The Royal Australian Navy (RAN)’s first Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), the future HMAS Arafura, has reached a significant milestone on May 10 with the ceremonial keel laying at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide.
Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan AO, RAN positioned a coin to commemorate the laying of the keel for the first vessel to be named Arafura.
“The keel laying ceremony represents a great naval tradition and I am honoured to be joined today by the two youngest shipbuilders in the Osborne shipyard in placing the commemorative coin under the keel,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.
This project will see the delivery of 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels to the Royal Australian Navy to replace the Armidale Class Patrol Boats.
The Arafura Class is named for the Arafura Sea between Australia and Indonesia, acknowledging the importance placed on the coastal regions around Australia and their significant role in the nation’s security and economic prosperity. The naming of the Arafura Class also honours the significance of Northern Australia’s waters to Australia’s maritime security and the importance of the continuing work of the Navy across the Top End.
“I would like to thank our defence industry counterparts and Defence’s Capability Acquisition & Sustainment Group for their collective efforts to get us to this point on time and budget,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.
The Australian Government, in 2017, announced the selection of German shipbuilder, Lürssen as the prime contractor for designing and building 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the $3.6 billion SEA 1180 project.
The first two OPVs will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. Luerssen Australia along with shipbuilding sub-contractor ASC commenced construction of the first vessel on 15 November 2018. The first ship will be launched in 2021, with the second ship to be launched from the Osborne shipyard in 2022.
Construction of the third vessel will commence in 2020 at the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia, where the remaining 10 vessels will be constructed by CIVMEC in partnership with Luerssen Australia.
The SEA 1180 ships will be larger and more capable than Australia’s current Armidale-class patrol boats, they are replacing. They will be 80 metres in length with a displacement of 1700 tonnes and a draught of 4 metres.
The vessels 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. This will allow the OPVs to operate alongside Australian Border Force (ABF) vessels, other Australian Defence Force (ADF) units and regional partners.
The new SEA 1180 OPV fleet will conduct intelligence and surveillance missions (ISR), search and rescue (SAR), humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and border protection patrols. The OPVs will have an important role protecting the borders and will provide greater range and endurance than the existing patrol boat fleet. The OPVs will allow the Navy to undertake more extensive operations and protect resources over greater distances and in more complex maritime environments.
They 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.