Military Wiki
Royal Australian Navy
File:RAN badge.png
Active 1911–present
Country  Australia
Allegiance HM The Queen
Type Navy
Size 14,215 permanent personnel
2,150 Active Reserve personnel
51 commissioned ships
1 non-commissioned ship
Part of Australian Defence Force
Headquarters Russell Offices, Canberra
March "Royal Australian Navy"
Anniversaries 10 July
Engagements First World War
Second World War
Korean War
Malayan Emergency
Indonesian Confrontation
Vietnam War
Gulf War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley AC, DSC
Ceremonial chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC
Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Trevor Jones AM, CSC
Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Michael van Balen
VADM Sir William Creswell
VADM Sir John Collins
ADML Sir Victor Smith
VADM Sir Richard Peek
ADML Chris Barrie
VADM Russ Crane
Naval Ensign (1967–Present) Naval Ensign of Australia.svg
Naval Jack Flag of Australia (converted).svg
Naval Ensign (1911–1967) Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png
Aircraft flown
Reconnaissance Seahawk
Trainer Bell, Squirrel
Transport MRH 90

HMA Ships Success (front) and Tobruk in 2008

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: 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 continued to support the RAN and provided 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 smaller warships. 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 consists of 51 commissioned vessels and over 16,000 personnel. The navy is one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the 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 Ray Griggs.[1]


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.[2] 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".[3]

On 10 July 1911, King George V granted the service the title of "Royal Australian Navy".[4] 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.[3] The Australian Squadron was placed under control of the British Admiralty,[5] 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.[3]

In 1919, the RAN received a force of six destroyers, three sloops and six submarines from the Royal Navy,[6] 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.[7] In this time the focus of Australia's naval policy shifted from defence against invasion to trade protection,[8] and several fleet units were sunk as targets or scrapped. By 1923, the size of the navy had fallen to eight vessels,[7] and by the end of the decade it had fallen further to five, with just 3,500 personnel.[8] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[8] A total of 34 vessels were lost during the war, including three cruisers and four destroyers.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[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.

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]

  • Surface Force, covering the RAN's surface combatants (generally ships of frigate size or larger)
  • Submarine Force, operating the Collins class submarines
  • 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"
  • Fleet Air Arm, responsible for the navy's aviation assets


As of January 2013, the RAN fleet consisted of 51 commissioned warships, including frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. 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:

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

Current ships

The RAN currently operates 51 commissioned vessels, made up of eight ship classes, and four individual ships plus two non-commissioned vessels.

Commissioned Vessels
Image Class/Name Type Number Entered service Details
HMAS Perth, of the Anzac class
Anzac class Frigate 8 1996 Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with 1 S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter. Two more were built for the Royal New Zealand Navy.
HMAS Darwin of the Adelaide class
Adelaide class Frigate 4 1985 General Purpose guided missile frigate with 2 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters. Two more ships were decommissioned in 2005 and 2008.
HMAS Broome of the Armidale class
Armidale class Patrol boat 14 2005 Coastal defence, maritime border, and fishery protection
HMAS Gascoyne, fourth ship of the Huon class
Huon class Minehunter 6 1997 Minehunting
HMAS Collins, first submarine of the Collins class
Collins class Submarine 6 2000 Anti-shipping, intelligence collection. Diesel-electric powered.
HMAS Labuan of the Balikpapan class
Balikpapan class Landing Craft Heavy 3 1971 Light lift amphibious transport. Two more were transferred to the fledgling Papua New Guinea Defence Force in 1975.
HMAS Leeuwin, lead ship of the Leeuwin class
Leeuwin class Survey ship 2 2000 Hydrographic survey
HMAS Benalla, fourth ship of the Paluma class
Paluma class Survey launch 4 1989 Hydrographic survey
HMAS Tobruk
HMAS Tobruk Landing Ship Heavy 1981 Heavy sealift and transport. Modified Round Table class.
HMAS Choules
(Bay class landing ship)
HMAS Choules
Landing Ship Dock 2011 Heavy sealift and transport. Former Royal Fleet Auxiliary Bay class landing ship RFA Largs Bay
HMAS Success
(Durance class tanker)
HMAS Success
Replenishment ship 1986 Replenishment at sea and afloat support. Modified Durance class.
HMAS Sirius
HMAS Sirius Replenishment ship 2006 Replenishment at sea and afloat support. Modified commercial tanker.
Non-Commissioned Vessels
ADV Ocean Shield
ADV Ocean Shield Non-commissioned 2012 Civilian-crewed humanitarian and disaster relief vessel
STS Young Endeavour
STS Young Endeavour Non-commissioned 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 2013, the FAA consists of three active squadrons plus a fourth being activated, operating five helicopter types in the anti-submarine warfare and maritime support roles.[18] The Fleet Air Arm is based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales, and operates from the RAN's frigates, large amphibious warfare vessels, and large support ships.

Clearance Diving Teams

Clearance Divers during a ship boarding exercise in 2006 as a part of RIMPAC exercises.

The RAN has two Clearance Diving Teams 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 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.


Álvaro de Bazán–class frigate, basis for the Hobart class air-warfare destroyer

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

To boost the RAN's amphibious capability until the arrival of the Canberra-class LHDs, the RAN acquired HMAS Choules (a former Bay class landing ship of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary) in December 2011, and the support vessel ADV Ocean Shield in June 2012.[22][23]

Future procurement plans include:

  • twelve Future Submarines, under Project SEA 1000, to replace the Collins-class (up to 4,000 tons, equipped with cruise missiles and minisubs);
  • eight Future Frigates to replace the Anzac-class frigates (possibly up to 7,000 tons and equipped with cruise missiles);
  • twenty Offshore Combatant Vessels, under Project SEA 1180, to replace the Armidale, Huon, Leeuwin, and Paluma classes (up to 2000 tons); and
  • one Strategic Sealift Vessel to replace the second Kanimbla-class ship (~15,000 tons, similar to the Spanish Galicia-class landing platform dock).[24]

Current operations

The RAN currently has forces deployed on three major operations:[25][verification needed]

  • Operation Anode: Australia's contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands.
  • Operation Slipper: Australia's commitment to the International Coalition forces in Afghanistan and against Terrorism (ICAT). The RAN's contribution is normally one ship in the Persian Gulf.
  • Operation Resolute: the ADF's contribution to patrolling Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone. The RAN's contribution to Resolute is at least seven Armidale class patrol boats, plus a large surface combatant on standby.[26]


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.[27] The permanent full-time force consisted of 3,357 commissioned officers, and 10,697 enlisted personnel.[27] In June 2010, male personnel made up 82% of the permanent full-time force, while female personnel made up 18%.[28] The RAN has the highest percentage of women in the ADF, compared to the RAAF's 17.8% and the Army's 9.7%.[28]

The following are the current senior Royal Australian Navy Officers:

The RAN needs 2,000 recruits, including 700 apprentices,[30] to crew the next generation of warships, such as air warfare destroyers, which enter service next decade. In order to overcome a lack of Australian recruits, the RAN began to recruit sailors who have been laid off from other western navies.[31]

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.

Royal Australian Navy sailors in 1998

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-7 (Commodore) 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 the Second, 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, New South Wales and the Australian Defence Force  Academy in Canberra.

Commissioned Officer Rank Structure of the Royal Australian Navy
Admiral of the Fleet Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Commodore Captain
O-11 O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6
Generic-Navy-O12.svg Aus-Navy-OF10-shoulder.svg Generic-Navy-O11.svg Aus-Navy-OF9-shoulder.svg Generic-Navy-O10.svg Aus-Navy-OF8-shoulder.svg Generic-Navy-O9.svg Aus-Navy-OF7-shoulder.svg UK-Navy-OF6.svg Aus-Navy-OF6-shoulder.svg Generic-Navy-O7.svg
Commander Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Sub Lieutenant Acting Sub Lieutenant Midshipman
O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1 S-1
Generic-Navy-O5.svg Generic-Navy-O4.svg Generic-Navy-O3.svg Generic-Navy-O1.svg Generic-Navy-O1.svg UK-Navy-OFD.svg

Other ranks

Royal Australian Navy sailors from HMAS Sydney during Operation Northern Trident 2009

Warrant Officers
E-9 Warrant Officer (WO)
Senior Non-commissioned Officers
E-8 Chief Petty Officer (CPO)
E-6 Petty Officer (PO)
Junior Non-commissioned Officers
E-5 Leading Seaman (LS)
E-3 Able Seaman (AB)
E-2 Seaman (SMN)


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This article does not contain any citations or references. Please improve this article by adding a reference. For information about how to add references, see Template:Citation.

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 rank insignia, but instead wear epaulettes with a cross-and-anchor insignia. 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 (equivalent of Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army). Division 4 Australian Navy chaplains are accorded the rank and status of Captain (equivalent 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 (equivalent of Brigadier). Principal Chaplains' uniforms do not differ from other Navy chaplains however they do wear gold braid 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."[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, he[32] does not wear the WO rank insignia; instead, he wears the special insignia of the appointment.[33] The WO-N appointment has similar equivalent appointments in the other services, each holding the rank of Warrant Office, 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)[34] and the Royal Australian Air Force equivalent is the Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOFF-AF).[35]

See also



  1. "Navy welcomes new Chief". Department of Defence. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  2. Dennis et al 1995, p. 516.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Whitley 2000, p. 17.
  4. Stevens, David. "The R.A.N. – A Brief History". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  5. Dennis et al 1995, p. 517.
  6. Gillett & Graham 1977, p. 193.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gillett & Graham 1977, p. 61.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Dennis et al 1995 p. 518.
  9. Gillett & Graham 1977, pp. 69–76.
  10. Gillett & Graham 1977, p. 93.
  11. Gillett & Graham 1977, p. 94.
  12. Dennis et al 1995, pp. 519–520.
  13. "Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005". Sea Power Centre. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  14. Dennis et al 1995, pp. 607–608.
  15. C L Cumberlege
  16. Top Stories
  17. Australian Maritime Doctrine. p. 124. 
  18. "Fleet Air Arm". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  19. Amphibious Deployment and Sustainment – JP 2048 Phase 4A/B
  20. Commonwealth of Australia (2009). Defence White Paper 2009. Commonwealth of Australia. pp. 70–74. ISBN 978-0-642-29702-0. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  21. "Top 30 Projects". Defence Materiel Organisation. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  22. "HMAS Choules commissioned in honour of veteran". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  23. "Ocean Shield the Navy's newest humanitarian and disaster relief vessel". Offices of the Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel. 3 June 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  24. Defence White Paper 2009. pp. 70–74. 
  25. [1]
  26. Border Protection of Australia
  27. 27.0 27.1 Department of Defence (2011). Portfolio Budget Statements 2011–12: Defence Portfolio. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-642-29739-6. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 Defence Annual Report 2009-2010, Appendix 7, Table A7.3
  29. A new Hydrographer of Australia | Royal Australian Navy
  30. Defence White Paper 2009. p. 114. 
  31. Stewart, Cameron (10 February 201). "Laid-off British sailors to grab RAN positions". The Australian. 
  32. To date, all Warrant Officers of the Navy have been males.
  33. "Defence Leaders: Navy". Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  34. "Regimental Sergeant Major – Army". 
  35. "Warrant Officer of the Air Force". 

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