Royal Australian Navy
RAN badge.png
Size14,215 Permanent personnel[1]
8,493 Reserve personnel[1]
48 commissioned ships
3 non-commissioned ships
Part ofAustralian Defence Force
HeadquartersRussell Offices, Canberra
Motto(s)Serving Australia with Pride
March"Royal Australian Navy"
Anniversaries10 July
Commander-in-chiefGeneral Sir Peter Cosgrove
As Governor-General of Australia
Chief of the Defence ForceGeneral Angus Campbell
Vice Chief of the Defence ForceVice Admiral David Johnston
Chief of NavyVice Admiral Michael Noonan
Deputy Chief of NavyRear Admiral Mark Hammond
Commander Australian FleetRear Admiral Jonathan Mead
Naval ensign (1967–present)Naval Ensign of Australia.svg
Naval jackFlag of Australia (converted).svg
Aircraft flown
ReconnaissanceSikorsky MH-60R
TrainerBell 429 GlobalRanger
TransportNHIndustries 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.

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]

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.

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.


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 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".[4]

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]

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. 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.[citation needed]

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,[15] but the title was changed in 1988 to the Maritime Commander Australia. On 1 February 2007, the title changed again, becoming Commander Australian Fleet.[16] 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:[17]

  • Fleet Air Arm, responsible for the navy's aviation assets
  • Mine Warfare, Hydrographic and Patrol Boat Force, 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, operating the Collins-class submarines
  • Surface Force, covering the RAN's surface combatants (generally ships of

    As of October 2018, the RAN fleet consisted of 48 warships, including destroyers, frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships.[18] Ships commissioned into the RAN are given the prefix HMAS (His/Her Majesty's Australian Ship).[19]

    The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet:[20][21]

    In addition, three other bases are home to the majority of the RAN's minor war vessels:[22][23][24]

    • HMAS Cairns, at Cairns;
    • HMAS Coonawarra, at Darwin; and
    • 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
      Image Class/name Type Number Entered service Details
      HMAS Collins, Collins class
      Collins class Submarine 6 2000 Anti-shipping, intelligence collection. Diesel-electric powered.
      HMAS Canberra, Canberra class
      Canberra class Landing helicopter dock 2 2014 Amphibious warfare ships.
      HMAS Hobart December 2017.jpg Hobart class Destroyer 2 (1) 2017 Air Warfare Destroyer. One more to be commissioned.
      HMAS Perth, Anzac class
      Anzac class Frigate 8 1996 Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with 1 helicopter. Two more were built for the Royal New Zealand Navy.
      HMAS Newcastle, Adelaide class
      Adelaide class Frigate 2 1985 General-purpose guided-missile frigate with 2 helicopters. Four more ships have been decommissioned.
      HMAS Broome, Armidale class
      Armidale class Patrol boat 13 2005 Coastal defence, maritime border, and fishery protection. One has been decommissioned
      HMAS Yarra, Huon class
      Huon class Minehunter 6 1997 Minehunting. Four active, two laid up.
      HMAS Leeuwin, Leeuwin class
      Leeuwin class Survey ship 2 2000 Hydrographic survey
      HMAS Benalla, Paluma class
      Paluma class Survey launch 4 1989 Hydrographic survey
      HMAS Choules FBE 2014 HMAS Choules
      (Bay class)
      Landing Ship Dock 1 2011 Heavy sealift and transport
      HMAS Success
      HMAS Success
      (Durance class)
      Replenishment ship 1 1986 Replenishment at sea and afloat support
      HMAS Sirius
      HMAS Sirius Replenishment ship 1 2006 Replenishment at sea and afloat support. Modified commercial tanker.
      Non-commissioned vessels
      ABFC Cape St George, Cape class
      Cape class Patrol boat 2 2015 Cape 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
      STS Young Endeavour Tall Ship 1 1988 Sail 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.[25]

      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.[26]


      Clearance Diving Branch

      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:

      • 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.


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:

  • Project SEA 1180 Phase 1 will replace the Armidale-class patrol boat with twelve new Offshore Patrol Vessels to be constructed by Lürssen. Construction will commence in Q4 2018, with the first vessel to enter service in Q4 2021.[27]
  • Project SEA 1429 Phase 2 will upgrade the Collins-class submarines with state-of-the-art heavyweight torpedoes.[28]
  • Project SEA 1439 Phase 3 will upgrade the Collins-class submarine platform systems and improve 'reliability, sustainability, safety and capability'.[29]
  • Project SEA 1439 Phase 4A will equip the Collins-class submarines with the United States Navy Combat and Weapon Control System, as well as improvements to the combat system augmentation sonar system. Shore facilities relating to integration, training, and testing will also be upgraded. Expected to achieve Final Operating Capability in December 2018.[30]
  • Project SEA 1654 Phase 3 is a project to acquire a Sea Logistic Support and Replenishment Support vessel to replace the supply ship HMAS Success.
  • Project SEA 4000 Phase 3, under which the RAN will acquire three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers, built around the United States Navy Aegis air and surface combat management system. The vessels are to be based on the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate.[31][32] As of June 2018, one is in active service and two are currently under construction.
  • Project SEA 5000 Phase 1, where nine Hunter-class frigates to replace the Anzac-class frigates. The vessels will be built in Adelaide by BAE Systems and will be a variation of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship to be operated by the Royal Navy.[33]

Future procurement plans include: