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.

Fleet Command
Country Australia
AllegianceAustralian Defence Force
Branch Royal Australian Navy
Garrison/HQHMAS Kuttabul, Sydney
Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead

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]

RankNamePostnominalsServiceTerm beganTerm ended
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Vice AdmiralSir George PateyKCMG, KCVORN23 June 191322 September 1916
Rear AdmiralSir William PakenhamKCB, MVORN23 September 19169 January 1917
Rear AdmiralArthur LevesonCBRN9 January 19173 September 1918
Rear AdmiralSir Lionel HalseyKCMG, CBRN4 September 191821 March 1919
Rear AdmiralJohn DumaresqCB, CVORN22 March 191929 April 1922
Rear AdmiralAlbert AddisonCMGRN30 April 192230 April 1924
CommodoreThomas WardleDSORN30 April 192430 April 1926
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
Rear AdmiralGeorge HydeCVO, CBERAN30 April 192617 May 1929
Rear AdmiralEdward EvansCB, DSORN17 May 192929 May 1931
CommodoreLeonard HolbrookMVORN29 May 19317 April 1932
Rear AdmiralRobin DalglishCBRN7 April 193219 April 1934
Rear AdmiralWilbraham FordCBRN19 April 193420 April 1936
Rear AdmiralRichard Lane-PooleCB, OBERN20 April 193621 April 1938
Rear AdmiralWilfred CustanceCBRN22 April 19382 September 1939
CommodoreWilfrid PattersonCVORN2 September 19391 November 1939
Rear AdmiralJohn CraceCBRN1 November 193913 June 1942
Rear AdmiralVictor CrutchleyVC, DSCRN13 June 194213 June 1944
CommodoreJohn CollinsCBRAN13 June 194427 October 1944
CaptainCharles NicholsMVORN27 October 19449 December 1944
CommodoreHarold FarncombCB, DSO, MVORAN9 December 194422 July 1945
CommodoreJohn CollinsCBRAN22 July 19459 November 1946
Rear AdmiralHarold FarncombCB, DSO, MVORAN9 November 19465 October 1949
Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet (FOCAF)
Rear AdmiralJohn EcclesCB, CBERN5 October 194910 October 1951
Rear AdmiralJohn EatonCB, DSO, DSCRN10 October 195117 December 1953
Rear AdmiralRoy DowlingCBE, DSORAN17 December 195323 February 1955
Rear AdmiralHenry BurrellCBERAN28 February 19557 June 1956
Rear AdmiralDavid HarriesCBERAN7 June 19567 January 1958
Rear AdmiralHenry BurrellCB, CBERAN7 January 195820 January 1959
Rear AdmiralGalfry GatacreDSO, DSC & BarRAN20 January 195922 December 1959
Rear AdmiralHastings HarringtonCB, CBE, DSORAN22 December 19598 January 1962
Rear AdmiralAlan McNicollCBE, GMRAN8 January 19626 January 1964
Rear AdmiralOtto BecherCBE, DSO, DSC & BarRAN6 January 196410 January 1965
Rear AdmiralThomas MorrisonCBE, DSCRAN10 January 196529 January 1966
Rear AdmiralVictor SmithCBE, DSCRAN29 January 196620 January 1967
Rear AdmiralRichard PeekOBE, DSCRAN20 January 196718 March 1968
Rear AdmiralGordon CrabbCBE, DSCRAN18 March 19686 January 1970
Rear AdmiralDavid StevensonCBERAN6 January 197014 April 1971
Rear AdmiralWilliam DoversCBE, DSCRAN14 April 197124 January 1972
Rear AdmiralDavid StevensonCBERAN24 January 19721 April 1972
Rear AdmiralWilliam DoversCBE, DSCRAN1 April 197223 January 1973
Rear AdmiralAnthony SynnotCBERAN23 January 19734 February 1974
Rear AdmiralDavid WellsCBERAN4 February 197417 November 1975
Rear AdmiralGeoffrey GladstoneAO, DSC & BarRAN17 November 197516 April 1977
Rear AdmiralNeil McDonaldAORAN16 April 19778 May 1978
Rear AdmiralJames WillisAORAN8 May 197812 April 1979
Rear AdmiralDavid LeachCBE, LVORAN12 April 197916 May 1980
Rear AdmiralPeter DoyleAO, OBERAN16 May 19801 June 1981
Rear AdmiralJohn StevensRAN1 June 198116 March 1982
Rear AdmiralMichael HudsonRAN15 March 198221 October 1983
Rear AdmiralGeoffrey WoolrychAORAN21 October 19833 May 1985
Rear AdmiralIan KnoxAORAN3 May 19856 January 1987
Rear AdmiralPeter SinclairAORAN6 January 19872 September 1988
Maritime Commander Australia (MCAUST)
Rear AdmiralPeter SinclairAORAN2 September 19886 January 1989
Rear AdmiralIan MacDougallRAN6 January 19899 July 1990
Rear AdmiralKen DoolanAORAN9 July 19907 November 1991
Rear AdmiralRobert WallsAORAN7 November 19919 December 1993
Rear AdmiralDonald ChalmersAORAN7 December 199313 April 1995
Rear AdmiralChris OxenbouldAORAN14 April 199511 February 1997
Rear AdmiralChris RitchieAMRAN11 February 199717 May 1999
Rear AdmiralJohn LordAMRAN18 May 199912 July 2000
Rear AdmiralGeoffrey SmithAMRAN12 July 200020 July 2002
Rear AdmiralRaydon GatesCSMRAN20 July 200228 June 2004
Rear AdmiralRowan MoffittAMRAN28 June 20044 July 2005
Rear AdmiralDavyd ThomasAM, CSCRAN4 July 20051 February 2007
Commander Australian Fleet (COMAUSFLT)
Rear AdmiralDavyd ThomasAM, CSCRAN1 February 2007July 2007
Rear AdmiralNigel CoatesAMRANJuly 20078 October 2009
Rear AdmiralSteve GilmoreAM, CSCRAN8 October 200921 December 2011
Rear AdmiralTim BarrettAO, CSCRAN22 December 201112 June 2014
Rear AdmiralStuart MayerAO, CSC & BarRAN12 June 201419 January 2018
Rear AdmiralJonathan MeadAMRAN19 January 2018Incumbent


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


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  2. "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. "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. "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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