Royal Australian Navy

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Royal Australian Navy Crest

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Royal Australian Navy Ensign

The Royal Australian Navy (or RAN) is the navy of Australia and part of the Australian Defence Force.

Its front-line fleet currently comprises 6 Adelaide Class guided-missile frigates, six Anzac class frigates (of eight to be built) and six of the Swedish designed but locally built Collins class submarines. These were expected to be the best conventional (i.e. diesel-electric, not nuclear powered) submarines in the world, but massive problems with noise and the weapons software suite have resulted in a series of delays and scandals, though as of 2004 the government claims these are now solved or on their way to resolution.

There are three amphibious ships; two Kanimbla class amphibious transports (ex-USN Newport News class LST's) and one Tobruk class large landing ship. Plus fifteen Fremantle class patrol boats, six Huon class minehunters (one currently fitting out), two Bandicoot class auxiliary minehunters, one Durance class replenishment ship, one Appleleaf class fleet oiler, two Pacific class Oceanographic research & survey ship, and six Balikpapan class support craft.

The Navy also operates 4 helicopter types: S-70B-2 Seahawk (variant of SH-60 Sea Hawk) , Westland Sea King, SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite (variant of SH-2 Seasprite), and AS350BA Squirrells.

The RAN has agreed to acquire three vessels based upon the U.S. Navy's Aegis air and surface combat management system. The types of vessels have not yet been determined. These will used in a theater missile defense role.

Ships and Establishments are named HMAS, where HMAS means "Her Majesty's Australian Ship". This follows the form of the Royal Navy in which ships are named HMS (Her Majesty's Ship). ("Her Majesty" is Queen Elizabeth II, who is Queen of Australia.).

See also: List of ships of the Royal Australian Navy



The Navy is commanded by the Chief of Navy (CN), Vice Admiral Chris Ritchie AO RAN. His successor, from 4 July 2005, is Vice Admiral Russ Shalders, AO, CSC, RAN, who has been Vice Chief of the Defence Force since July 2002.

There are two commands:

  • Maritime Command (Commander: Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt AM RAN) - ships and direct fleet support activities ashore;
  • Australian Naval Support Command (Commander: Commodore Geoff Geraghty CSM RAN) - responsible for:
    • Navy Personnel and Training
    • Navy Systems Branch - technical matters
    • Business Management;
    • Naval Certification, Safety and Acceptance Agency
    • Fleet Bases and Shore Establishments


To be completed

The colonial era

For most of the British colonial era of Australian history, after 1788, the British Royal Navy had control of Australian waters. From 1883, several small cruisers, torpedo-boats and gunboats were built by the various self-governing colonies, as the British presence was wound down.

Formation of the RAN, 1904-11

After Federation of the colonies, obsolete gunboats from their navies were assimilated into the Commonwealth Naval Forces, in 1904. They were assigned to protect harbours and coastal installations while the seaward, or blue water tasks were the responsibility of a Royal Navy squadron subsidised by the Australian Government. A growing number of people, among them Captain William Rooke Creswell, the director of the Commonwealth Naval Forces, demanded an autonomous Australian navy, financed and controlled by Australia. In 1909 Creswell represented Australia at the Imperial Conferences, convened to settle the question of naval defences, and won his campaign for an Australian Navy. His name lives on as the name of base, HMAS Creswell, the site of the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay.

The first Australian warship, the destroyer HMAS Parramatta, was launched at Govan in Scotland on Wednesday 9 February 1910 and its sister ship HMAS Yarra, was launched at Dumbarton in Scotland on Saturday 9 April 1910. Both ships were commissioned into the Royal Navy on Monday 19 September 1910 and sailed for Australia. They arrived at Port Phillip on Saturday December 10 1910 and, as they passed through The Rip, Engineer Lieutenant Commander W. Robertson, RN, was washed overboard from Parramatta and drowned.

In October 1911 King George V fixed his signature to the approval for the Royal Australian Navy and the ships now officially received the prefix "His Majesty's Australian Ship" (HMAS). The manpower of the fleet stood at four hundred officers and men and, for the next two years, ships were built for the fledgling navy. On Saturday 4 October 1913 the first fleet review of the Royal Australian Navy took place, the battle cruiser HMAS Australia, the cruisers HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Sydney, the protected cruiser HMAS Encounter and the torpedo boat destroyers HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Yarra and HMAS Warrego, entered Sydney Harbour to a tumultous welcome.

World War One

The Pacific campaign

The Sydney sinks Emden


The RAN in the Atlantic

The North Sea

Summary of RAN personnel in WW1


World War Two

"Scrap-Iron Flotilla": the RAN 1940-43

Early actions

Adelaide at Noumea; Bombardment of Bardia; East Africa

Battle of Calabria

Battle of Cape Spada (a.k.a. Battle of Cerigotto)



The Greek campaign

Battle of Cape Matapan

Later actions in the Mediterranean

Inc. the invasion of Sicily

German activity in Australian waters

The loss of HMAS Sydney

The Pacific War, 1942-45

Malaya & Singapore

Battle of the Java Sea

The Battle of Sunda Strait

Other losses in early 1942

Yarra; Vampire

Battle of the Coral Sea

Japanese submarines in Australian waters

The attack on Sydney Harbour

Guadalacanal campaign

Battle of Savo Island

Actions in the Arafura Sea

Bombardments in the Pacific theatre

Battle of Leyte Gulf

Battle of Surigao Strait

Later campaigns in the Pacific

Summary of RAN personnel in WW2

RAN reached its peak strength in July 1945: 39,650 personnel, including 2,617 WRANS and 57 nurses; 2,170 dead; awarded 502 medals/decorations.


Korean War


The RAN aircraft carriers

Malayan Emergency

Loss of the Voyager

Confrontation with Indonesia

Vietnam War

including Melbourne's collison with Frank E. Evans


Gulf War


Iraq War

Indonesian Earthquakes & Shark 02 crash

Missing image
Shark 02 discharging health care personnel arriving onboard HMAS Kanimbla for the Nias deployment.

The Navy deployed HMAS Kanimbla to assist with humanitarian efforts after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. On its way home, while in Singapore, the 2005 Sumatran earthquake occurred and Kanimbla was promptly deployed again. At about 0930UTC 2 April 2005, a Westland Sea King helicopter from one of Kanimbla known by its callsign, Shark 02 crashed on the island of Nias off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Nine ADF personnel were killed, and all of the navy's Sea King helicopters grounded pending an enquiry. Questions have been raised about the airworthiness of the helicopters, but the navy and government strongly denies that age is a problem. The enquiry continues...

Prominent former members of the RAN

See also

External links

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation


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