Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service is the collective name of the submarine element of the Royal Australian Navy. The service currently forms the Navy's Submarine Force Element Group (FEG) and consists of six Collins class submarines.

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service has been established four times, with the initial three attempts being foiled by combat losses and Australia's economic problems. The modern Submarine Service was established in 1964, and has formed an important element of the Australian military's capacity since that date. While the Submarine Service has not seen combat since World War I, Australian submarines have conducted extensive surveillance operations throughout South East Asia.

The current Director General Submarine Capability is Commodore G.J. Sammut, CSC, RAN.

Ship's badge of the RAN Submarine Service


The Royal Australian Navy's submarine service has been established four times since 1914.[1]

1914 to 1945

After the formation of the navy upon Federation, a period of uncertainty had followed as the size of the force to be established was determined. Eventually, this was set at 13 vessels, including three submarines.[2] Initially, it had been intended to purchase three small submarines, but this order was later changed,[3] and instead Australia's first submarines were the larger British E class submarines AE1 and AE2. These submarines were built in Britain and arrived in Australia in 1914. Following the outbreak of World War I, both boats took part in the occupation of Rabaul in German New Guinea in September 1914. During this operation, AE1 disappeared on 14 September off Cape Gazelle, New Britain with the cause unknown. Its whereabouts was a mystery until it was located by searchers southeast of the Duke of York Islands on 20 December 2017.[4]

AE2 (AWM H17538)

AE2 remained in the South Pacific until December 1914, when she was ordered to the Mediterranean to support the British-led operations off the Galipoli peninsula in Turkey. AE2 was the first British submarine to penetrate the Dardanelles, achieving this task on 25 April 1915. AE2 operated in the Sea of Marmora for five days and made four unsuccessful attacks on Turkish ships before being damaged by a Turkish gunboat and scuttled by her crew on 30 April. These attacks are the only occasions an Australian submarine has fired in anger.[5]

Platypus (AWM P00444 060)
HMAS Platypus with all six J Class submarines

The Australian submarine service was reformed in 1919, when the British government transferred six J Class submarines to Australia; HMA Submarines J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, and J7. These submarines arrived in Australia with their tender HMAS Platypus in April 1919 and were based at Osborne House, Geelong from early 1920. The boats were in poor mechanical condition, however, and spent most of their service in refit. Due to Australia's worsening economic situation, all of the boats were decommissioned in 1922, and were scuttled later in the decade.[1]

The Australian submarine service was established a third time in 1927, when the British O Class submarines HMAS Oxley and HMAS Otway were commissioned. These submarines sailed from Portsmouth for Sydney on 8 February 1928, but did not arrive in Australia until 14 February 1929; numerous mechanical problems delayed their delivery voyage.[6][7] Due to Australia's poor economic situation, the O Class boats proved to be unaffordable and were placed in reserve in 1930, before transferring back to the Royal Navy in 1931. As a result, the Royal Australian Navy did not operate any submarines during World War II, though the obsolete Dutch submarine K.IX was commissioned as HMAS K9 on 22 June 1943 and was used for anti-submarine warfare training purposes.[8] Due to the boat's poor mechanical condition HMAS K9 saw little service with the RAN and spent most of her time in commission under repair, before being decommissioned on 31 March 1944 due to a lack of spare parts.[9]

O Class (AWM 301134)
HMAS Oxley and Otway

The Australian ports of Fremantle and Brisbane were important bases for Allied submarines during World War II. A total of 122 United States Navy, 31 Royal Navy, and 11 Royal Netherlands Navy submarines conducted patrols from Australian bases between 1942 and 1945. Fremantle was the second largest Allied submarine base in the Pacific Theatre after Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.[10]

1945 to present

Following World War II the Royal Navy's 4th Submarine Flotilla was based in Sydney from 1949 until 1969. The flotilla, which varied in size between two and three boats, was used to support the Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy in anti-submarine warfare training, with the operating cost split between the two nations. In the early 1960s, the British Government advised the Australian Government that reductions in the Royal Navy conventional submarine force meant that the 4th Flotilla was to return to the United Kingdom. The impending withdrawal of the British submarine flotilla sparked the fourth attempt to establish an Australian submarine service. While the Department of Defence advised the government that three to six submarines should be purchased for training purposes, following the intervention of then-Senator John Gorton the Government instead approved the purchase of eight submarines to form a submarine strike force. Eight British Oberon class submarines were ordered in 1964, to be built in Scotland in two batches of four boats. Only six boats were delivered; the seventh and eighth were cancelled in 1971 to fund the acquisition of ten A-4 Skyhawk aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm.[11] The final Royal Navy submarine to be based in Australia, HMS Trump, was withdrawn in 1969.[3]

HMAS Onslow in 1998

The first Australian Oberon class submarine, HMAS Oxley, was commissioned on 21 March 1967. She was followed by her sister ships; Otway (1968), Ovens (1969), Onslow (1969), Orion (1977), and Otama (1978). Orion and Otama were more capable than the previous four boats, as they were fitted with advanced communications monitoring equipment.[12] All of the Oberon class submarines were based at HMAS Platypus, on Sydney Harbour. The Oberons proved very successful and saw extensive service during the last decades of the Cold War. This service included conducting risky surveillance missions against India and Communist nations in South East Asia.[13] These missions were cancelled in 1992 when an Australian submarine, believed to be Otama, became tangled in fishing nets and was forced to surface in the South China Sea.[14][Note 1] The Oberon class regularly conducted exercises with the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and to a lesser extent the 1st Commando Regiment and the Clearance Diving Branch.[16] In 1980, the SAS was tasked to develop a maritime counter terrorist capability together with the clearance divers and conducted the first ever swimmer release from a submerged Australian submarine.[17][18] Onslow was fitted with a four-man diving chamber for exit and reentry of SAS swimmers.[19] As part of the Government's Two Ocean Navy policy submarines were homeported at HMAS Stirling in West Australia from 1987 and the headquarters of the Australian Submarine Squadron moved to HMAS Stirling in 1994.[1] The Oberon class boats were gradually decommissioned and replaced with new Collins class submarines during the 1990s. The final Oberon class boat, HMAS Otama, was decommissioned on 15 December 2000.[20]

The six Collins class submarines were the first Australian-built submarines, and the most expensive ships to have been built in Australia. The Collins class submarines were built by the Australian Submarine Corporation at Adelaide, South Australia and entered service between 1996 and 2003 following extensive trials and modifications to the early boats in the class. The dedicated trials and submarine rescue ship HMAS Protector supported these trials between 1992 and 1998. Tests conducted on HMAS Collins after she was provisionally commissioned in 1996 revealed serious shortcomings in the submarine's performance, including excessive hull noise and an ineffective combat system. These problems were subsequently rectified. The second boat commissioned was Farncomb (1998) followed by Waller (1999), Dechaineux (2001), Sheean (2001) and Rankin (2003). The Collins class submarines currently rank among the most effective conventional submarines in the world.[21]

Like the Oberon class, the Collins-class submarines have conducted surveillance patrols. In 1999, it was reported that Waller and a second boat operated in support of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) providing escorts for transport ships, monitoring Indonesian communications, inserting special forces and had been collecting intelligence on East Timor for months.[22][23] A submarine, possibly Waller, reportedly inserted Navy clearance divers into the Oecussi Enclave to conduct a covert beach reconnaissance ahead of an amphibious landing on 22 October 1999.[24] Two boats Collins and Dechaineux received the special forces upgrade providing the capability whilst submerged to release several swimmers and for their reentry, filling a capability gap the former Oberon-class boat Onslow had provided.[25] While the Collins class submarines' performance has improved over time, their maximum diving depth was permanently reduced following the near-loss of Dechaineux when a pipe burst during a practice dive in February 2003.[26]

In 1998, the Royal Australian Navy became the fourth Navy in the world to permit women to serve on board submarines. The first female submariners began their training at the Submarine Training and Systems Centre in June 1998.[27]

The Submarine Service today

HMAS Sheean 01 gnangarra
HMAS Sheean (front left) and HMAS Collins (front right) at HMAS Stirling in 2006

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Force Element Group Headquarters, and all six of the Collins Class submarines, are at HMAS Stirling located in Rockingham, Western Australia. The majority of the Navy's submarine support facilities are also located at HMAS Stirling, including the Submarine Escape Training Facility. The LR5 submersible, which is contracted to provide the RAN's submarine rescue capability, has been based at nearby Henderson, Western Australia since June 2009.[28]

Under current Royal Australian Navy doctrine, the Submarine Service has the following responsibilities:[29]

  • intelligence collection and surveillance;
  • maritime strike and interdiction;
  • barrier operations;
  • advanced force operations;
  • layered defence;
  • interdiction of shipping;
  • containment by distraction; and
  • support to operations on land

In early 2007, it was reported that Submarine Service was experiencing severe shortfalls in personnel and had only 70% of its authorised strength of 500 sailors. These shortfalls were reported to have reduced the service's operational readiness and forced HMAS Collins to be temporarily withdrawn from service.[30]

Future submarines

The Collins class submarines will begin to reach the end of their useful life from 2026.[31] In order to meet the in-service date of 2026, advanced design work on the next generation of Australian submarines will begin by 2014–15. At this very early stage, it appears probable that the submarines will be Australian-built conventional submarines equipped with air independent propulsion and advanced combat and communications systems.[32]

Dolphin badge

Australian sailors who qualify as submariners are awarded a badge depicting two dolphins and a crown. This badge (known as a sailor's 'dolphins') was designed by Commander Alan McIntosh RAN, and was introduced in 1966; a similar badge was adopted by the Royal Navy Submarine Service in 1972.[33]

See also



  1. ^ According to one source Australian submarines are reported to have conducted approximately 20 such patrols between 1977 to 1992.[15]


  1. ^ a b c "A Brief History of the Royal Australian Navy's Submarine Service". Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 22 July 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  2. ^ Whitley 2000, p. 17.
  3. ^ a b Gillett & Graham 1977, p. 193.
  4. ^ "HMAS AE1 World War I submarine found after century-long search". ABC News. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  5. ^ Jose 1941, pp. 240–248.
  6. ^ John Davison and Tom Allibone (2005). Beneath Southern Seas: The Silent Service. University of Western Australia Press. p. 126.
  7. ^ Sears, in The Navy and the Nation, p. 86
  8. ^ "The Pioneers". Submarines Association of Australia. Archived from the original on 9 December 2006.
  9. ^ Carruthers 2006, p. 151.
  10. ^ Davison and Allibone (2005). p. 219.
  11. ^ Cooper, in The Royal Australian Navy, p. 194
  12. ^ White, Australian submarines, pp 191–200.
  13. ^ 'Cat and Mouse' in Reveille, September/October 2006.
  14. ^ Undersea missions to surface. The Daily Telegraph, 7 September 2006.
  15. ^ Barker, Geoffrey (19 October 2013). "Cold War exploits of Australia's secret submarines". The Australian. ISSN 1038-8761. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  16. ^ Patrick 2014, p. 37.
  17. ^ Linton & Donohue 2015, pp. 285–286.
  18. ^ Expert Panel to Review SAS Veterans' Health Concerns 2003, pp. 73–74.
  19. ^ Shaw, HMAS Onslow, p. 10
  20. ^ Australian Submarines Association, The Oberon Era
  21. ^ Frame, No Pleasure Cruise, pp. 284–285.
  22. ^ Hyland, Arms race' leaving our subs all at sea
  23. ^ Paul Daley Terms of Engagement. The Age 29 August 2000.
  24. ^ Farrell, Peacemakers, p. 66.
  25. ^ Australian National Audit Office, "2014–15 major projects report : Department of Defence"
  26. ^ Navy forced to reduce subs' diving depth. The Age 23 July 2005.
  27. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library E-Brief Women in the armed forces: the role of women in the Australian Defence Force Archived 7 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Fish, Tim; Scott, Richard (17 June 2009). "LR5 sub rescue system moves Down Under". Jane's Navy International. IHS (Global) Limited. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  29. ^ Seapower Centre – Australia. Navy Contribution to Australian Maritime Operations Archived 26 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Walters, Patrick. "Higher pay for sailors in subs". The Australian.
  31. ^ Submarine Institute of Australia. Australia’s Future Underwater Warfare Capability – Project SM 2020
  32. ^ Patrick Walters (2006). Cutting Edge: The Collins experance. Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra. pp. 10–11.
  33. ^ Seal 2013, pp. 4-5.


Fleet Base East

The Fleet Base East is a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) major fleet base that comprises several naval establishments and facilities clustered around Sydney Harbour, centred on HMAS Kuttabul. The Fleet Base East extends beyond the borders of Kuttabul and includes the commercially-operated dockyard at Garden Island, and adjacent wharf facilities at nearby Woolloomooloo, east of the Sydney central business district in New South Wales, Australia. Fleet Base East is one of two major facilities of the RAN, the other facility being the Fleet Base West.

Confusingly, naval personnel often use the term Fleet Base East to mean the naval wharves at Garden Island where ships assigned to the Fleet Base usually berth but the official designation includes several other bases and facilities as well.

Fleet Command (Australia)

Fleet Command is responsible for the command, operations, readiness, training and force generation of all ships, submarines, aircraft squadrons, diving teams, and shore establishments of the Royal Australian Navy. Fleet Command is headquartered at HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney, and is led by the Commander Australian Fleet (COMAUSFLT), also referred to as Fleet Commander Australia (FCAUST), which is a rear admiral (two-star) appointment.

The position of Commander Australian Fleet was established in 2007. The previous positions since 1913 were:

Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Fleet (1913–1926),

Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron (1926–1949),

Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet (1949–1988, regularly abbreviated as FOCAF), and

Maritime Commander Australia (1988–2007 – MCAUST).(I)

Force Element Group

The Force Element Groups (FEGs) of the Australian Defence Force are the operational capabilities.

Capabilities are formed into Force Elements (FE), which in turn are aggregated into Force Element Groups (FEG). Each capability is assigned a level of operational readiness. The level of capability maintained by an FE or FEG should be consistent with its assigned readiness notice and depends on the availability of trained personnel, the availability of major platforms, combat systems and supplies, and the standard of collective training.Each of the component commands has a set of FEGs. The FEG operational commanders report to the component commanders (COMAUSFLT/CFC/ACAUST), who in turn report to the operation's Task Force commander. The FEG commanders are either of Captain (naval)/Colonel/Group Captain rank, or one-star rank for larger FEGs (Commodore/Brigadier/Air Commodore). The component commanders are of two-star rank (Rear Admiral/Major General/Air Vice Marshal).

HMAS Platypus (1917)

HMAS Platypus was a submarine depot ship and base ship operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) between 1919 and 1946. Ordered prior to World War I to support the Australian submarines AE1 and AE2, Platypus was not completed until after both submarines had been lost, and she was commissioned into the Royal Navy from 1917 to 1919.

After the RAN acquired six J class submarines, Platypus was recommissioned as an Australian warship. She was repurposed as a destroyer tender after the J class was removed from service in the 1920s, tasked with supporting the two O class submarines during 1929 and 1930. After the submarines were placed in reserve, Platypus was renamed HMAS Penguin and operated as a depot ship until 1941. The ship assumed her old name and was relocated to Darwin, then Cairns for use as a base ship. After a refit in 1944, Platypus operated as a repair vessel in New Guinea waters until she was placed into reserve in 1946.

Platypus was sold for scrap in 1958.

HMAS Platypus (naval base)

HMAS Platypus is a former Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submarine base, located at 118 High Street, North Sydney with moorings in Neutral Bay, a suburb of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. It was located upon the site of the Royal Australian Navy Torpedo Maintenance Establishment (RANTME). The Fleet Intermediate Maintenance Activity (FIMA) Workshops building on the site was originally used for torpedo assembly and storage during World War 2. It was later modified for submarine maintenance and repair, with a steel tower added to the northern end of the building for testing, cleaning and maintenance of periscopes.

HMAS Rankin (SSG 78)

HMAS Rankin is the sixth and final submarine of the Collins class, which are operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Named for Lieutenant Commander Robert William Rankin, the boat was laid down in 1995, and commissioned into the RAN in March 2003, following major delays.

Early in her career, Rankin was the subject of a documentary series and a coffee table book. She was the first submarine since 1987 to be awarded the Gloucester Cup.

HMAS Stirling

HMAS Stirling is a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base that is part of Fleet Base West situated on the west coast of Australia. The base is located on Garden Island in the state of Western Australia, near the city of Perth. Garden Island also has its own military airport on the island (ICAO: YGAD). HMAS Stirling is currently under the command of Captain Brian Delamont, RAN.


Hedemora is a town in Dalarna County and the seat of Hedemora Municipality, Sweden, with 7,273 inhabitants in 2010.Despite its small population, Hedemora is for historical reasons normally still referred to as a city, and as such the oldest in the county.Jonas Nilsson comes from Hedemora, as well as Kerstin Thorborg, Martin Matsbo, Bertil Norman and Ulf Stenlund. The diesel engines from Hedemora Diesel can be found in many ships built by Kockums, such as HSwMS Orion, the Collins class submarines in the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service and the Archer class submarines in the Republic of Singapore Navy.

Osborne House (Geelong)

Osborne House is a historic building built in 1858, located in North Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

Perth Canyon

Perth Canyon is a submarine canyon located on the edge of the continental shelf off the coast of Perth, Western Australia, approximately 22 kilometres (14 mi) west of Rottnest Island. It was carved by the Swan River, probably before the Tertiary, when this part of the continental shelf was above sea level. It is an average of 1.5 kilometres (5,000 ft) deep and 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) across, making it similar in dimension to the Grand Canyon.It occupies an area of 2,900 square kilometres (1,100 sq mi) and ranges in depth from 700 to 4,000 metres (2,300 to 13,100 ft). Within a few kilometres its depth drops from 200 metres (660 ft) down to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), and then it continues as a deep gully all the way out to the 4,000-metre (13,000 ft) depth, which is about another 30 kilometres (20 mi) farther west. It contains the world’s largest plunge pool—a depression in the canyon that is 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) across, and 300 metres (980 ft) deep. The canyon is considered "a perfect spot" for deep sea fishing.

The Perth Canyon is a feeding ground for pygmy blue whales, especially at the rims of the abyss. It is also a training ground for the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service, stationed at a naval base at nearby Garden Island.

In June 2006 the waters around the Perth Canyon were the site of an ocean vortex 200 kilometres (120 mi) in diameter and 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) deep. It was visible from space, and scientists claimed at the time that it had the potential to affect the local climate and the climate further abroad. The vortex was described by scientists as a marine "death trap", as it sucked in fish larvae.

Royal Australian Navy

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, called 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.

Britain's Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron was assigned to the Australia Station and provided support to the RAN. The Australian and New Zealand governments helped to fund the Australian Squadron until 1913, while the Admiralty committed itself to keeping the Squadron at a constant strength. The Australian Squadron ceased on 4 October 1913, when RAN ships entered Sydney Harbour for the first time.The Royal Navy continued to provide blue-water defence capability in the Pacific up to the early years of the Second World War. Then, rapid wartime expansion saw the acquisition of large surface vessels and the building of many smaller warships. In the decade following the war, the RAN acquired a small number of aircraft carriers, the last of which was decommissioned in 1982.

Today, the RAN consists of 48 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 Michael Noonan.

Submarine Service

A Submarine Service is the branch of a navy responsible for operating submarines.

Argentine Submarine Force

Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service

Royal Navy Submarine Service

Royal Netherlands Navy Submarine Service

People's Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force

United States Navy

Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet

Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Submarine Warfare insignia

The Submarine Warfare Insignia (usually known as "dolphins" or "fish") are worn by qualified submariners.

Submarines of the Royal Australian Navy
Attack class
Collins class
Oberon class
Odin class
J class
E class
Other submarines
Bases and tenders
Ships and

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.