The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces. Originally intended for local defence, the navy was granted the title of ‘Royal Australian Navy’ in 1911, and became increasingly responsible for defence of the region.

Today, the RAN consists of 47 commissioned vessels, 3 non-commissioned vessels and over 16,000 personnel. The navy is one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the South Pacific region, with a significant presence in the Indian Ocean and worldwide operations in support of military campaigns and peacekeeping missions. The current Chief of Navy is Vice Admiral Tim Barrett.

The Commonwealth Naval Forces were established on 1 March 1901, two months after the federation of Australia, when the naval forces of the separate Australian colonies were amalgamated. A period of uncertainty followed as the policy makers sought to determine the newly established force’s requirements and purpose, with the debate focusing upon whether Australia’s naval force would be structured mainly for local defence or whether it would be designed to serve as a fleet unit within a larger imperial force, controlled centrally by the British Admiralty. In 1908–09, the decision was made to pursue a compromise solution, and the Australian government agreed to establish a force that would be used for local defence but which would be capable of forming a fleet unit within the imperial naval strategy, albeit without central control. As a result, the navy’s force structure was set at “one battle cruiser, three light cruisers, six destroyers and three submarines”

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