HMAS Albatross (air station)

The second HMAS Albatross is the Fleet Air Arm's base near Nowra in New South Wales, about 2 hours drive south of Sydney, hence the alternate title "(Naval Air Station) "NAS Nowra".

Albatross is the home of the RAN's entire air fleet, which currently consists of three flying squadrons:


The airfield at Nowra was originally opened in 1935 at another site. The current site of HMAS Albatross was identified in 1938 and land was purshased in June 1939. Construction proceeded at what seems to be a leisurely pace (considering it was war time) until the base was declared operational in July 1941. The airfield was used by squadrons of the Beaufort torpedo bombers of Royal Australian Air Force when it opened in 1942. Martin Marauder bombers of the USAAF were also based there in 1942-1943 for training as torpedo bombers.

In 1944, the need for the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy for shore bases led to RAAF Nowra, due to its proximity to Jervis Bay, being transferred to the RN, being renamed HMS Nabbington. This base was used by Mobile Overseas Naval Air Base (MONAB) No. 1 from 21 December 1944 to 15 November 1945. The base supported the British Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers by providing shore based facilities for the Carrier Air Groups when the carriers were in Sydney for repairs and resupply. At the end of the Pacific War the British Pacific Fleet returned through its main base in Australia and FAA Squadrons transited through HMS Nabbington until it was decommissioned on 15 November 1945. HMS Nabswick (MONAB 5) moved from the nearby Jervis Bay field to this site where it operated until 18 March 1946 when the unit was decommissioned and the site was retuned to the RAAF.

It appears that during this period of care and maintenance neither was undertaken and the facilities at the airfield were looted and otherwise run down.

In 1947, the RAN's own Fleet Air Arm was formed, and the Nowra airfield was chosen to be its main shore base. HMAS Albatross was commissioned on 31 August 1948, with its first squadrons disembarking from the new Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney in May 1949. Over the course of the next decades, the RAN purchased larger, faster and more capable aircraft, which led to the facilities at Albatross being expanded - workshops and test facilities for jets were installed following the entry into service of the De Havilland Sea Venom in 1955, while a new control tower was built in 1958. The purchase of A-4 Skyhawks and S-2 Trackers with advanced avionics led to more facilities being installed in the late 1960s to service them.

On 5 December 1976, a fire was deliberately lit by a Fleet Air Arm member near the aircraft hangars. The fire destroyed or seriously damaged twelve of the thirteen S-2 Trackers in the RAN's possession.

The Skyhawk and Tracker squadrons flew from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne until the carrier was decommissioned on 30 June 1982. This signalled the beginning of the end of the Fleet Air Arm's front line fixed wing capabilities, and also a scaling back of activities at Albatross.


Today, Albatross serves as home base for the three helicopter squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, and for the Navy Aviation Group, which coordinates all of the RAN's aviation activities. Albatross also has a number of lodger units:

  • Naval Weather and Oceanographic Centre (NWOC)
  • Training Authority – Aviation
  • Naval Aviation Systems Program Office (NASPO)
  • Australian Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre (AJACC)
  • RAN Tactical Electronic Warfare Support Section (RANTEWSS)
  • Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU)
  • Army Parachute Training School (PTS)
  • T. S. Shoalhaven (Navy cadet unit)
  • No.330 (City of Shoalhaven) Squadron Australian Air Force Cadets

In addition, Albatross is the home of the Fleet Air Arm Museum and the Royal Australian Navy Historic Flight.

Since 1986 there have been Learjet target tugs based at Albatross, operated by civilian companies under contract to the RAN. The first company was Lloyd Aviation, then from 1990 to 1996 Fleet Support (a company later bought by National Jet Systems) and from 1996 until the present Pel-Air. Each company has used four to five Learjet 35/36 series aircraft to provide the services; present incumbent Pel-Air also uses IAI Westwinds for non target-towing support operations.

The naval base had the unusual distinction of being shared by a small civilian passenger terminal, which at various times was utilised by the Masling and later Hazelton Airlines companies flying small propeller driven aircraft on scheduled services for the Nowra community. Until 2004, the Royal Australian Navy Gliding Association (RANGA) also operated from the runways at Albatross with a small fleet of gliders used by both Navy and civilian members.

See also


  • Lehan, Mike. 2000. HMAS Albatross: A Collection of Memories. Nowra: Australian Naval Aviation Museum.

External links

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