The Royal Australian Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) procured through the SEA 1180 OPV project will be named the Arafura class, with the first ship entering service in 2022 being named HMAS Arafura.
Christopher Pyne, Australian Minister for Defence, welcomed the announcement of the name Arafura, reflecting the strong connection between the Navy and the maritime waters it patrols.
“Assigning a name to a warship is a significant milestone in the introduction of a new capability,” Minister Pyne said.
This is the first time the Australian Navy has used the name Arafura, after the Arafura Sea, for one of its vessel. The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean, overlying the continental shelf between Australia and Indonesian New Guinea. The naming of ships and units is one of the greatest honours any navy bestows.
“A vessel’s service to our nation and the deeds of its ship’s company throughout its life are recorded and remembered by the name under which it commissions,” Minister Pyne said. “Named for the Arafura Sea, the name recognises the prominence of Navy’s enduring operations in the northern approaches to Australia to protect our national interests, natural resources and maritime borders. The name Arafura will imbue all Navy members who sail in the OPVs with a sense of pride for the waters and country they protect.
ASC Shipbuilding has started construction of the new OPVs with a steel cutting ceremony conducted at its Osborne Shipyard in Adelaide, South Australia. Christopher Pyne said that Australian steel is being used for all OPVs and after being prepared and processed in Western Australia it will be delivered to South Australia.
The Australian Government, late last year, 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 $4 billion SEA 1180 OPV project.
ASC Shipbuilding’s Osborne Naval Shipyard was selected for the construction of first two vessels. In Sept. this year, ASC has welcomed permanent representatives from Luerssen to the Osborne Shipyard ahead of the start of fabrication of the first OPV. The first Luerssen staff include five engineers in structural, mechanical and quality fields.
On completion of the first two vessels scheduled in 2020, the project will move to Civmec in Western Australia for construction of the ten further OPVs, making way for the start of the Future Frigate program (BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship/Hunter-class frigate) at Osborne Shipyard from 2020.
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.
As detailed in the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Australian Government is undergoing its largest regeneration of naval capability since the Second World War. In total the it is spending $89bn on 21 Pacific patrol boats, 12 OPVs, nine future frigates and 12 submarines.