The Australian Government’s National Shipbuilding Program has reached another milestone with the keel laying for the first Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) under construction in Western Australia. Since construction commenced ahead of schedule in March, the Luerssen and Civmec teams in Western Australia 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 Western Australia, the OPVs will offer greater endurance to undertake maritime patrol and response duties, as well as support specialist missions. The OPVs are based on the Lürssen PV80 design. The first two vessels are under construction at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia, and will be followed by 10 ships to be built at the Henderson shipyard.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC 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. 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.”
The Arafura class is a multipurpose small warship class for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The Arafura-class is based on the Lürssen-designed Darussalam-class, operated by the Royal Brunei Navy. Each vessel has a gross displacement of 1,640 tonnes, and measures 80 metres (260 ft) long, with a beam of 13 metres (43 ft) and a draft of 4 metres (13 ft). Propulsion power is from two MTU 16V diesel engines rated at 4,440 kilowatts (5,950 hp) each, which drive variable pitch propellers and give a top speed of 22 knots (25 mph), and shipboard electrical power is generated by MAN diesel engines. The ship’s range is about 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km), with an endurance of 21 days. The standard crew complement is 40 sailors, though up to 20 more can be berthed if required.
Shipboard armament consists of a single 40 mm gun and two 12.7 mm guns. Each vessel carries two 8.5-metre (28 ft) rigid inflatable boats and a single 10-metre (33 ft) boat, which are intended as the primary means of deploying offensive force in the ships’ border patrol role. A single unmanned aerial vehicle is carried and deployed from an open utility deck. Two separate electro-optic targeting systems and three radars are installed and managed by the Saab 9LV system. In order to allow the ships to operate in conjunction with allied international forces, each ship is equipped with a unique electronic identifier transponder that allows for communication via the Link 16 network.