Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Program has reached another milestone, with the keel laying for its fifth offshore patrol vessel (OPV) in Henderson, Western Australia. A coin was positioned under the keel of OPV 5 (Illawarra) – the first of many traditions for a Navy ship. Luerssen Australia, the prime shipbuilding contractor, will deliver 12 offshore patrol vessels to the Royal Australian Navy. The first two vessels were constructed at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. The remaining 10 vessels will be constructed at Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia, with the build of four ships already underway. Luerssen Australia is employing Australian workers, in Australian shipyards, using Australian steel to provide the Royal Australian Navy the vessels it needs for the future.
“A keel laying is an important naval tradition that brings good luck to the build of the ship and the life of the vessel. We welcome this major milestone in the delivery of Australia’s future Arafura class offshore patrol vessels. This program will contribute to continuous naval shipbuilding, creating Australian jobs, and assuring the long-term sustainability of this key Australian industry,” Deputy Secretary of National Naval Shipbuilding, Tony Dalton said.
“The event showcased the fantastic progress being made on the program. I’m extremely proud of the people in our company and the keel laying milestone is testament to the hard work and commitment of everyone involved,” Luerssen Australia CEO, Jens Nielsen said.
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 first two vessels will be built by ASC Shipbuilding in Adelaide, South Australia before production is transferred to the shipyard of Forgacs Marine & Defence, a subsidiary of Civmec, in Henderson, Western Australia. Construction of the first ship began on 15 November 2018. On that day, it was also announced that the vessel would be named HMAS Arafura, and the class the Arafura-class patrol vessels.On 9 April 2020 the second ship in the class, HMAS Eyre, was laid down at ASC’s shipyard. The names of the following four ships were also announced at this time: HMA Ships Pilbara, Gippsland, Illawara and Carpentaria. Defence investment in a sovereign Naval Shipbuilding and Sustainment Enterprise will support up to 15,000 Australian jobs by the end of the decade.