Australian Government announced the keel laying of future HMAS Pilbara, the Royal Australian Navy’s first Arafura class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) to be built at the Civmec shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia (WA), on Sept 11.
This will be the overall third of twelve Arafura class OPVs being built for the Navy, and the construction of the vessel commenced at Civmec shipyard earlier this year. The first two vessels of the class are already under construction by Luerssen Australia, the prime contractor for the program, and sub-contractor ASC Shipbuilding in Adelaide, South Australia.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the keel laying is an important naval tradition that brings good luck to the build of the ship and the life of the vessel by placing a coin under the keel.
“This milestone marks the start of the consolidation phase for the third Arafura Class ship to be built in Australia, named Pilbara by the Chief of Navy,” Minister Reynolds said.
“It demonstrates the success of this Government’s Naval Shipbuilding plan, with eight vessels already built and another 10 vessels currently under construction at Henderson and Osborne. Western Australia is playing a key role in the development of our national naval shipbuilding enterprise, and the Government’s $4.7 billion OPV program is spearheading the implementation of this plan and connecting with Australian industry.”
“Since construction commenced ahead of schedule in March, the Luerssen and Civmec teams in WA have continued to make significant progress on building the blocks that, when complete, will form a 1,600 tonne 80 metre long OPV. Made with Australian steel, cut locally in WA, the OPVs will offer greater endurance to undertake maritime patrol and response duties, as well as support specialist missions.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the keel laying was of extra significance for her given the Pilbara was in her electorate of Durack.
“I have no doubt that people in my electorate and the wider WA community will be as proud as I am of the fact that this ship will be known as Pilbara, particularly given the region’s remarkable contribution to this country,” Minister Price said.
“I am very pleased that Luerssen and Civmec have been able to reach this milestone in such a timely manner, and I have no doubt that is due in part to the practices they put in place to deal with COVID-19. This project has created about 400 jobs here in Perth and involved more than 300 businesses across the Australian supply chain. It is on track to achieve more than 60 per cent local industry content.”
Arafura-Class OPV Program
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is procuring 12 Arafura-Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to replace its Armidale Class and Cape Class Patrol Boats under the $3.6 billion SEA 1180 project. The class is named for the Arafura Sea between Australia and Indonesia.
The Australian Government, in 2017, announced the selection of German shipbuilder, Lürssen as the prime contractor for designing and building the 12 SEA 1180 OPVs. The ships will be larger and more capable than Australia’s current Armidale-class patrol boats, they are replacing.
Lürssen’s Australia-based subsidiary, Luerssen Australia is partnering with Australian shipbuilder, Civmec in the joint venture, Australian Maritime Shipbuilding & Export Group (AMSEG), for the project.
The new OPVs, which are based on the Lürssen PV80 design, will be 80 meters in length with a displacement of 1700 tonnes and a draught of 4 meters. They will be fitted with a 40 mm gun for self-protection, three 8.4 m sea boats, state of the art sensors as well as command and communication systems.
The vessels are able to embark unmanned aerial (UAV), underwater (UUV) and surface vehicles (USV) and can operate larger sea boats which are essential for boarding operations.
The primary role of the OPV will be to undertake constabulary missions, maritime patrol and response duties. State of the art sensors as well as command and communication systems will allow the OPVs to operate alongside Australian Border Force (ABF) vessels, other Australian Defence Force (ADF) units and other regional partners. The OPVs will provide greater range and endurance than the existing patrol boat fleet.
The OPV design will support specialist mission packages, such as a maritime tactical UAS, and into the future, rapid environmental assessment and deployable mine countermeasure (MCM) capabilities.
The first two OPVs are being built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. Luerssen Australia along with shipbuilding sub-contractor ASC commenced construction of the first vessel, the future HMAS Arafura, on 15 November 2018 and the keel of the vessel was laid on May 10, 2019. The first ship will be launched in 2021, with the second ship to be launched from the Osborne shipyard in 2022.
The remaining ten vessels are being constructed by Luerssen Australia and Civmec at the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia. The construction of the first Arafura class OPV to be built at the Civmec shipyard commenced in March, 2020.