The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Armidale-class patrol boat HMA Ships Childers, Launceston, Glenelg and Wollongong took the opportunity to practise the warfighting aspect of their roles in a recent exercise. Held in and around their home port of Darwin at the end of August, the exercise also built on their ability to operate in-company. The Armidale-class patrol boats conducted surface gunnery, close-quarters manoeuvring, degraded navigation, formation pilotages and anchorages with a focus on inshore manoeuvres and force protection as part of the Patrol Boat Concentration Period.
Captain Patrol Boats Captain Melanie Verho oversaw the exercise while the group conducted a ‘breakout’ of Darwin Harbour under a simulated maritime threat ahead of HMA Ships Canberra and Anzac, which were departing Darwin for another mission. The Royal Australian Navy is advancing through the development of self-supported and sustainable maritime task groups capable of accomplishing the full spectrum of maritime security operations Commanding Officer Childers Lieutenant Commander Simone Paterson planned and coordinated the exercise. Armidale-class patrol boats are highly capable and versatile minor war vessels, able to undertake a wide variety of tasks, in conjunction with other government agencies, contributing not only to civil maritime security operations.
“Patrol boats normally operate alongside Border Force, Australian Fisheries and the Australian Federal Police in a constabulary role, however, the Patrol Boat Concentration Period allows us to practise the warfighting aspect of our role we don’t see as often in our day-to-day taskings. The task group used remote control and semi-autonomous targets provided by Defence contractor L3Harris to provide realistic practise simulating fast inshore attack crafts for close-range coordinated gunnery. It was the first time we’ve been able to conduct this sophisticated coordinated gunnery, protecting a simulated high-value unit with our 25mm M142 bushmaster autocannons,” Lieutenant Commander Paterson said.
The Armidale class is a class of patrol boats built for the Royal Australian Navy. Planning for a class of vessels to replace the fifteen Fremantle-class patrol boats began in 1993 as a joint project with the Royal Malaysian Navy, but was cancelled when Malaysia pulled out of the process. The project was reopened in 1999 under the designation SEA 1444, with the RAN as the sole participant. Of the seven proposals tendered, the Austal/Defence Maritime Services (DMS) proposal for twelve vessels based on an enlarged Bay-class patrol boat was selected. Two additional boats were ordered in 2005 to provide a dedicated patrol force for the North West Shelf Venture. All fourteen vessels were constructed by Austal at Henderson, Western Australia.