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The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following federation of the Australian Colonies in 1901, the former colonial navies merged to become the Commonwealth Naval Forces. From this early fleet, the Royal Australian Navy was officially established in 1911 to become the new navy of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Royal Navy continued to support the RAN and provide additional 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 warships and patrol boats. In the decade following the war the RAN acquired a small number of aircraft carriers, the last of these paying off in 1982.

Today, the RAN is one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the Pacific region, with a significant presence in the Indian Oceanmarker and worldwide operations in support of military campaigns and peacekeeping missions.

Vice Admiral Russell Crane is the current Chief of Navy; he was appointed to this position in 2008. He relieved Vice Admiral Russ Shalders on 4 July 2008.


The Commonwealth Naval Forces were established on 1 March 1901, two months after the Federation of Australia. On 10 July 1911, King George V granted the title of 'Royal Australian Navy'.

During World War I, the RAN was initially responsible for 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.

During the 1920s and early 1930s, the RAN was drastically reduced in size. As international tensions increased, however, the RAN was modernised and expanded. Early in World War II, RAN ships again operated as part of the Royal Navy, many serving with distinction in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the West African coast, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean. Following the outbreak of the Pacific War and the virtual destruction of the Royal Navy force in Asia, the RAN operated more independently, or as part of United States Navy forces. By war's end, the RAN was the fifth-largest navy in the world.

After World War II, the size of the RAN was again reduced, but it gained new capabilities with the delivery of two aircraft carriers. 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 and has become a critical element in Australian operations in East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

The Royal Australian Navy celebrated its 75th Anniversery in 1986. These celebrations were highlighted by a mass visitation of naval ships and crews from various foriegn navies. Some controversy ensued when the Rear Admiral in charge of organising these celebrations (and who also went on to become Governor of New South Wales)Rear Admiral Sir David Martin admitted on live television that "doubtless, some of the vessels will be carrying nuclear weapons" (delivered live to air on "Today" TCN 9 Sydney)

RAN today

Command structure

The RAN is commanded through Naval Headquarters (NHQ) in Canberramarker. The professional head is the Chief of Navy (CN), ranked as a 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 - the administrative element responsible for the RAN's operational seagoing forces, as well as the planning and implementation of all of Australia's maritime operations. Its commander 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 Flotillas (COMFLOT), a one-star deployable task group commander.
  • Systems 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.

Beneath the subordinate commands are seven "Force Element Groups" (FEGs) that form the bulk of the RAN's operational capability. Their respective commanders hold the rank of either Commodore or Captain as indicated below:
  • Surface Combatants FEG (COMAUSNAVSURFGRP - Commodore)
  • Amphibious and Afloat Support FEG (COMAUSNAVAASGRP - Captain)
  • Aviation FEG (COMAUSNAVAIRGRP - Commodore)
  • Submarine FEG (COMAUSNAVSUBGRP - Commodore)
  • Mine Clearance Diving FEG (COMAUSNAVMCDGRP - Captain)
  • Patrol Boat FEG (COMAUSNAVPBGRP - Captain)
  • Hydrographic, Meteorological and Oceangraphic FEG (COMAUSNAVHYDROGRP - Commodore)

The fleet

As of 2009, the RAN fleet consisted of 51 vessels, including frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. The modern RAN is tasked with defending Australian waters and undertaking wider deployments. Current RAN deployments include: contributions to the multinational force in Iraqmarker; support for the UN mission in East Timormarker and a "regional assistance mission" with New Zealand in the Solomon Islandsmarker.

The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet:

In addition, three other ports are home to the majority of the RAN's minor war vessels:

Current ships

The RAN currently operates 7 main classes of vessels:
Class Type Number Dates Details
Anzac class Frigate 8 1996 Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with 1 S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter
Adelaide class Frigate 4 1985 Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with 2 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters
Armidale class Patrol boat 14 2005 Coastal defence, maritime border, and fishery protection
Huon class Minehunter 6 1997 Minehunting
Collins class Submarine 6 2000 Anti-shipping, intelligence collection Diesel-electric powered
Kanimbla class Amphibious transport 2 1994 Troop and helicopter transport (Westland Sea King and S-70A-9 Black Hawk)
Balikpapan class Landing Craft Heavy 6 1971-73 Light lift amphibious transport

Image:HMAS Anzac F-150.jpg|HMAS Anzac — first ship of the Anzac classImage:HMAS Darwin F-04.jpg|HMAS Darwin — fourth ship of the Adelaide classImage:HMAS Armidale Darling Harbour.jpg| HMAS Armidale — lead ship of the Armidale classImage:HMAS Diamantina MHC86.jpg|HMAS Diamantina — fifth ship of the Huon classImage:HMAS Sheean, Fremantle.jpg|HMAS Sheean — fifth submarine of the Collins classImage:HMAS Manoora.jpg|HMAS Manoora — second ship of the Kanimbla class

Fleet Air Arm

The Fleet Air Arm provides the RAN's aviation capability. At present, it is an entirely helicopter-based force, with a total of three squadrons. Most of the RAN's larger ships are capable of operating helicopters; frigates typically carry Sikorsky S-70B Seahawks, while support ships carry Westland Sea King Mk 50 aircraft during operational deployments. The Fleet Air Arm and its associated support are under the direction of the Navy Aviation Force. Both the NAF and Fleet Air Arm are located at HMAS Albatrossmarker in New South Walesmarker.

Clearance Diving Teams

The RAN has two Clearance Diving Teams that serve as parent units for naval clearance divers: When RAN personnel 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.


Image:Australian AWD.jpg|CGI impression of the proposed Australian AWDImage:F-102 Almirante Juan de Borbon CSSQT.jpg|Álvaro de Bazán class frigate, basis for the Sea 4000 ProjectImage:DNSD0502335.jpg|Women serve in the RAN in combat roles and at seaThere are currently several major projects underway that will see upgrades to RAN capabilities:
  • The Sea 1390 Project will see the upgrading of four Adelaide-class guided missile frigates with enhanced weapons and electronics;
  • The Sea 1654 Project will upgrade the RAN's replenishment and support vessels;
  • The Sea 4000 Project, under which the RAN will acquire three vessels built around the U.S. Navy Aegis air and surface combat management system; it was announced in June 2007 that the vessels will be based on the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán class frigate, an Aegis-equipped class;
  • The RAN also has a project to build two Canberra class LHD, each displacing 27,000 tonnes; these will be the largest RAN warships ever commissioned.
  • A project to equip the Collins-class submarines with a new tactical combat system and upgraded, state-of-the-art heavyweight torpedoes.

The RAN needs 2,000 recruits- including 700 apprentices- to crew the next generation of warships, such as air warfare destroyers, which enter service next decade.

Current Operations

The RAN currently has forces deployed on two major operations: Full details of current Australian Navy operations can be found at


Royal Australian Navy sailors in 1998

Officer ranks

Flag Officers
O-11 Admiral of the Fleet
O-10 Admiral
O-9 Vice Admiral
O-8 Rear Admiral
Senior Officers
O-7 Commodore
O-6 Captain
O-5 Commander and Navy Chaplain
Junior Officers
O-4 Lieutenant Commander
O-3 Lieutenant
O-2 Sub Lieutenant
O-1 Acting Sub Lieutenant
S-1 Midshipman

Non-commissioned ranks

Warrant Officers
E-9 Warrant Officer of the Navy
E-9 Warrant Officer
E-8 -
Senior Non-commissioned Officers
E-8 Chief Petty Officer
E-7 -
E-6 Petty Officer
Junior Non-commissioned Officers
E-5 Leading Seaman
E-4 -
E-3 Able Seaman
E-2 Seaman


Royal Australian Navy (RAN) chaplains are commissioned officers and wear the uniform of a RAN officer. Like chaplains in the Royal Navy (RN) they do not wear a rank. Rather they wear the same cross and anchor emblem worn by RN chaplains on their shoulder rank slides and do not have gold braided rings or executive loops on their winter coat sleeve or summer shoulder boards. Like other chaplains in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Navy chaplains have five divisions of seniority. Australian Navy chaplains are accorded a certain rank for protocol and ceremonial occasions and for saluting purposes. Division 1, 2 and 3 Australian Navy chaplains are accorded the rank and status as Commander (or Lieutenant Colonel equivalent in the Australian Army). Division 4 Australian Navy chaplains are accorded the rank and status of Captain (equiv. of Colonel). Division 5 Australian Navy chaplains are "Principal Chaplains," and these three chaplains, representing the three major Christian denominations: Catholic, Anglican and Protestant, are accorded the rank and status of Commodore. Principal Chaplains' uniforms do not differ from other Navy chaplains however they do wear gold braid or "scrambled egg" on the peak of their caps. The title "Padre" for chaplains is less common in the Royal Australian Navy, than in the Australian Army, although it is known to be used by many sailors and some Navy chaplains in preference to the more formal title of "Chaplain," or other formal forms of address towards an officer such as "Sir."

See also


  1. Ministerial media release accessed 14 June 2008
  2. C L Cumberlege
  3. Top Stories

External links

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