Nepean Naval and Maritime Museum

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Fleet Base East

Garden Island crestSince European settlement, Port Jackson, Sydney, with its vast and well protected natural harbour, has served as a major naval base for British and Australian maritime forces. Ships of the Royal Navy’s Imperial Squadron were continuously based in Sydney throughout colonial times and it was for many years the premier naval facility of the Royal Australian Navy following the arrival of the Fleet Unit on 4 October 1913.

Fleet Base East
Fleet Base East

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The naval precinct in Sydney has expanded greatly over the past 100 years, particularly during the war years of 1939-1945. Garden Island, the traditional centre of naval activity in Sydney Harbour, was connected to the mainland during the war when the Captain Cook graving dock was built. A number of shore establishments, such as HMAS Watson and Rushcutter, were also commissioned to support Sydney based naval forces. Several other establishments were commissioned in the post-war period.

In 1987 the Australian Government announced the ‘Two-Ocean Basing Plan’ which established a permanent RAN major fleet unit and submarine presence in Western Australia. Since then, the RAN has maintained a two-ocean navy (Pacific and Indian) capable of responding quickly to national tasking from either seaboard.

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The two fleet bases are known as Fleet Base West (HMAS Stirling) and Fleet Base East (HMAS Kuttabul). Today Kuttabul serves as the administrative centre for FBE, a precinct that extends beyond the borders of Kuttabul and includes the Garden Island dockyard and adjacent wharf facilities at nearby Woolloomooloo.