DPG Policy Brief

The Future of Australia's Surface Fleet

Date: March 19, 2024
Finding that the Royal Australian Navy’s surface fleet was not fit for purpose and that enhanced lethality was essential, Australia’s Defence Strategic Review of 2023 had recommended that an independent analysis be carried out to determine the structure of the RAN’s future surface fleet.  The Independent Analysis Team’s recommendations, together with the Australian Government’s decision on them, were released to the public on February 20, 2024.

In essence, the IAT has recommended that the future RAN fleet comprise of nine Tier 1 ships, seven to eleven Tier 2 ships, six large optionally crewed surface vessels, and 25 minor war vessels.  It has also recommended measures to increase the lethality of Tier 1 and Tier 2 ships.

In this brief, the author evaluates the recommendations of the Independent Analysis Team as approved by the Australian government.  These will increase the size of the blue-water component of the RAN from 11 to 26 ships, positioning it in the ranks of middle powers, only slightly smaller than the Italian, Taiwanese and Royal Navies of today. 

The author goes on to evaluate the suitability of the proposed RAN fleet for military, constabulary, diplomatic and benign roles.  He concludes that the revised fleet structure is well-suited to integrate with forward deployed US task forces for conflict situations, but will not significantly enhance RAN’s intrinsic deterrent capability against adversaries. Moreover, the RAN will remain rather constrained in carrying out SLOC protection, constabulary, diplomatic and benign roles, which are of greater interest to Australia’s Southeast Asian neighbours.

To read this DPG Policy Brief Volume IX, Issue 8, please click “The Future of Australia’s Surface Fleet”.