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Fleet Command (Australia)

Fleet Command
AllegianceAustralian Defence Force
BranchRoyal Australian Navy
Garrison/HQHMAS Kuttabul, Sydney
Rear Admiral Christopher Smith

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)


Prior to 1913, all naval activities and forces in Australian waters were controlled by the British Royal Navy. In 1859, Australia Station was established as a separate command of the Royal Navy, responsible for all the waters around the Australian continent, in addition to the British and Australian colonial possessions in the South Pacific. It was at this stage that the forerunner of Commander Australian Fleet, Officer Commanding Imperial Squadron Australian Station, was created. Between the Federation of Australia and formation of the Commonwealth Naval Forces in 1901 to the year of 1913, the Royal Navy began a process of transferring all command responsibility in Australian waters over to the Australian Government, as well as replacing equipment and personnel with Australian variants. The Commonwealth Naval Forces were renamed to Royal Australian Navy in 1911. With the transfer complete in 1913, the position of Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Fleet was formed, with control over all naval combat operations and forces; the post was renamed Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron in 1926. Despite this position being a command of the RAN, the majority of occupants were Royal Navy officers attached to, or on loan to, the RAN.[1][2]

In 1949, Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron was redesignated Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet. This was followed by a renaming to Maritime Commander Australia in 1988, and more recently to Commander Australian Fleet in 2007.[1][3] Throughout its existence, the command has administered Australian naval forces as they have been deployed for duty in the First World War, Second World War, Malayan Emergency, Korean War, Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam War, Operation Navy Help Darwin (1974–75), the Gulf War, War in Afghanistan and Iraq War, in addition to peacekeeping operations. The rank associated with this position today is rear admiral, however some of the earlier appointees held a different rank.[1][2]

During the East Timor operations of 1999–2000, the then Maritime Commander Australia held the Task force designator Commander Task Force 627.[4]

Command and staff

The Fleet Command is led by the Commander Australian Fleet who has overall command of the Fleet and supported by the Director-General Maritime Operations and the Commodore Warfare who have delegated responsibilities for operational command and maritime warfare alongside the Chief of Joint Operations. The principal role of the Fleet Command is to "plan, prepare for, and conduct maritime operations for the protection and promotion of Australia's security and interests". With this directive, the operations carried out or planned by the Commander Australian Fleet or the delegated command staff fall into three distinct categories: defence of sovereign territory, protection of overseas trade and offshore resources, and contingencies.[5]

Commander Australian Fleet

The Fleet Commander is the chief maritime and amphibious operations advisor to the Chief of Navy. The Chief of Navy delegates full command of ships, submarines, aircraft squadrons, diving teams and shore establishments of the Royal Australian Navy to the Fleet Commander. The Fleet Commander is also responsible for overseeing the training, readiness, maintenance, capabilities management and force generation of the Fleet.[6]

The Fleet Commander delegates the management of naval bases and operational command of Fleet units to force commanders. The Fleet Commander delegates operational control of fleet units to the Director General Maritime Operations and tactical command to the Director General Maritime Operations, the Commodore Warfare, tactical warfare commander, or a task group commander. Unless the Chief of the Defence Force directs the Chief of Navy to assign specific forces to the Joint Operations Command for joint or multinational operations, the Fleet Commander retains control of fleet forces.[7]

Director-General Maritime Operations

The Director-General Maritime Operations (DGMAROPS) is the deputy to the Fleet Commander located within the Headquarters Joint Operations Command. The Director-General Maritime Operations is responsible for providing advice on the preparedness and readiness of the Fleet Command and for the operational control and tactical command of delegated fleet force elements and all Royal Australian Navy units at sea and on "routine activities". The Director-General Maritime Operations is also the Navy Submarine Operating Authority and in charge of the Navy Activity Schedule.[8]

The Director-General Maritime Operations also oversees the Maritime Operations Centre within the Headquarters Joint Operations Command. The Maritime Operations Centre is responsible for the coordination of all maritime operations of units of the Fleet Command outside of Joint Task Forces.[8]

Commodore Flotillas

The Fleet Commander's seagoing subordinate is Commodore Flotillas (COMFLOT), a position established by that name, and previously known as Commodore Warfare (between 2011 and 2018). In 2018, the name was reverted to COMFLOT under the direction of Commander Australian Fleet.[9] The Commodore Flotillas oversees the Australian Fleet Battle Staff and the Australian Maritime Warfare Centre and is responsible for maritime warfare capability management and force generation.[8]

Australian Fleet Battle Staff

The Australian Fleet Battle Staff is the naval staff of the Royal Australian Navy responsible for the command of multinational maritime warfare task groups and the tactical maritime expertise advice to the Australian Defence Force. The Staff also provides sea control operational planning with input from Fleet Forces. Members of the Australian Fleet Battle Staff serve afloat or ashore during maritime operations.[10]

Australian Maritime Warfare Centre

The Australian Maritime Warfare Centre develops maritime warfare policy and formulates joint doctrine and tactics for the Royal Australian Navy. The centre also provides operational analysis to the Defence Science and Technology Group and other analytical capabilities for the Commodore Warfare.

Fleet Forces

The operational command of the Force Element Groups of the Fleet Command are delegated from the Fleet Commander to the respective force commanders. The force commanders are responsible for the policy development, administrative management, operational capability, and force generation of all units and personnel of their respective fleet force. The Director-General Maritime Operations will have operational control of the fleet forces when required for deployed operations.[6][8]

Surface Force

The Commander Surface Force oversees the capability management of the destroyers, frigates, and support vessels of the Royal Australian Navy.

Submarine Force

The Commander Submarine Force is charged with the responsibility of the operations of the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service alongside the Navy Strategic Command's Director-General Submarine Capability.

Fleet Air Arm

The Commander Fleet Air Arm is in charge of the operational management and airworthiness capabilities of Royal Australian Navy aviation.

Mine Warfare, Hydrographic and Patrol Forces

The Commander Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological and Patrol Forces is responsible for the operational capability and logistical management of the mine warfare forces, patrol forces, Clearance Diving Branch, the Australian Hydrographic Service of the Royal Australian Navy.

Shore Force

The Commander Shore Force is responsible for the shore capabilities and naval facilities including the maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure, properties and ports of the Royal Australian Navy in accordance with seaworthiness requirements. The Shore Force also provides naval policy input to the Defence Estate and Infrastructure Group on matters of preparedness and garrison support.

Information Warfare Force

The Commander Information Warfare Force is in charge of the information warfare, signals intelligence and imagery intelligence capabilities of the Royal Australian Navy. The Information Warfare Force was established in 2015 through the amalgamation of five Navy Imagery Units, the Navy Tactical Data Link Organisation, the Maritime Data Correlation Centre, the Maritime Intelligence Support Centre, the Directorate of Maritime Command, Control, Communications and Computers and Electronic Warfare, and the Fleet Information and Communications Technology Support Teams.[11]

List of Commanders Australian Fleet

The following list chronologically records those who have held the post of Commander Australian Fleet or its preceding positions. However, the position of Officers Commanding Imperial Squadron Australian Station (1859–1913) is not included in this list as it was administered as a command of the Royal Navy, and existed before the formation of the Royal Australian Navy. The official title of the commander at that period of time is listed immediately before the officers who held that role. The rank and honours are as at the completion of the commander's term.[1][12][13]

Rank Name Postnominals Service Term began Term ended
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Vice Admiral Sir George Patey KCMG, KCVO RN 23 June 1913 22 September 1916
Rear Admiral Sir William Pakenham KCB, MVO RN 23 September 1916 9 January 1917
Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson CB RN 9 January 1917 3 September 1918
Rear Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey KCMG, CB RN 4 September 1918 21 March 1919
Rear Admiral John Dumaresq CB, CVO RN 22 March 1919 29 April 1922
Rear Admiral Albert Addison CMG RN 30 April 1922 30 April 1924
Commodore Thomas Wardle DSO RN 30 April 1924 30 April 1926
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
Rear Admiral George Hyde CVO, CBE RAN 30 April 1926 17 May 1929
Rear Admiral Edward Evans CB, DSO RN 17 May 1929 29 May 1931
Commodore Leonard Holbrook MVO RN 29 May 1931 7 April 1932
Rear Admiral Robin Dalglish CB RN 7 April 1932 19 April 1934
Rear Admiral Wilbraham Ford CB RN 19 April 1934 20 April 1936
Rear Admiral Richard Lane-Poole CB, OBE RN 20 April 1936 21 April 1938
Rear Admiral Wilfred Custance CB RN 22 April 1938 2 September 1939
Commodore Wilfrid Patterson CVO RN 2 September 1939 1 November 1939
Rear Admiral John Crace CB RN 1 November 1939 13 June 1942
Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley VC, DSC RN 13 June 1942 13 June 1944
Commodore John Collins CB RAN 13 June 1944 27 October 1944
Captain Charles Nichols MVO RN 27 October 1944 9 December 1944
Commodore Harold Farncomb CB, DSO, MVO RAN 9 December 1944 22 July 1945
Commodore John Collins CB RAN 22 July 1945 9 November 1946
Rear Admiral Harold Farncomb CB, DSO, MVO RAN 9 November 1946 5 October 1949
Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet (FOCAF)
Rear Admiral John Eccles CB, CBE RN 5 October 1949 10 October 1951
Rear Admiral John Eaton CB, DSO, DSC RN 10 October 1951 17 December 1953
Rear Admiral Roy Dowling CBE, DSO RAN 17 December 1953 23 February 1955
Rear Admiral Henry Burrell CBE RAN 28 February 1955 7 June 1956
Rear Admiral David Harries CBE RAN 7 June 1956 7 January 1958
Rear Admiral Henry Burrell CB, CBE RAN 7 January 1958 20 January 1959
Rear Admiral Galfry Gatacre DSO, DSC & Bar RAN 20 January 1959 22 December 1959
Rear Admiral Hastings Harrington CB, CBE, DSO RAN 22 December 1959 8 January 1962
Rear Admiral Alan McNicoll CBE, GM RAN 8 January 1962 6 January 1964
Rear Admiral Otto Becher CBE, DSO, DSC & Bar RAN 6 January 1964 10 January 1965
Rear Admiral Thomas Morrison CBE, DSC RAN 10 January 1965 29 January 1966
Rear Admiral Victor Smith CBE, DSC RAN 29 January 1966 20 January 1967
Rear Admiral Richard Peek OBE, DSC RAN 20 January 1967 18 March 1968
Rear Admiral Gordon Crabb CBE, DSC RAN 18 March 1968 6 January 1970
Rear Admiral David Stevenson CBE RAN 6 January 1970 14 April 1971
Rear Admiral William Dovers CBE, DSC RAN 14 April 1971 24 January 1972
Rear Admiral David Stevenson CBE RAN 24 January 1972 1 April 1972
Rear Admiral William Dovers CBE, DSC RAN 1 April 1972 23 January 1973
Rear Admiral Anthony Synnot CBE RAN 23 January 1973 4 February 1974
Rear Admiral David Wells CBE RAN 4 February 1974 17 November 1975
Rear Admiral Geoffrey Gladstone AO, DSC & Bar RAN 17 November 1975 16 April 1977
Rear Admiral Neil McDonald AO RAN 16 April 1977 8 May 1978
Rear Admiral James Willis AO RAN 8 May 1978 12 April 1979
Rear Admiral David Leach CBE, LVO RAN 12 April 1979 16 May 1980
Rear Admiral Peter Doyle AO, OBE RAN 16 May 1980 1 June 1981
Rear Admiral John Stevens RAN 1 June 1981 16 March 1982
Rear Admiral Michael Hudson RAN 15 March 1982 21 October 1983
Rear Admiral Geoffrey Woolrych AO RAN 21 October 1983 3 May 1985
Rear Admiral Ian Knox AO RAN 3 May 1985 6 January 1987
Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair AO RAN 6 January 1987 2 September 1988
Maritime Commander Australia (MCAUST)
Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair AO RAN 2 September 1988 6 January 1989
Rear Admiral Ian MacDougall RAN 6 January 1989 9 July 1990
Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO RAN 9 July 1990 7 November 1991
Rear Admiral Robert Walls AO RAN 7 November 1991 9 December 1993
Rear Admiral Donald Chalmers AO RAN 7 December 1993 13 April 1995
Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould AO RAN 14 April 1995 11 February 1997
Rear Admiral Chris Ritchie AM RAN 11 February 1997 17 May 1999
Rear Admiral John Lord AM RAN 18 May 1999 12 July 2000
Rear Admiral Geoffrey Smith AM RAN 12 July 2000 20 July 2002
Rear Admiral Raydon Gates CSM RAN 20 July 2002 28 June 2004
Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt AM RAN 28 June 2004 4 July 2005
Rear Admiral Davyd Thomas AM, CSC RAN 4 July 2005 1 February 2007
Commander Australian Fleet (COMAUSFLT)
Rear Admiral Davyd Thomas AM, CSC RAN 1 February 2007 July 2007
Rear Admiral Nigel Coates AM RAN July 2007 8 October 2009
Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore AM, CSC RAN 8 October 2009 21 December 2011
Rear Admiral Tim Barrett AO, CSC RAN 22 December 2011 12 June 2014
Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer AO, CSC & Bar RAN 12 June 2014 19 January 2018
Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead AO RAN 19 January 2018 17 November 2020
Rear Admiral Mark Hammond AM RAN 17 November 2020 28 June 2022
Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley CSC RAN 28 June 2022 16 December 2022
Rear Admiral Christopher Smith AM, CSM RAN 16 December 2022 Incumbent


^(I) "HM" (His/Her Majesty's) is not always included when referring to these titles.


  1. ^ a b c d Gilbert, Gregory P. (2006). Australian Naval Personalities: Lives From the Australian Dictionary of Biography (PDF). Canberra, Australia: Sea Power Centre. ISBN 0-642-29636-7.
  2. ^ a b "The RAN – A Brief History". History. Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  3. ^ "Top Stories – Fleet Command now launched". Navy News. Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  4. ^ David Stevens, 'Strength Through Diversity: The Combined Naval Role in Operation Stabilise', Sea Power Centre – Australia Working Paper No. 20
  5. ^ "Fleet Headquarters". Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 20 September 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Commander Australian Fleet". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Senior Leadership Group". Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 14 May 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d "Fleet Command". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  9. ^ "New Position Established" (PDF). Navy News. 24 November 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  10. ^ Seibel, Jamie (14 July 2015). "The U.S. and Australia Team Up as a Combined Task Force During Talisman Sabre". Navy News. United States Navy. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  11. ^ Slatter, Harley (10 August 2017). "Information Warfare Force established". Navy Daily. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Rear Admiral Nigel Coates". Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 10 October 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  13. ^ "Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore". Defence Leaders: Navy. Department of Defence. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
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Fleet Command (Australia)
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