The Royal Australian Navy is one of the three branches of Australia’s Defence Force. It is responsible for the defense of Australian waters and for participating in deployments elsewhere in the world, including UN operations.
The Royal Australian Navy has been involved in a number of different operations. The Navy captured many German colonies in the South Pacific during the First World War, when it was also responsible for protecting Australian ships. Some of the Australian Navy’s ships also joined the Royal Naval Forces in the North Sea and the Mediterranean.
The Royal Australian Navy diminished in size in the 1920s and 1930s, but the threat of the Second World War resulted in significant expansion and modernization. Some of its ships operated with the British Navy again during the Second World War. The Australian Navy took on a more independent role when Pacific War broke out and the Royal Navy’s Asian forces were almost completely destroyed. It also cooperated with the US Navy in this region. At the end of the Second World War, the Royal Australian Navy was the fifth largest of the world’s navies.
During the Second World War, the Royal Australian Navy had expanded significantly, acquiring a number of new large vessels and building numerous warships and patrol boats. Following the war, the Navy acquired its own aircraft carriers, but the last of these ended its service in 1982.
The Royal Australian Navy was reduced in size after the Second World War. It participated in a number of Cold War conflicts, operating together with the US Navy and the Royal Navy. More recently, the Royal Australian Navy has operated with the Coalition in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. It has also been involved in UN operations, notably those involving East Timor.
The modern Royal Australian Navy is one of the most sophisticated navies in the Pacific region. It plays a particularly significant role in the Indian Ocean. The Royal Australian Navy is also involved in various peacekeeping missions around the world.
The Naval headquarters is based in Canberra. It oversees the operation of the Navy as a whole. Two smaller commands are subordinate to the main headquarters: the Fleet Command, which is responsible for administration and implementing maritime operations, and the Systems Command, which oversees training and logistics. Beneath these subordinate commands, there are seven FEGs or Force Element Groups that constitute the Navy’s operational capability. The Navy uses two main bases, the eastern Fleet Base in Sydney and western Fleet Base in Perth. It also uses another three ports for its minor vessels, in Darwin, Sydney and Cairns.
The Royal Australian Navy has a fleet of 54 vessels, which include frigates, patrol boats and submarines as well as a number of auxiliary ships. The Navy has eight Anzac class frigates, four Adelaide class frigates, fourteen patrol boats of the Armidale class, six Huon class minehunters, six Collins class submarines, two amphibious transport vessels of the Kanimbla class, six Balikpapan class heavy landing craft, two survey ships of the Leeuwin class and four survey launches of the Paluma class. It also has a single heavy landing ship, the HMAS Tobruk, and two replenishment ships, the HMAS Success and the HMAS Sirius.
The Royal Australian Navy also has a Fleet Air Arm, which provides the Navy with its aviation capabilities. It is composed of three helicopter squadrons. The majority of the Navy’s larger ships can operate helicopters.
There are two teams of clearance divers in the Navy, one is based in New South Wales and the other is based in Western Australia. If divers are required for combat operations, a third diving team is created for the purpose. Clearance divers are responsible for maritime tactical operations, counter measures against mines and disposing of explosive ordinance.
The Commander in Chief of the Australian Defence Force is the representative of Queen Elizabeth II. The current commander is Governor General Quentin Bryce.
The Australian Defence Force is under the command of the Chief of the Defence Force. The current chief is Angus Houston.
The Royal Australian Navy is commanded by the Chief of Navy. The current commander is Vice Admiral Russell Crane.
The Royal Australian Navy is in the process of modernizing its equipment, with several important acquisitions currently taking place.
The Australian Navy is replacing its Seahawk helicopters with 24 new Naval Combat Helicopters. Two new Canberra Class warships are also being built. These will be some of the Navy’s largest warships. The Balikpapan class vessels are to be replaced with six new heavy landing craft. A support and replenishment vessel is currently being acquired to replace the HMAS Success. Three Hobart class Air Warfare destroyers have been commissioned, and the Navy may also acquire a fourth. The Navy’s four Adelaide class frigates and its Collins class submarines are also being upgraded.
Future acquisitions by the Navy will include twelve Future Submarines, eight Future Frigates, twenty Offshore Combatant Vessels, and a Strategic Sealift Vessel.
The Australian Navy has also set a recruitment goal of 2000 new personnel. This includes a target of 700 new apprentices. These recruits will provide personnel to crew the next generation of vessels, which are expected to join the Australian Navy during the next decade.