The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Established in 1901, the RAN is Australia’s senior Service, 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 continued to provide blue-water defence in the Pacific until World War II, when expansion of the RAN acquired aircraft carriers and other large surface vessels for blue-water operations.
Today the RAN is one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the Pacific region, with a significant presence in the Indian Ocean, having recently celebrated its centenary with a massive event on Sydney Harbour.
The RAN continues a high operational tempo in support of military campaigns and peacekeeping missions worldwide.
On the personnel front, the New Generation Navy (NGN) program was established in 2009 under a Chief of Navy Directive to address the Culture, Leadership and Structural changes required for Navy to meet the challenges of delivering future capability.
NGN represents the energy and commitment of Navy’s people in creating an environment where people are empowered to perform at their best; where Navy – as a warfighting force – is trusted to defend Australia and its interests by being ready to fight and win at sea.
The Commonwealth Naval Forces were established on 1 March 1901, two months after Federation. On 10 July 1911, King George V granted the title of ‘Royal Australian Navy’.
During World War I the RAN captured 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 in Asia the RAN increasingly operated independently or as part of US 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 US 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.
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:
– Surface Force, covering the RAN’s surface combatants (generally 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 termed the RAN’s “minor war vessels”
– Fleet Air Arm, responsible for the navy’s aviation assets.
The RAN fleet includies frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. The RAN today is tasked with the ability to defend Australian waters and undertake wider deployments.
The RAN has two primary bases for its fleet: Fleet Base East located at HMAS Kuttabul near Sydney, and Fleet Base West, located at HMAS Stirling near Perth.
There are three other ports, which are home to the majority of the RAN’s minor war vessels: HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin, HMAS Cairns in Cairns, HMAS Waterhen in Sydney.
The fleet is made up of 51 commissioned warships as of January 2013.
The main strength is the twelve frigates of the surface combatant force: eight Anzac class and four Adelaide class. Six Collins class boats make up the submarine service, although technical and manpower problems mean not all of the submarines are active at any time. Amphibious warfare assets include the dock landing ship HMAS Choules, the heavy landing ship HMAS Tobruk, and three Balikpapan class heavy landing craft. Fourteen Armidale class patrol boats perform coastal and economic exclusion zone patrols, and four Huon class vessels are used for minehunting and clearance (with another two commissioned but in reserve since October 2011). Replenishment at sea is provided by two ships, Sirius and Success, while the two Leeuwin class and four Paluma class vessels perform survey and charting.
The RAN also operates the sail training ship Young Endeavour, the support vessel ADV Ocean Shield, and two Bandicoot class minesweeper tugboats.
The Fleet Air Arm provides the RAN’s naval aviation capability – an entirely helicopter based force. Most of the Navy’s large ships are capable of operating helicopters, and frigates typically carry Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk.
RAN squadrons include:
– 723 Squadron – Aerospatiale AS 350BA Ecureuil (Squirrel) and Agusta A109E. The squadron is the Fleet Air Arm’s primary helicopter training unit.
– 808 Squadron – currently being formed to operate the RAN’s six MRH 90s.
– 816 Squadron – Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk, providing Seahawk helicopters for use aboard Adelaide and Anzac class frigates.
The RAN has two Clearance Diving Teams: Clearance Diving Team One based at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney and Clearance Diving Team Four based at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. The CDTs have two primary roles: Mine Counter Measures, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, plus Maritime Tactical Operations.
There are several major projects in progress that will upgrades the capabilities of the RAN:
– Sea 1390 Project will upgrade four Adelaide class guided missile frigates with enhanced weapons and electronics.
– Sea 1654 Project will upgrade the RAN’s replenishment and support vessels.
– Sea 4000 Project will acquire three Air Warfare Destroyers based on the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán class frigate, an Aegis-equipped class.
– Two (27000+ tonne displacement) Canberra class Landing Helicopter Docks (the largest warships ever operated by the RAN).
– Sea 1000 to replace the current Collins class submarine.
The RAN maintains a readiness to deploy overseas in response to Australian Government tasking, to support coalition operations and humanitarian assist activities.