The backbone of the Royal Australian Navy is the Australia class aircraft carriers. These aircraft carriers are based on the British Invincible class aircraft carriers, but are altered significantly to fit Australian requirements. The carriers have served for approximately 25 years, and replacement in fifteen years is anticipated.


Increasing unreliability, and unavailability of parts for HMAS Melbourne led the RAN to initiate plans for a replacement as early as 1970. The offer of HMS Invincible in 1981 was regarded as too good to miss. The Government decided to acquire Invincible, but the Falklands War intervened, and the offer was withdrawn. The RAN were still interested in operating Harrier carriers, and so two new Invincible class carriers were ordered in 1982.

The carriers Australia ordered were based on HMS Ark Royal (R07) and extensively modified to meet Australian requirements. Many of the electronic systems were replaced by American-designed items to fit in better with the RAN. Most importantly, Sea Dart was omitted. The space (on deck and below deck) was used to increase flight deck and hangar deck space. The latter modification was incorporated into British Invincible class carriers.

This increase of space, combined with the use of smaller Sea Hawk helicopters gives an effective boost to the air groups of the Australian ships. Australian ships typically carry fifteen Harriers, six Sea Hawks ASW helicopters, and three Sea King AEW helicopters.

The first of the two entered service in 1986, and was followed by Vengeance in 1987.

The ships have been fired on once, in 1991 an Iraqi Silkworm was fired at HMAS Australia, but was (ironically) shot down by HMAS Sydney.

Australia has stated that it will follow the French example, and replace its ships with two CATOBAR aircraft carriers based on the British CVF design. They have already been named HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Sydney.



  • 15 BAe Sea Harrier FRS Mk. 21
  • 6 Westland Sea King Mk. 50


  • 15 BAe Sea Harrier FRS Mk. 21
  • 6 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk
  • 3 Westland Sea King AEW Mk. 57

Present Air GroupEdit

  • 15 Boeing AV-8B Harrier II Plus
  • 6 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk
  • 3 Westland Sea King AEW Mk. 57


  • HMAS Australia (R22) - Commissioned: 1986
  • HMAS Vengeance (R23) - Commissioned: 1987


Displacement 20,700 tons (standard)
Length 209 m (686 ft)
Machinery 4 x Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbine COGAG, providing 97,000 hp on 2 shafts
Speed 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range 7000NM
Armament 3 Phalanx 20mm CIWS
Aviation facilities
  • 168 m axial flight deck
  • Bow 13° ski ramp
  • Up to 30 (more detail in main text)
  • 15 Boeing AV-8B Harrier II Plus
  • 6 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk
  • 3 Westland Sea King AEW Mk. 57


HMAS Australia with current aircraft
AUCVSInvincible Australia old
HMAS Australia with older aircraft