The Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, has announced the names of the next five Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).
The names were announced at the ceremonial keel laying for the second vessel of the class. In these unprecedented times, observing all COVID-19 restrictions, Vice Admiral Noonan announced the names during the speech delivered virtually, via video link.
OPV 2, upon commissioning into the Navy, will be known as HMAS Eyre, which will occur in 2023. Following their respective commissioning, OPV 3 will be HMAS Pilbara, OPV 4 will be HMAS Gippsland, OPV 5 will be HMAS Illawarra, and OPV 6 will be HMAS Carpentaria.
The first vessel of the class (OPV 1) was named HMAS Arafura with the class referred to as the Arafura Class. Significantly, it will be the first RAN ship to ever carry this name. It also represents a significant coastal land and sea region of Northern Australia.
The naming convention following both maritime regions and first names for Royal Australian Navy ships continues with the next five vessels.
OPV 2, upon commissioning into the Royal Australian Navy, will be known as HMAS Eyre.
Named for the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, bound by the Great Australian Bight to the west and Spencer Gulf to the East.
The Peninsula was first charted by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, RN and Nicolas Baudin from 1801 to 1802 and subsequently named after Edward John Eyre who explored the region from between 1839 to 1841.
OPV 3, upon commissioning into the Royal Australian Navy, will be known as HMAS Pilbara.
Named from the indigenous word Bilybara, meaning ‘dry’, the area was first recorded in 1861 by the English explorer Francis Gregory and following the discovery of gold in 1885 European settlement of the region intensified.
The name honours the role of the Western Australian Shipbuilding industry in supporting the Navy, and this will be the first vessel of the OPV class built in Western Australia.
OPV 4, upon commissioning into the Royal Australian Navy, will be known as HMAS Gippsland.
The region gained its name in honour of the Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, during the period 1838 to 1846.
Gippsland is a highly productive farming area, providing Melbourne with most of its vegetables and dairy produce. Brown coal has been mined in the area for many decades, and there are numerous offshore oil and gas deposits in nearby Bass Strait.
OPV 5, upon commissioning into the Royal Australian Navy, will be known as HMAS Illawarra.
Named for the indigenous word allowrie or Elouera, meaning ‘pleasant place by the sea’.
It was first explored in the 1790s by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, RN and George Bass who travelled extensively throughout the region.
The Illawarra stretches from the Royal National Park in the north, to the Shoalhaven River in the south, encompassing the city of Wollongong and the towns of Shell Harbour, Kiama, Berry and Bomaderry.
OPV 6, upon commissioning into the Royal Australian Navy, will be known as HMAS Carpentaria.
Named for the Gulf of Carpentaria region. Bordering the coastlines of Queensland and the Northern Territory, the region was explored in 1606 by the Dutch explorer Wilhelm Janzsoon in his vessel Dufyken, while making the first recorded European exploration of Australia.
The name Carpentaria has been previously used by the RAN for a World War II commissioned shore establishment at Thursday Island from 16 February 1945 to 30 June 1946, and the commissioned shore establishment embedded in the Australian High Commission in London from 1 January 1966 to 31 October 1981.
Arafura Class OPV Program
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is procuring 12 Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to replace its Armidale 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.
The new OPVs 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 Arafura class vessels will conduct intelligence and surveillance missions (ISR), search and rescue (SAR), humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and border protection patrols. The OPVs will provide greater range and endurance than the existing patrol boat fleet.
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.