Royal Australian Navy
Founded1 March 1901; 123 years ago (1901-03-01)
Country Australia
BranchNavy
RoleNaval warfare
Size14,745 Permanent personnel

4,607 Reserve personnel

32 commissioned ships; 11 non-commissioned ships[1]
Part ofAustralian Defence Force
HeadquartersRussell Offices, Canberra
Motto(s)To fight and win at sea.[2]
March"Royal Australian Navy"
Anniversaries10 July
Fleet
Engagements
Websitewww.navy.gov.au
Commanders
Commander-in-chiefGovernor-General David Hurley as representative of Charles III as King of Australia[3]
Chief of the Defence ForceGeneral Angus Campbell
Vice Chief of the Defence ForceVice Admiral David Johnston
Chief of NavyVice Admiral Mark Hammond
Deputy Chief of NavyRear Admiral Jonathan Earley
Commander Australian FleetRear Admiral Christopher Smith
Insignia
Naval ensign
Naval jack
King's Colours
Aircraft flown
Multirole helicopterMH-60R Seahawk
Trainer helicopterEC-135T2+

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval force of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The professional head of the RAN is Chief of Navy (CN)[4] Vice Admiral Mark Hammond AM, RAN. CN is also jointly responsible to the Minister of Defence (MINDEF) and the Chief of Defence Force (CDF). The Department of Defence as part of the Australian Public Service administers the ADF.[5]

The navy was formed in 1901 as the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF) through the amalgamation of the colonial navies of Australia following the federation of Australia. Although it was originally intended for local defence, it became increasingly responsible for regional defence as the British Empire started to diminish its influence in the South Pacific.

The Royal Australian Navy was initially a green-water navy, as the Royal Navy provided a blue-water force to the Australian Squadron, which the Australian and New Zealand governments helped to fund; the squadron was assigned to the Australia Station. This period lasted until 1913, when naval ships purchased from Britain arrived, although the British Admiralty continued to provide blue-water defence capability in the Pacific and Indian Oceans up to the early years of the Second World War.[6]

During its history, the Royal Australian Navy has participated in a number of major wars, including the First and Second World Wars, Korean War, Malayan Emergency, Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation and the Vietnam War. Today, the RAN consists of 43 commissioned vessels, 4 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.

History

Main article: History of the Royal Australian Navy

Formation

The Commonwealth Naval Forces were established on 1 March 1901, with the amalgamation of the six separate colonial naval forces, following the Federation of Australia.[7] The Royal Australian Navy initially consisted of the former New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland, Western Australian, South Australian and Tasmanian ships and resources of their disbanded navies.

The Defence Act 1903 established the operation and command structure of the Royal Australian Navy.[8] When policymakers sought to determine the newly established force's requirements and purpose, there were arguments about whether Australia's naval force would be structured mainly for local defence or designed to serve as a fleet unit within a larger imperial force, controlled centrally by the British Admiralty.[9] In 1908–09, a compromise solution was pursued, with the Australian government agreeing to establish a force for local defence but that would be capable of forming a fleet unit within the Royal Navy, 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". The first of the RAN's new vessels, the destroyer HMAS Yarra, was completed in September 1910, and by the outbreak of the First World War the majority of the planned fleet had been realised.[10] On 10 July 1911, the CNF was granted "Royal" status by King George V.[11]

World War I

Pacific

Following the British Empire's declaration of war on Germany, the British War Office tasked the capture of German New Guinea to the Australian Government. This was to deprive the Imperial German Navy's East Asia Squadron of regional intelligence by removing their access to wireless stations. On 11 August, three destroyers and HMAS Sydney prepared to engage the squadron at German Anchorages in New Guinea, which did not eventuate as the vessels were not present. Landing parties were placed on Rabaul and Herbertshohe to destroy its German wireless station; however, the objective was found to be further inland and an expeditionary force was required. Meanwhile, HMAS Australia was tasked with scouring the Pacific Ocean for the German squadron.

The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) began recruiting on the same day that the taskforce arrived in New Britain, and consisted of two battalions: one of 1,000 men, and the other with 500 serving and former seamen. On 19 August, the ANMEF departed Sydney for training in Townsville before the rendezvous with other RAN vessels in Port Moresby.[12] On 29 August, four cruisers and HMAS Australia assisted New Zealand's Samoa Expeditionary Force in landing at Apia, and committing a bloodless takeover of German Samoa. Additionally, the RAN captured German merchant vessels, disrupting German merchant shipping in the Pacific. On 7 September, the ANMEF, now including HMAS Australia, three destroyers, and two each of cruisers and submarines, departed for Rabaul.

A few days later, on 9 September, HMAS Melbourne landed a party to destroy the island's wireless station, though the German administration promptly surrendered. Between 11 and 12 September, landings were put ashore at Kabakaul, Rabaul and Herbertshohe; it was during this period that the first Australian casualties and deaths of the war occurred. On 14 September, HMAS Encounter barraged an enemy position at Toma with shells; it was the first time the RAN had fired upon an enemy and had shelled an inland location. On 17 September, German New Guinea surrendered to the encroaching ANMEF, with the overall campaign a success and exceeded the objectives set by the War Office. However, the RAN submarine HMAS AE1 became the first ever vessel of the new navy to be sunk.[12] The Australian Squadron was placed under control of the British Admiralty,[13] and was moreover tasked with protecting Australian shipping.[12]

On 1 November, the RAN escorted the First Australian Imperial Force convoy from Albany, WA and set for the Khedivate of Egypt, which was soon to become the Sultanate of Egypt. On 9 November, HMAS Sydney began hunting for SMS Emden, a troublesome German coastal raider. The SMS Emden and HMAS Sydney met in the Battle of Cocos, the Emden was destroyed in Australia's first naval victory. Following the almost complete destruction of the East Asia Squadron in the Battle of the Falklands by the Royal Navy, the RAN became able to be reassigned to other naval theatres of the war.[12]

Atlantic and Mediterranean

On 28 February 1915, the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train (RANBT) was formed with members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve who could not find billets in the RAN.[14] Following the entrance of the Ottoman Empire in alliance with the Central Powers, HMAS AE2 was committed to the initial naval operation of the Gallipoli campaign. After the failure of the naval strategy, an amphibious assault was planned to enable the Allies' warships to pass through the Dardanelles and capture Constantinople. The RANBT was sent ashore, along with the invasion, for engineering duties.[15]

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.[10]

Interwar years

In 1919, the RAN received a force of six destroyers, three sloops and six submarines from the Royal Navy,[16] 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.[17] In this time the focus of Australia's naval policy shifted from defence against invasion to trade protection,[18] and several fleet units were sunk as targets or scrapped. By 1923, the size of the navy had fallen to eight vessels,[17] and by the end of the decade it had fallen further to five, with just 3,500 personnel.[18] 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.[18]

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.[19] Following the outbreak of the Pacific War and the virtual destruction of Allied naval forces in Southeast Asia, the RAN operated more independently, defending against Axis naval activity in Australian waters, or participating in United States Navy offensives. 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, but no active submarines.[18] A total of 34 vessels were lost during the war, including three cruisers and four destroyers.[20]

Post war to present

RAN Wessex helicopter in 1962

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24]

Structure

Command structure

The strategic command structure of the RAN was overhauled during the New Generation Navy changes.[25] The RAN is commanded through Naval Headquarters (NHQ) in Canberra.[26] 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.[27]

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:[30]

Fleet

The Royal Australian Navy consists of nearly 50 commissioned vessels and over 16,000 personnel.[32] Ships commissioned into the RAN are given the prefix HMAS (His/Her Majesty's Australian Ship).[33]

The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet: the first, Fleet Base East, is located at HMAS Kuttabul, Sydney and the second, Fleet Base West, is located at HMAS Stirling, near Perth.[34][35] In addition, three other bases are home to the majority of the RAN's minor war vessels: HMAS Cairns, in Cairns, HMAS Coonawarra, in Darwin, and HMAS Waterhen, in Sydney.[36][37][38]

Clearance Diving Branch

Australian Clearance Diving Team One conduct direct-action tactical manoeuvring during HYDRACRAB

Main article: Clearance Diving Branch (RAN)

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:

Personnel

A female RAN sailor in 2016. Women serve in the RAN in combat roles and at sea.

As of June 2023, the RAN has 14,745 permanent full-time personnel, 172 gap-year personnel, and 4,607 reserve personnel.[39] The permanent full-time trained force consists of 3,070 commissioned officers, and 9,695 enlisted personnel.[40] While male personnel made up 75.9% of the permanent full-time force, while female personnel made up 24%. The RAN has the second-highest percentage of women in the permanent forces, compared to the RAAF's 26.6% and the Army's 15.3%.[40] Throughout the 2022-23 financial year 1,141 enlisted in the RAN on a permanent basis while 1,354 left, representing a net loss of 213 personnel. [39]              

The following are some of the current senior Royal Australian Navy officers:

Ranks and uniforms

Royal Australian Navy sailors in 2010

See also: Australian Defence Force ranks

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, most recently being held by the Late Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh as the Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.[citation needed] The highest rank achievable in the current Royal Australian Navy structure is O-10, an admiral who serves as the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) when the position is held by a Naval Officer.

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 RAN Officers are issued a commission by the Governor General of Australia as Commander-in-Chief on behalf of His Majesty King Charles III, King of Australia.

Naval officers are trained at the Royal Australian Naval College (HMAS Creswell) in Jervis Bay as well as the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.[42]

NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6
Aus/US Code O-11 O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7
Australia Flag Officer rank insignia[43]
Rank title: Admiral of the Fleet Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Commodore
Abbreviation: AF ADML VADM RADM CDRE
NATO Code OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D)
Aus/US Code O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1 O-0
Australia Officer rank insignia[43]
Rank title Captain Commander Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Sub Lieutenant Acting Sub Lieutenant Midshipman
Abbreviation CAPT CMDR LCDR LEUT SBLT ASLT MIDN

Sailors

NATO Code OR-9* OR-9 OR-8 OR-6 OR-5 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Aus/US Code E-9 E-9 E-8 E-6 E-5 E-3 E-2 E-1
Australia Other Ranks Insignia Petty Officer Leading Seaman Able Seaman Seaman No insignia
Rank Title: Warrant Officer of the Navy Warrant Officer Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer Leading Seaman Able Seaman Seaman Recruit
Abbreviation: WO-N WO CPO PO LS AB SMN/SMN* RCT

Rate Insignia

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 specialty training qualifications.[44] This is a holdover from the Royal Navy.

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.[45] 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)[46] and the Royal Australian Air Force equivalent is the Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOFF-AF).[47]

Religious and Spiritual Officers

RAN Chaplain and MSWO insignia (pre-January 2021). Replaced by the CHAP / MSWO insignia with denominational collar patches.

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. From July 2020, Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officers (MSWOs) were introduced to the Navy Chaplaincy Branch, designed to give Navy people and their families with professional, non-religious pastoral care and spiritual support.[48]

RAN regulations group RAN Chaplains and MSWOs with Commanders for purposes of protocol such as marks of respect (saluting); however, they have no other rank other than the notional rank of "Chaplain" or "MSWO" respectively. From January 2021, MSWOs and all chaplains will wear the branch's new non-faith-specific rank insignia of a fouled anchor overlaying a compass rose, which represents a united team front, encompassing all faiths and purpose. Faith Chaplains will have insignia that reflect their religion on collar mounted patches (Cross for Christian, Crescent for Muslim etc.)[49] Senior Chaplains and MSWOs are grouped with captains, and Principal Chaplains and MSWOs are grouped with Commodores, but their rank slide remains the same. Principal Chaplains and MSWOs, however, have gold braid on the peak of their white service cap.[citation needed]

Ships and equipment

Current ships

Further information: Current Royal Australian Navy ships

The RAN currently operates 32 commissioned vessels, made up of nine ship classes and three individual ships, plus 11 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
HMAS Collins, Collins class
Collins class Submarine 6 2000 Anti-shipping, intelligence collection. Diesel-electric powered.
HMAS Canberra, Canberra class
HMAS Canberra, Canberra class
Canberra class Landing helicopter dock 2 2014 Amphibious warfare ships with aircraft carrier capacity.
Hobart class Destroyer 3 2017 Air warfare destroyer.[50]
HMAS Perth, Anzac class
HMAS Perth, Anzac class
Anzac class Frigate 8 1996 Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with one helicopter. Two more were built for the Royal New Zealand Navy.
HMAS Broome, Armidale class
HMAS Broome, Armidale class
Armidale class Patrol boat 4 2005 Coastal defence, maritime border, and fishery protection.
HMAS Yarra, Huon class
HMAS Yarra, Huon class
Huon class Minehunter 4 (2) 1997 Minehunting. Four active, two laid up.
HMAS Leeuwin, Leeuwin class
HMAS Leeuwin, Leeuwin class
Leeuwin class Survey ship 2 2000 Hydrographic survey
HMAS Choules FBE 2014
HMAS Choules FBE 2014
Bay class Landing ship dock 1 2011 Heavy sealift and transport
HMAS Stalwart
HMAS Stalwart
Supply class Replenishment oiler 2 2021 Replenishment at sea and afloat support.
Non-commissioned vessels
An as yet unnamed Cape-class patrol boat at Austal shipyards in Henderson, Western Australia
An as yet unnamed Cape-class patrol boat at Austal shipyards in Henderson, Western Australia
Cape class Patrol boat 8 2017 Maritime border and fishery protection, augmenting the Armidale class. Two more under construction, with another two ordered.[51]
ADV Ocean Protector at HMAS Stirling, December 2022 02
ADV Ocean Protector at HMAS Stirling, December 2022 02
ADV Ocean Protector Auxiliary 1 2016 Auxiliary vessel, manned and managed by Teekay.
ADV Guidance at Fleet Base East November 2023
ADV Guidance at Fleet Base East November 2023
ADV Guidance Auxiliary 1 2023 Auxiliary vessel / undersea support vessel, manned and managed by Teekay.
Blank image 140x96
Blank image 140x96
ADV Reliant Auxiliary 1 2022 Pacific support vessel, manned and managed by Teekay.
STS Young Endeavour
STS Young Endeavour
STS Young Endeavour I Sail training ship 1 1988 Tall ship, operated under the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme.
Blank image 140x96
Blank image 140x96
MV Admiral's Barge Ceremonial and VIP transport 1 1993 The main Admiral's Barge belonging to the VIP Boat Squadron and based at Fleet Base East.
Blank image 140x96
Blank image 140x96
MV Admiral Hudson Ceremonial and VIP transport 1 1995 A Kingfisher 54 cruiser used as an admiral's barge belonging to the VIP Boat Squadron and based at Fleet Base East.

Fleet Air Arm

Main article: Fleet Air Arm (RAN)

Operational Squadrons
Image Squadron Equipment Number Role Details
816 Squadron MH-60R 8 Anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, search and rescue The RAN operates 23 MH-60Rs, 8 of which are usually deployed at sea at any one time with the rest in maintenance and training.[52][53][54] One was ditched in the Philippine Sea in October 2021 while embarked on HMAS Brisbane.[54]
808 Squadron MH-60R Transport and resupply In April 2022, the RAN ceased flying the MRH-90 Taipan and the fleet was placed into storage.[55][56] In May 2022, the Australian government announced that the MRH-90 would be replaced by additional MH-60R Seahawks.[57][58] In September 2022, the government ordered 12 MH-60Rs.[59][60]
Training Squadrons
725 Squadron MH-60R 15 Conversion training and maintenance
723 Squadron EC-135T2+ 15 Helicopter aircrew training
Experimental Squadron
822X Squadron ScanEagle Unmanned aerial vehicle trials
S-100 Camcopter

Small arms

RAN personnel utilise the following small arms:[61]

Future

Main article: Future of the Royal Australian Navy

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

Submarines

Current operations

Main article: Current Australian Defence Force deployments

The RAN currently has forces deployed on three major operations:[86]

See also

References

Notes

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