Royal Navy

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Royal Navy
White Ensign
Royal Navy
History of the Royal Navy
List of ships of the British Royal Navy
List of historic ships of the Royal Navy
List of Royal Navy bases
Royal Navy sailors with White Ensign in the background

The Royal Navy is the Navy of the United Kingdom .

Due to its island location , the British Navy has always played a major role in the history of the country. This applies to both defense and imperialist expansion within the framework of the British Empire . In January 2007 the Royal Navy comprised 91 warships and 74 auxiliary and supply ships (a total of 165 ships), making it one of the largest navies in the world. Together with the Royal Marines , the Naval Reserve Forces and the Naval Careers Service, the Royal Navy forms the Naval Service (also Senior Service called) of the British armed forces.

The Royal Navy is one of the six navies in the world with submarines with nuclear ICBMs .


HMS Warrior , the Royal Navy's first ocean-going ironclad in 1860
Development of the various types of ships in the Royal Navy since 1980. The sharp decline in the size of the Royal Navy can be seen.

There is no founding date or any specific historical date for the start of the British Royal Navy; the origins of the Royal Navy can be found in the more or less small fleets that the British kings put together as needed in the Middle Ages to fend off external enemies. These fleets were usually quickly disbanded after the end of a conflict. It was not until the 16th century that a permanent fleet was formed during the war against Spain and its armada, which became a permanent fixture during the 17th century. In particular, the armed conflicts with France from 1690, which lasted until the Napoleonic Wars , led to the development of a large fleet that dominated the oceans.

The 19th century brought a long period of peace between Britain and its great rival France. The introduction of steam power , steel as a building material and large-caliber, long-range weapons changed the warships, as a leading industrial nation at the time , Great Britain was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and was able to maintain the paramount importance of its fleet into the 20th century. It was not until the world wars that the Royal Navy lost its leadership position in technology and combat capabilities to the US Navy .

Prefix of ships

All warships of the Royal Navy since 1789/1790 have had HMS = Her (or His) Majesty's Ship as part of their name ( ship prefix ) . The auxiliary ships form the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service and carry the prefix RFA . In addition, there is the Royal Marine Auxiliary Service , which performs similar tasks as the RFA, but is mainly active within British territorial waters. These ships have the suffix RMAS . Some other Commonwealth states have similar prefixes for their ships, but with the states added to delimit them, such as HMCS for the Canadian Navy or HMNZS for the New Zealand Navy .


Admiralty Council as of January 1st, 2017:

  • Defense Minister, Chair
  • Deputy Minister of Defense
  • Minister responsible for veterans, reservists and personnel
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense and Spokesperson for Secretary of Defense in the House of Lords
  • First Sea Lord and Chief of Staff in the Royal Navy
  • Chief of the Fleet Command
  • Second Sea Lord and Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Chief of Staff Management Staff

The five units of the Royal Navy

Surface Fleet

The Surface Fleet consists of the surface units of the Royal Navy. It forms most of the British Navy. In total, the Surface Fleet contains around 70 ships. These include an aircraft carrier , a helicopter carrier , two amphibious landing ships , half a dozen destroyers , around a dozen frigates, as well as minesweepers , patrol ships and research vessels. Since the end of the 1990s, the Surface Fleet has been fundamentally restructured and downsized. Many smaller units as well as the DropShips were replaced by new Albion- class ships .

At the beginning of the 2010s, another downsizing began. The three Invincible- class aircraft carriers that were retired by 2014 have been replaced by two new, larger Queen Elizabeth- class aircraft carriers that entered service in 2017 ( Queen Elizabeth ) and 2019 ( Prince of Wales ). Between 2009 and 2013 there was a generation change among destroyers , the Sheffield class ( Type-42 ) was replaced by the more modern Daring class ( Type-45 ). The Type 23 frigates will be replaced by those of the City class ( Type 26 ) from the end of the decade . The first of currently (2012) 13 planned ships equipped with a CODLAG propulsion system is to be put into service in 2021. According to the White Paper of October 2010, Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) , other original plans have been postponed .

Submarine service

Development of the hunting submarine classes (excluding Vanguard) since 1970. The strong quantitative decline and the purely nuclear-powered fleet are evident.

The submarine service includes the submarines of the Royal Navy. Great Britain relies entirely on nuclear-powered submarines. The last Swiftsure- class hunter-killer boat was decommissioned in December 2010 and in 2009/2010 the replacement of the Trafalgar- class nuclear-powered hunting submarines (SSN) with the Astute-class boats began . Then there are the four nuclear-powered missile submarines of the Vanguard class with ballistic missiles (SSBN).

A subdivision is the Submarine Rescue Service (SRS) . This is responsible for the rescue or recovery of crashed submarines and, along with the USA, is considered a world leader in this field. It is based in Glasgow and can be deployed anywhere in the world within twelve hours. The SRS was with a rescue submarine type LR5 and remote-controlled diving robots of the type Scorpio equipped. The NSRS has meanwhile replaced the previous systems. In addition, the SRS has contacts to research institutions all over the world (especially in Australia and South America), so that they can provide additional diving robots ( Remotely Operated Vehicle ), or ROV for short, in emergencies .

Fleet Air Arm

The Fleet Air Arm consists of the aircraft and helicopters of the Royal Navy. The number of aircraft has been greatly reduced since the mid-1990s. In 2010, the Harrier GR9 were prematurely decommissioned and 50 to 60 F-35B Lightning IIs will only be used jointly by the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm for the new aircraft carriers of the Queen Elizabeth class from the middle of the decade .

Most of the emergency aircraft currently available are helicopters, with which the Black Cats , an aerobatic team that flies two Lynx , are equipped. To compensate for the lack of carrier-based fighter jets, the defense cooperation agreements between France and Great Britain 2010 , according to which the Royal Navy could fall back on resources from the National Navy .

Royal Marines

The Royal Marines are the British marines and are one of the oldest surviving marines in the world. They consist of around 7,000 soldiers. Your task is in particular to prepare and carry out landing operations. Landing craft and helicopters are available to the Royal Marines for this purpose. In addition, they are among the few units in the world that have landing hovercrafts. The USA built the United States Marine Corps based on their model , with which the Royal Marines are closely associated to this day.

The Royal Marines also include the Special Boat Service (SBS) . The SBS was founded during the Second World War together with the Army Special Air Service . The main tasks are operating behind enemy lines, preparing landing operations and sabotage. The SBS is also used in the fight against terrorism . Due to its secret activities, the existence of the SBS was denied by the British Ministry of Defense until the 1990s . To date, no official information about SBS operations and soldiers has been made.

A special department of the Royal Marines, the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, is responsible for the protection of naval ships and the guarding of British nuclear weapons .

Royal Fleet Auxiliary

In the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service are auxiliary ships of the Royal Navy organized. The staff consists largely of civilians from the merchant navy, but they wear the uniform of the Royal Navy and are subordinate to the Kriegsmarine during military operations. To a lesser extent, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary also has Navy personnel who mainly operate weapon systems.

Royal Navy facilities

Naval bases

In the United Kingdom, the Royal Navy has four major naval bases:

  • Portsmouth ("HMS Nelson") in southern England is the main port of the Royal Navy. The carrier HMS Illustrious , the destroyers and minesweepers as well as some of the frigates are stationed here. The Antarctic research ship HMS Endurance and several patrol boats are also based in Portsmouth. The headquarters of the Royal Navy and the submarine training center Gosport ("HMS Sultan") are also located here.
  • Devonport ("HMS Drake") near Plymouth is home to most of the frigates and the dropships of the Albion class . The Trafalgar- class submarines are also stationed in Devonport. In terms of area, Devonport is the largest naval base in Europe.
  • Faslane-on-Clyde ("HMS Neptune") in Scotland is the headquarters of the strategic armed forces and the largest submarine port in Europe. Here are the British nuclear submarines of the Vanguard - and Swiftsure class and the minesweepers of Sandown stationed class. The nuclear submarine ICBMs and most of the conventional weapons are stored in the Coulport base adjacent to the base .
  • Rosyth ("HMS Caledonia") near Edinburgh was until 1994 the main British base for the maintenance, repair and modernization of warships. Most of the decommissioned British nuclear submarines were also disposed of there. In the course of reducing costs, the base has been operated by the private company Babcock BES since the 1990s , but is still an official naval base. As a maintenance facility, Rosyth does not have a permanent fleet. In general, however, several patrol boats are stationed on the base to monitor the Scottish coastal waters.

In addition, it still maintains or uses some bases overseas:

  • The Mina Salman base in Bahrain ("HMS Jufair"), which had since been abandoned in 1971 , was reopened in 2018; the frigate HMS Montrose is stationed here as a larger unit, probably until 2021
  • In the Far East, the RN also uses the Muara Naval Base in Brunei .
  • Further bases exist in the Crown Colonies of Gibraltar , home of two smaller patrol boats, and on the Falkland Islands, the East Cove Military Port in Mare Harbor, which serves as the base of the British station ship in the South Atlantic.
  • The British base Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is shared with the USA .
  • In Cyprus there are two British so-called "Sovereign Base Areas" which are also used by the Navy, Akrotiri and Dhekelia .

Naval air bases

The Royal Navy also uses other Royal Air Force bases as part of the Joint Helicopter Command , also outside the British Isles .

Standing Naval Forces

Standing Naval Forces (SNSF) are small fleet associations that continuously perform monitoring and control tasks in a limited area. Great Britain uses these both to protect its overseas territories and on behalf of NATO and the UN . Typically, a single British Standing Naval Force comprises 2 to 5 ships, including frigates, destroyers, patrol boats and supply ships. In some cases, there are also submarines and aircraft or helicopter carriers. The ships and crews normally change every six months, but occasionally the missions can be extended to twelve months. In January 2005 there were Standing Naval Forces in the North and South Atlantic , the Caribbean , the Mediterranean , the Persian Gulf , the Indian Ocean and the Falkland Islands . The formerly largest SNSF in terms of numbers, the so-called Ocean Wave '97 in the Pacific , was reduced to a minimum when Hong Kong was returned to the People's Republic of China in 1997 . It comprised up to 20 ships, which were mainly used between China, Korea and Indonesia . Today only one or two ships, including always a frigate or corvette, are regularly stationed in the region.


career Educational requirements Career training after 30 weeks of basic training at Britannia Royal Naval College promotion Top service grade
Officer Warfare Officer (submarine)
GCSE Five grades A * - C with English and Math
A-level 180 grade points
On-the-job training Midshipman (setting grade)
Sub-Colonel, RN (after 12 months)
Lieutenant, RN (after 42 months)
Airborne officer (pilot)
Airborne officer (weapons systems)
Pilot training Jet or helicopter
weapons system training
Air traffic controller officer Air traffic controller training with RAF and Royal Navy Captain, RN
Hydrographic and meteorological officer GCSE Five grades A * - C
A-level 180 grade points with math / science
Fleet Command University of Applied Sciences for Hydrology and Meteorology: BSc in Maritime Science and a Postgraduate Certificate in Environmental Studies
Logistics officer
Logistics officer (submarine)
GCSE Five notes A * - C
A-level 180 note points
Defense Maritime Logistics School (32 weeks) Vice Admiral
Weapons engineer officer
Weapons engineer officer (submarine)
GCSE Five grades A * - C
A-level 180 grade points
B.Sc. in science, technology, mechanical engineering or mathematics
Naval Warfare School (12 months)
Naval engineering officer
Naval engineering officer (submarine)
HMS Sultan: Systems Engineering Course
Aviation officer Defense College of Aeronautical Engineering (12 months)
Training officer GCSE Five grades A * - C
A-level 180 grade points
Bachelor with Honors
Training officer course (24 weeks) Captain, RN
Medical officer Licensed doctor Marine doctor training Surgeon Lieutenant, RN (Recruitment Rank)
Surgeon Lieutenant Commander, RN (after 5 years)
Surgeon Vice Admiral
Medical Officer (Z) Licensed dentist On-the-job training Surgeon Lieutenant (D), RN (Recruitment Rank)
Surgeon Lieutenant Commander (D), RN (after 5 years)
Surgeon Captain (D), RN
Sanitary officer GCSE Five grades A * - C
A-level 180 grade points
State-certified hygiene inspector in environmental health
Midshipman (setting grade)
Sub-Colonel, RN (after 12 months)
Lieutenant, RN (after 42 months)
Captain, RN
Nursing Officer / Mental Health Nursing Officer GCSE Five Grades A * - C
Registered Nursing / Registered Mental Health Nurse
Midshipman (setting rank)
sub-lieutenant, QARNS (after 12 months)
Lieutenant, QARNS (after 5 years)
Commodere, QARNS


Royal Navy Admiralty
Admiral of the Fleet
Rear Admiral
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7
Generic-Navy-O12.svgBritish Royal Navy OF-10.svg Generic-Navy-O11.svgBritish Royal Navy OF-9.svg Generic-Navy-O10.svgBritish Royal Navy OF-8.svg Generic-Navy-O9.svgBritish Royal Navy OF-7.svg
Royal Navy Officer Corps hierarchy
OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF-D
Royal Navy NCOs
Warrant Officer Class 1
Warrant Officer Class 2
Chief Petty Officer
Petty Officer
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 / OR-5
British Royal Navy OR-9.svg
British Royal Navy OR-8.svg
British Royal Navy OR-7.svg
British Royal Navy OR-6.svg
Royal Navy crew grades
Leading rate
Able rate
OR-4 OR-2
British Royal Navy OR-4.svg
British Royal Navy OR-2.svg



  1. The two highest NCO ranks in the Royal Navy are Warrant Officer Class 1 and Class 2 . The badges are the royal crown (WOII) and the royal coat of arms (WOI).
  2. The rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 in the Royal Navy has existed since April 1, 2004 . Prior to that, this position was held by the charge chief petty officer (CCPO), who was also above the chief petty officer . When the WOII was introduced , all CCPOs were promoted to this rank.
  3. The Commodore was a term associated with the post for a senior captain, which is omitted after leaving the post. It has been a common rank since 1997.
  4. The rank of Admiral of the Fleet (OF-10) has not been awarded since 1995 . It is now reserved for times of war or can be awarded on an honorary basis.

See also


  • William Laird Clowes : The Royal Navy. A History From the Earliest Times to Present. Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1897-1903 London. 7 volumes. Reprint 1997, ISBN 1-86176-015-9 .
  • Paul Kennedy : The Rise and Fall of British Maritime Power . Verlag der Marine- Officier -Vereinigung, Bonn 1978, ISBN 3-921391-04-0 .
  • Eric J. Grove: The Royal Navy since 1815. A new short history , Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2005, ISBN 0-333-72126-8 .
  • Julia Angster: Strawberries and Pirates. The Royal Navy and the Order of the World 1770–1860 . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-525-30037-4 .
  • Duncan Redford / Philip D. Grove: The Royal Navy. A history since 1900 , Tauris, London 2014, ISBN 1-78076-782-X .
  • Laura Rowe: Morale and discipline in the Royal Navy during the First World War , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018 (Studies in the social and cultural history of modern warfare, Volume 54), ISBN 978-1-108-41905-5 .

Web links

Commons : Royal Navy  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. THE ROYAL NAVAL MUSEUM wrote on request in 2008: "The abbreviation HMS came into common usage around 1790s. Prior to this, ships were referred to as" His Majesty's Ship "in full to indicate it belonging to the Royal Navy. The earliest example of the abbreviation being used is in 1789 when it was used for HMS Phoenix. " Loosely translated, this means that before the 1790s the name "His Majesty's Ship" was used in long form to show membership of the Royal Navy. The HMS Phoenix was then apparently the first ship to receive the abbreviation HMS as a prefix in 1789. The CHATHAM HISTORIC DOCKYARD TRUST wrote on request in 2008: "It wasn't until 1789 that the use of the HMS designation became standard in the Royal Navy although there were some uses of it before this". Loosely translated, this means that the prefix “HMS” became the general standard in 1789, but that there were already some ships that carried the prefix before that
  2. ^ The Navy Director 2016 , p. 6.
  3. ^ Proud Era Ends as the Navy's Last Type 42 Destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, Bows Out ., Royal Navy, June 6, 2013; accessed March 18, 2014.
  4. UK opens permanent military base in Bahrain, Reuters, April 5, 2018
  5. UK opens permanent military base in Bahrain, Reuters, April 5, 2018
  6. ^ "Warfare Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  7. "Air Crew Officer Pilot. Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  8. ^ "Air Crew Officer Observer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  9. ^ "Air Traffic Control Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  10. ^ "Hydrography and Meteorology Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  11. ^ "Logistics Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  12. ^ "Weapon Engineer Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  13. ^ "Marine Engineer Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  14. ^ "Air Engineer Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  15. ^ "Training Management Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  16. ^ "Medical Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  17. ^ "Dental Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  18. "Environemental Health Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  19. ^ "Nursing Officer." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  20. ^ "Shaping your career." Royal Navy. 2018-03-09.
  21. ^ "Chapter 66 - Officer Promotions." Naval Personnel Management. BR 3 (1) . 2018-03-09.
  22. ^ The Navy Directory 2016.
  23. ^ The Queens Regulations for the Royal Navy. BRd2. April 2017 (version 1). Chapter 3, Rank and Command: 03081.
  24. ^ Naval Personnel Management. BRd3. Vol June 1, 2016 (version 6). Annexe 39E.