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Australian Government Lists Offshore Patrol Vessel Program As “Project of Concern”


Australian Government Lists Offshore Patrol Vessel Program As “Project of Concern”

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Royal Australian Navy Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)
Royal Australian Navy Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)

The Australian Government has listed the Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) program as a Defence Project of Concern. The project has experienced delays in delivery of both the vessels and the associated support system with schedule delays first emerging in 2021. The offshore patrol vessels are being built for the Royal Australian Navy to replace and improve upon the capability delivered by the Armidale-class patrol boats. The Arafura-class are under construction at Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia and the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia.

The primary role of the offshore patrol vessel will be to undertake constabulary missions and the vessels will perform maritime patrol and response duties for the Australian Defence Force. Defence and Luerssen Australia will work together to develop a remediation plan to help address delays to the OPV schedule. Defence and Luerssen Australia remain committed to providing the Royal Australian Navy with this capability. The Projects of Concern process brings senior stakeholders from Government and industry together to set out an agreed pathway to remediate listed projects.

Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel, NUSHIP Arafura, at Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. (Photo by Australian Government Department of Defence)

The Arafura class is a class of offshore patrol vessels being built for the Royal Australian Navy. Initially proposed in the 2009 Defence White Paper and marked as procurement project SEA 1180, it was originally planned that 20 Offshore Combatant Vessels (OCV) would replace 26 vessels across four separate ship classes: the Armidale-class patrol boats, the Huon-class minehunters, the Leeuwin-class survey vessels, and the Paluma-class survey motor launches. Although having a common design (2,000 tonnes in displacement), the ships would use a modular mission payload system to fulfill specific roles; primarily border patrol, mine warfare, and hydrographic survey.

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 long, with a beam of 13 metres and a draft of 4 metres. Propulsion power is from two MTU 16V diesel engines rated at 4440kW each, which drive variable pitch propellers and give a top speed of 22 knots, and shipboard electrical power is generated by MAN diesel engines. The ships will instead be armed with a Typhoon Weapon Station on an interim basis until a replacement weapon is identified and then acquired.

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