The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) first Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV), known as NUSHIP Arafura, has been launched at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. Launched on 16 December, NUSHIP Arafura is the first in a fleet of 12 OPVs being built for the RAN. The Arafura-class provides increased maritime patrol and response capability and enhanced interoperability with Australian vessels, as well as regional partners. These OPVs are aimed at replacing the Armidale-class patrol boats, the Huon-class minehunters, the Leeuwin-class survey vessels, and the Paluma-class survey motor launches. The Arafura-class OPVs represent the future of Australia’s border protection and will be the primary asset for maritime patrol and response duties. The build of the Arafura-class OPVs is a cornerstone of the Australian Government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which will employ 15,000 workers across the country by 2030.
The Arafura class is a class of offshore patrol vessels being built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Initially proposed in the 2009 Defence White Paper and marked as procurement project SEA 1180. The 2013 Defence White Paper committed to the OCV project as a long-term goal, but opted in the short term for an accelerated procurement of an existing design to replace the Armidales, and life-extension refits for the other types. This resulted in the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) project and the amount of vessels reduced to 12. However, this was further increased to 14 when 2 further Mine Counter Measures variants were proposed under SEA 1905. Then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on 18 April 2016 that ship designers Damen, Fassmer and Lürssen had been shortlisted for the project. On 24 November 2017, the government announced that Lürssen had been selected. 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. The ships will be deployed with empty space available to install container-mounted systems such as aircraft support and sensors; if fully utilized, the gross displacement could increase to 1,800 tonnes. Shipboard armament consists of a single 40 mm gun and two 12.7 mm guns. Two separate electro-optic targeting systems and three radars are installed and managed by the Saab 9LV system.
The launch of this first Arafura-class OPV is a key milestone in the Naval Shipbuilding Plan of the Australian government. It is a demonstration of Australia’s continued strengthening of defence capability and represents a A$4.7bn investment in Australian defence industry. Australian industry is building all 12 vessels here in Australia and will continue to sustain them over their lifecycle, delivering long-term local jobs. The first two OPVs are being constructed by Luerssen Australia, who is the prime contractor, at Osborne Naval Shipyard. Luerssen Australia will build the remaining ten offshore patrol vessels at the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia (WA). In May 2019, Royal Australian Navy performed the keel-laying ceremony for the first Arafura-class OPV at Osborne Naval Shipyard. The keel for the second and third Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels was laid in April and September last year, respectively.