Royal Australian Navy’s Arafura-Class OPV Program Reaches New Milestone

The Royal Australian Navy’s Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) program has reached another milestone with the two halves of the first vessel, the future HMAS Arafura, coming together to form a complete hull.

Built by Luerssen Australia and its South Australian partner ASC, it marks the largest industrial manoeuvre at Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia.

HMAS Arafura Under Construction at Osborne Naval Shipyard
In a further milestone for the Royal Australian Navy’s Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) program, the two halves of the first of class ship, the future HMAS Arafura, built by Luerssen Australia and its partner ASC have been brought together and welded to form a complete hull. RAN Photo.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the Australian Naval Infrastructure (ANI) operations team manoeuvred the two mega-blocks of the ship together, weighing 1,000 tonnes in total, with only millimetres between them.

“It is a source of great pride to see a unified purpose among industry partners Luerssen, ASC and ANI, with defence industry continuing to show resilience to deliver during these challenging times,” Minister Reynolds said. “The Morrison Government is forging ahead with our landmark naval shipbuilding programs to not only deliver the important capabilities needed for the ADF, but provide a significant positive impact to the economy and continue to deliver jobs.”

HMAS Arafura is planned to enter service from the early 2020’s and will conduct border protection and maritime patrol missions alongside other Australian and regional partners.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price congratulated ANI on its continued development work in South Australia.

“It is great to see new investments and innovations made as part of this program, with ANI undertaking significant expansion and modernisation of the Osborne Naval Shipyard,” Minister Price said. “The OPV program is delivering benefits across Australia, with the first two vessels under construction at Osborne in South Australia and the remaining 10 vessels to be built at Henderson in Western Australia.”

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.

Rendering of Royal Australian Navy's Arafura-class OPV
Rendering of the Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) being constructed for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

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.

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