HMAS Watson

HMAS Watson

Commanding Officer: Commander Aaron Scott

HMAS Watson Badge.

HMAS Watson, located at Sydney's South Head, was commissioned as the Royal Australian Navy's Radar Training School on 14 March 1945. Today, Watson is the premier RAN maritime warfare training establishment. It is the home of the Training Authority Maritime Warfare and, under recent restructuring, is part of Fleet Command as of July 2009.

Students at Watson range in experience from Commanding Officers who are proceeding back to sea in Command of a major fleet unit through to the junior Combat System Operator Sailors undertaking their first category course after recruit training.

The role of Watson is to prepare Officers and Sailors of the Royal Australian Navy to go to sea and to be a part of the team that contributes to Fleet commitments and outcomes - "to fight and win at sea".

Watson provides basic and advanced training for Junior and Senior Sailors in the Combat System Category and Junior Seaman Officers in ships handling, navigation and tactics. Advanced training is conducted for Principal Warfare Officers, who are taught to effectively use the modern ships' weapons and sensors, and Force Warfare Officers who focus on planning and staff skills required to function within a joint staff at sea or ashore. At the high end, Watson trains newly appointed Commanding and Executive Officers, giving them the finish needed to succeed in commanding the highly professional people who crew the ships and establishments that make up Australia's Navy.

Watson was named after Watsons Bay, which in turn was named after Robert Watson, the Quartermaster of HMS Sirius, a ship of the First Fleet. Upon arrival, he became the Pilot, Harbourmaster and Boatswain of the new colony. In 1818, Governor Macquarie commissioned the ‘Macquarie Lighthouse’, appointing Watson as Superintendent. Macquarie Light is depicted in the centre of the crest of Watson.

The Chapel of St George the Martyr.
The Chapel of St George the Martyr.



HMAS Watson is a beautiful establishment with a long history closely linked with the defenses of our emerging nation. Its historical content is significant and is protected by national Trust. The land itself is surrounded by a National Park which is home to much native Australian fauna and flora.

The first permanent military presence on South Head commenced in 1871 with the development of Artillery emplacements to defend the Port of Sydney. Many of the fortifications (not the guns) still remain, as modified up to 1939. The first barracks, occupied by members of the NSW Artillery, were completed 19 March 1877. Extensions were added in 1880 to accommodate additional personnel.

Many of the early barracks constructions are still standing such as the Sergeants Mess, stables, guard house, Married Quarters, the Gun Park and Artillery store. The Army School of Gunnery was established at South Head in 1895.

In 1942 the Navy came to South Head, when the Navy RADAR School was moved from HMAS Rushcutter and renamed HMAS Radar. On 14 March 1945 HMAS Watson was commissioned as the RADAR Training establishment. In 1956 the Torpedo and ASW School were added to Watson, and ASW Mortar Mk10 firings were conducted in the inner harbour. The Chapel of St George the Martyr was completed in 1961 and is a memorial to all those who lost their lives in all wars. Watson became purely a Naval establishment with the departure of the Army in 1981.

Today Watson has a ship’s company of 300 who are solely dedicated to providing the Fleet Commander Australia with personnel trained to perform war fighting roles at sea. The trainee load varies but is generally up to an additional 300 people at any time. The training conducted at Watson includes Junior Officer Seaman training, Combat System Operator training, Principal Warfare Officer training, Command Team training and the training of the new Commanding and Executive Officers of the RAN’s ships and shore bases.

Read more about HMAS Watson's History



Located at HMAS Watson, Training Authority - Maritime Warfare (TA-MW) is responsible directly to Commodore Training (COMTRAIN) for directing the development, implementation and evaluation of all maritime warfare training. TA-MW consists of three training departments (Command, Navigation & Littoral Warfare (CN/LW); Maritime Warfare (MW) and; Maritime Warfare - South (MW-S)) as well as a Support & Development department (SD). The Heads of Department for CN/LW, MW and SD are based at HMAS Watson with the Head of MW-S located at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria. Sections of these different departments are located throughout Australia with the following individual sections located at HMAS Watson:

School of Maritime Warfare (SMW) - HMAS Watson

The SMW's primary focuses are the Principal Warfare Officers Course and the provision of Principal Warfare Officers who can fight and win at sea as well as the training of all Combat System Sailors so as to provide the Royal Australian Navy with the capability to 'Fight and Win in a Maritime Environment'. Other courses taught by the faculty include Force Warfare Officer, Common Warfare, Junior Warfare Officer Application Course (JWAC) Phase 4 Warfare, as well as other ad-hoc training when directed by Training Authority Maritime Warfare (TA-MW).

CAPT Darling Building.
CAPT Darling Building.

Navigation Faculty

The Navigation Faculty's vision is to be world renowned as a leader and innovator in Navigation Warfare. This is achieved through providing quality navigation training to our Junior Warfare Officers, and empowering them with the skills and attributes to deliver a tactical advantage to Command by facilitating maximum freedom of manoeuvre through superior knowledge of the marine environment and how to interact with and control our allied forces.

The Navigation Faculty runs over 30 courses per year and provides training for approximately 400 students annually. Courses range from basic navigation theory through to specialist courses such as Long Navigation and Advanced Navigation. The faculty utilises some of the best maritime training assets available including the HMAS Watson Bridge Simulator and the purpose built Defence Maritime Services Navigation Training Vessel Seahorse Mercator.

Bridge Training Faculty (BTF)

The BTF's mandate is to provide appropriate and realistic training required for Junior Seaman Officers to become fully capable of carrying out the duties of the Officer-of-the-Watch in all classes of RAN ships. This includes training in Navigation, Ship Handling, Warfare, Flying Operations and Bridge Administration, plus a variety of administrative training designed to prepare Junior Officers for their role as an important member of a warship's leadership team. A second Bridge Simulator was completed in mid-2010.

Maritime Warfare Officers Course (MWOC) Faculty

The MWOC Faculty co-ordinates the training and logistic requirements of all Junior Seaman Officers under training. Training is achieved through four phases consisting of both theoretical and practical components carried out both ashore and at sea. This training culminates in the attainment of a Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate.

Commanding Officer (CO)/Executive Officer (XO) Designate Course

This course co-ordinates all the necessary training and briefing requirements for course members destined to re-join the fleet as a Ships' Commanding Officer or Executive Officer (2nd In Command). This course deals with candidates for Major Fleet Units (MFU) such as Frigates, Tankers, Amphibious Ships and Submarines as well as Minor War Vessels (MWV) like Patrol Boats, Mine Hunters and Landing Craft.

Navy Synthetic Warfare Centre (NSWC) (formerly STS)

The NSWC is responsible for Command Team Training of Major Fleet Units, support to Principal Warfare Officers training for SWIPE and Multi-SWIPE, support for Fleet Synthetic Training and Commander Task Group Team Training (CTGTT) on a National and Coalition level.

The NSWC co-ordinates the provision of facilities available within the Ritchie Building, equipment and planning upgrades of NSWC assets and management of NSWC personnel. The NSWC is also responsible for facilitating discussion and use of assets among the many lodger units located within the Ritchie Building. These lodger units include:

  1. School of Maritime Warfare
  2. Technical Services Group
  3. Information Technology Support

In concert with these lodger units the NSWC hosts warfare training exercises to aid the initial training of Principal Warfare Officers as well as integrated international exercises which enables the Royal Australian Navy to train with allies such as the United States Navy. NSWC also provides an avenue for the training of cohesive fleet command teams. This Command Team Training (CTT) is essential for Fleet Units of the Royal Australian Navy so that skills can be honed and bridge teams become familiar with each other prior to embarking on operations at sea.

Support and Development Department

The Support and Development Department is responsible for the following services:

Training Support and Governance (TSG) section provides training course coordination, training development, and training evaluation services for existing and new TAMW courses. TSG is TAMW's point of contact on training issues and is the approving authority for all TAMW sponsored Naval Training Command courses.

Technical Services section consists of three groups:

  1. Training Systems Support: provides Integrated Logistic Support services for HMAS Watson training systems covered by TAMW maintenance and engineering support services contracts.
  2. Training System Development: is responsible for both in-house and out-sourced development of HMAS Watson training systems. TSDM is also the point of contact for development of HMAS Watson's Lotus Notes applications and databases and maintenance of HMAS Watson's and TAMW World Wide Web sites.
  3. MILSPEC Systems Maintenance: has responsibility for maintenance, repair and configuration management of HMAS Watson's MILSPEC electronic systems. Through the External Projects Coordination Officer, the section also provides assistance to external authorities in relation to the development of these systems.

TAMW Support section provides services for TAMW on policy, plans, reporting, coordination, finance and the Command courier.

Competency Management Cell (CMC) issues and maintains the competency log for all ranks (SMN-PO) fleet wide.

Lifestyle and Recreation


Accommodation and Meals

The Watson Wardroom has long been recognised as the premier Mess of the Navy, and for good reason. The Mess offers bungalow style accommodation with ensuites; informal common rooms complete with televisions and refrigerators for each section, a main common room with access to Foxtel and a billiard table, tennis courts, swimming pool, as well as bar facilities with one of the best views of the Sydney skyline available. Meals are served three times a day in the Mess dining area and the option of a sit down, 'fast-food' or take-away packed service is available for lunch.

The Senior Sailors (SS) Mess also offers top rate accommodation; dining, bar and recreational areas. Cabins are spacious and modern. Meals are served three times a day in a separate dining section of the SS Mess.

Junior Sailors are accommodated in three storey accommodation blocks each with a common room, shared bathrooms and laundry. Cabins are spacious and modern. There is a Junior Sailors Bar run by a committee of Junior Sailors, available after hours for recreation and entertainment purposes complete with pool tables and access to Foxtel. Meals are served in the Junior Sailor's Café located under the Bar Area. Meals are served three times a day and consist of a variety of menu options.

Senior sailors accommodation.
Senior sailors accommodation.
Junior sailors bar.
Junior sailors bar.


To maintain health and fitness as well as increase team work, sport is heavily encouraged at HMAS Watson. The base has a well equipped gymnasium and swimming pool with fitness instructors available during opening times to assist members with any physical fitness related issues. As well as the gym, sporting activities are organised on a regular basis with interdepartmental competitions and events scheduled on Wednesday afternoons. There are also a variety of individual competitions such as tennis, Race around the Base and the Watson Strongman/woman titles to vie for. In addition, trainees are required to take part in Early Morning Activity (EMA) organised and run by the base Physical Trainers.