Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Established in 1901, the RAN was formed out of the Commonwealth Naval Forces to become the small navy of Australia after federation, consisting of the former colonial navies of the new Australian states. The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom continued to provide blue-water defence in the Pacific until World War II, when expansion of the RAN saw the acquisition of aircraft carriers, and other large surface vessels.

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

Vice Admiral Russell Crane is the current Chief of Navy and 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 colonies in the South Pacific and protecting Australian shipping from the German East Asia Squadron. For the remainder of 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 Royal Australian Navy was greatly reduced in size. As international tensions increased, however, the RAN was modernised and expanded. During the early years of World War II ships from the RAN again operated as part of the Royal Navy, with RAN ships serving with distinction in the Mediterranean. Following the outbreak of the Pacific War and the virtual destruction of the Royal Navy force in Asia the RAN increasingly operated independently or as part of United States Navy forces. By the end of the war, the RAN was the fifth largest navy in the world.

While the size of the RAN was greatly reduced after World War II, the Navy 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. Following the end of the Cold War the RAN has participated in Coalition forces in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and has formed a critical element in Australian-led operations in East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

RAN today

Command structure

The RAN is commanded through Naval Headquarters (NHQ) in Canberra. The professional head is the Chief of Navy (CN), ranked as a Vice-Admiral. NHQ is responsible for implementing the policy decisions handed down from the Department of Defence, and for overseeing the tactical and operational issues that are the purview of the subordinate commands.

Beneath NHQ are two subordinate commands:

  • Fleet Command - this is the administrative element responsible for the RAN's operational seagoing forces, and has responsibility for the planning and implementation of all of Australia's maritime operations. Its commander holds the rank of Rear Admiral. Previously this position was Flag Officer Commanding HM's Australian Fleet (FOCAF), a position created in 1911, but the title was changed in 1988 to the Maritime Commander Australia. On 1 February 2007 the title changed again, and became Commander Australian Fleet. The nominated at-sea commander is Commodore Flotillas (COMFLOT), a one-star deployable task group commander.
  • Systems Command - this is the administrative element responsible for the RAN's training, engineering and logistical support needs. When instituted in 2000 the Systems Commander was appointed at the rank of Commodore, in June 2008 the commander's position was upgraded to the rank of Rear Admiral.

Beaneath 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

Today's fleet consists of around 60 vessels including frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. The RAN today is tasked with the ability to defend Australian waters and undertake wider deployments. Current deployments of the navy include: contributions to the multinational force in Iraq; support for the United Nations mission in East Timor; and a "regional assistance mission" with New Zealand in the Solomon Islands.

The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet;

In addition, there are three other ports which 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 with 1 SH-60 Seahawk
Adelaide class Frigate 4 1985 Anti-submarine and anti-aircraft frigate with 2 S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters
Armidale class Patrol boat 14 2005 Coastal defence and fishery protection
Huon class Minehunter 6 1997 Minehunting
Collins class Submarine 6 2000 Diesel-electric powered patrol submarines for deep ocean patrols
Kanimbla class LPA amphibious transport 2 1994 troop & helicoper transport (Westland Sea King and UH-60 Black Hawk)

Fleet Air Arm

The Fleet Air Arm provides the RAN's naval aviation capability. At present, it is an entirely helicopter based force, with a total of four squadrons. Most of the Navy's large ships are capable of operating helicopters, and frigates typically carry Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk and 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 Albatross in New South Wales.

Clearance Diving Teams

The RAN has two Clearance Diving Teams which serve as parent units for the navy's clearance divers, Clearance Diving Team One (AUSCDT ONE), based at HMAS Waterhen in New South Wales and Clearance Diving Team Four (AUSCDT FOUR) based at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. When personnel are sent into combat, Clearance Diving Team Three (AUSCDT THREE) is formed. The CDTs have two primary roles:
1. Mine Counter Measures (MCM) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
2. Maritime Tactical Operations


There are several major projects in process that will see upgrades to the capabilities of the RAN:

  • The Sea 1390 Project will see the upgrading of four Adelaide class guided missile frigates with enhanced weapons and electronics.
  • The Sea 1654 Project has been initiated to upgrade the RAN's replenishment and support vessels.
  • The RAN has initiated the Sea 4000 Project, under which it has agreed to acquire three vessels based upon the U.S. Navy Aegis air and surface combat management system. It was announced in June 2007 that these 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 (27000+ tonne displacement) Canberra class Landing Helicopter Docks. These will be the largest warships it has ever operated.
  • There is also currently a project being undertaken within the RAN to equip the Collins Class submarines with a new tactical combat system, and upgraded state of the art heavyweight torpedoes.
  • The navy 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


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 (An Officer, but not part of Graded Officers Pay Scale)

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 Petty Officer
E-6 No equivalent
Junior Non-commissioned Officers
E-5 Leading Seaman
E-4 No equivalent
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 British 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."


External links

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