's planned new fleet had been realised. The Australian Squadron was placed under control of the British Admiralty, 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.

Interwar years

In 1919, the RAN received a force of six destroyers, three sloops and six submarines from the Royal Navy, 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.Gillett & Graham 1977, p. 61. In this time the focus of Australia's naval policy shifted from defence against invasion to trade protection,Dennis et al 1995 p. 518. and several fleet units were sunk as targets or scrapped. By 1923, the size of the navy had fallen to eight vessels, and by the end of the decade it had fallen further to five, with just 3,500 personnel. 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.

World War II

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. Following the outbreak of the Pacific War and the virtual destruction of Allied 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. A total of 34 vessels were lost during the war, including three cruisers and four destroyers.

Post war to present

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''. 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. 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. The high demand for personnel in the Second World War led to the establishment of the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) branch in 1942, where over 3,000 women served in shore-based positions. The WRANS was disbanded in 1947, but then re-established in 1951 during the Cold War. It was given permanent status in 1959, and the RAN was the final branch to integrate women in the Australian military in 1985.Dennis et al 1995, pp. 607–608.


Command structure

The strategic command structure of the RAN was overhauled during the New Generation Navy changes. The RAN is commanded through Naval Headquarters (NHQ) in Canberra. The professional head is the Chief of Navy (CN), who holds the rank of vice admiral. 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. Beneath NHQ are two subordinate commands: * Fleet Command: fleet command is led by Commander Australian Fleet (COMAUSFLT). COMAUSFLT holds the rank of rear admiral; previously, this post was Flag Officer Commanding HM's Australian Fleet (FOCAF), created in 1911, but the title was changed in 1988 to the Maritime Commander Australia. On 1 February 2007, the title changed again, becoming Commander Australian Fleet. The nominated at-sea commander is Commodore Warfare (COMWAR), a one-star deployable task group commander. Fleet command has responsibility to CN for the full command of assigned assets, and to Joint Operations command for the provision of operationally ready forces. * Navy Strategic Command: the administrative element overseeing the RAN's training, engineering and logistical support needs. Instituted in 2000, the Systems Commander was appointed at the rank of commodore; in June 2008, the position was upgraded to the rank of rear admiral. 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: * Fleet Air Arm, responsible for the navy's aviation assets * Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological and Patrol Forces, an amalgamation of the previous Patrol Boat, Hydrographic, and Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Forces, operating what are collectively termed the RAN's "minor war vessels" * Submarine Force, (Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service) operating the ''Collins''-class submarines * Surface Force, covering the RAN's surface combatants (generally ships of frigate size or larger)


The Royal Australian Navy consists of nearly 50 commissioned vessels and over 16,000 personnel. Ships commissioned into the RAN are given the prefix HMAS (His/Her Majesty's Australian Ship). The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet: * Fleet Base East, located at , Sydney; and * Fleet Base West, located at , near Perth. In addition, three other bases are home to the majority of the RAN's minor war vessels: * , at Cairns; * , at Darwin; and * , at Sydney.


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.

LADS Flight

In addition to the helicopter squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, the RAN operated an additional flying unit that came under the operational responsibility of the Australian Hydrographic Service. The Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight was the sole remaining fixed-wing aircraft operated by the RAN, and was based at in Cairns, Queensland. The final LADS flight was conducted in November 2019. The capability will be replaced by commercial hydrographic companies through the HydroScheme Industry Partnership Program (HIPP).


File:Australian MRH-90 lands on USS Green Bay (LPD-20) in July 2015.JPG|MRH-90 of 808 Squadron File:N48-005 at the 2016 ADFA Open Day.jpg|A RAN MH-60R Seahawk File:De Havilland Canada DHC-8-200 VH-LCL.jpg|Bombardier Dash 8 of the LADS Flight

Clearance Diving Branch

The Clearance Diving Branch is composed of two ''Clearance Diving Teams'' (CDT) that serve as parent units for naval clearance divers: * Clearance Diving Team 1 (AUSCDT ONE), based at HMAS ''Waterhen'' in New South Wales; and * Clearance Diving Team 4 (AUSCDT FOUR), based at HMAS ''Stirling'' in Western Australia. When clearance divers are sent into combat, Clearance Diving Team Three (AUSCDT THREE) is formed. The CDTs have two primary roles: * Mine counter-measures (MCM) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD); and * Maritime tactical operations.


As of June 2011, the RAN has 14,215 permanent full-time personnel, 161 gap year personnel, and 2,150 reserve personnel. The permanent full-time force consisted of 3,357 commissioned officers, and 10,697 enlisted personnel. In June 2010, male personnel made up 82% of the permanent full-time force, while female personnel made up 18%. The RAN has the highest percentage of women in the ADF, compared to the RAAF's 17.8% and the Army's 9.7%. The following are the current senior Royal Australian Navy officers: * Vice Admiral David JohnstonVice Chief of the Defence Force * Vice Admiral Michael NoonanChief of Navy * Rear Admiral Christopher Smith – Deputy Chief of Navy * Rear Admiral Mark HammondCommander Australian Fleet * Rear Admiral Peter Quinn – Head Navy Capability * Rear Admiral Colin Lawrence – Head Navy Engineering * Rear Admiral Bruce Kafer – Director-General Australian Navy Cadets and Reserves * Commodore Brett Brace – Hydrographer of Australia * Warrant Officer Deb ButterworthWarrant Officer of the Navy

Ranks and uniforms

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


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.

Other ranks

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

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. 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) and the Royal Australian Air Force equivalent is the Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOFF-AF).


Ships and equipment

Current ships

The RAN currently operates 46 commissioned vessels, made up of nine 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.


* M4A1 – Rifle * Glock 21 – Sidearm * Flash bangs – Breach team only * Grenades – Breach team only * Light infantry radio – Deck Crew Able seaman / Captains


There are currently several major projects underway that will see upgrades to RAN capabilities: *''Project SEA 1180 Phase 1'' is building twelve ''Arafura''-class offshore patrol vessels based on the Lürssen OPV80 design, to replace ''Armidale-class'' patrol boats. Construction started in November 2018, with the first vessel, HMAS ''Arafura'' to enter service in Q4 2021. *''Project SEA 1429 Phase 2'' is upgrading the ''Collins''-class submarines with the Mk48 Mod 7 CBASS torpedo. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was achieved in May 2008 with Final Operational Capability (FOC) due in December 2018, 60 months late. *''Project SEA 1439 Phase 3'' is upgrading the ''Collins''-class submarine platform systems to improve 'reliability, sustainability, safety and capability'. IOC was achieved in October 2007, FOC is due in September 2022. *''Project SEA 1439 Phase 4A'' is replacing the ''Collins''-class submarines' combat system with the AN/BYG-1(V)8 developed in conjunction with the US Navy IOC Expected to achieve Final Operating Capability in December 2018. IOC was in May 2008 with FOC planned for December 2018. * ''Project SEA 1654 Phase 3'' is acquiring two ''Supply''-class replenishment ships based on the Spanish ''Cantabria''-class oiler. HMAS ''Supply'' was launched in November 2018 and will replace HMAS ''Success'', while the second, HMAS ''Stalwart'' will replace HMAS ''Sirius''. *''Project SEA 5000 Phase 1'' is acquiring nine ''Hunter''-class frigates based on the British Type 26 Global Combat Ship, to replace the ''Anzac''-class frigates in the late 2020s. The vessels will be built in Adelaide by BAE Systems, with the first three to be named HMA Ships Hunter, Flinders and Tasman. *''Project SEA 1000'' is the procurement of twelve submarines of the ''Attack''-class, a diesel-electric version of the French ''Barracuda''-class nuclear submarine which should enter service in the 2030s, with the first boat to be named HMAS Attack. *On the 1 May 2020, the Minister for Defence announced that 6 evolved ''Cape''-class patrol boats had been ordered as a form of economic stimulus following the economic impact of the 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. The 6 ships are worth around $350 Million and will be built by Austal in Henderson, Western Australia. *''Project SEA 1905'' is the acquisition of a further 2 ''Arafura-class'' offshore patrol vessels in a mine counter-measures configuration. *''Project SEA 2400'' s the Hyrdographic Data Collection Capability Program which includes the introduction of a Strategic Military Survey Capability(SMSB) to replace the ''Leeuwin-class'' survey vessels.

Current operations

The RAN currently has forces deployed on four major operations: * Operation Highroad: Australia's commitment to the International Coalition forces in the Afghanistan War; * Operation Resolute: border protection; * Operation Manitou: counter-piracy, counter-terrorism and maritime stability in the Middle East; and * Operation Accordion: support operation to provide sustainment to forces deployed on Operations Highroad and Manitou.Future

See also

* Australian Navy Cadets * Australian White Ensign * Battle and theatre honours of the Royal Australian Navy * Royal Australian Navy School of Underwater Medicine




* * * * *

External links

Royal Australian Navy home page
Historical listing of RAN ships

Biographies of senior RAN officers

Royal and Dominion Navies in World War II, Campaigns, Battles, Warship losses

ADF Pay & Conditions Manual – Equivalent ranks and classifications
{{Authority control Category:1901 establishments in Australia Category:Military units and formations established in 1901 Category:Organisations based in Australia with royal patronage