Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel
|Builders:||ASC Pty Ltd and Civmec|
|Operators:||Royal Australian Navy|
|Type:||Offshore patrol vessel|
|Length:||80 m (262 ft 6 in)|
|Beam:||13 m (42 ft 8 in)|
|Draught:||4 m (13 ft 1 in)|
|Propulsion:||2 x 8,500 kW (11,400 hp)} diesel engines|
|Speed:||20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) (maximum)|
|Range:||4,000 nmi (7,400 km; 4,600 mi)|
|Sensors and |
|SAAB Situational Awareness System (SAS) with Saab EOS500 electro-optical fire control director, Terma SCANTER 6002 radar, Safran Vigy Engage electro-optical surveillance and fire control multisensor system|
|Aviation facilities:||Landing platform|
The Arafura class is a multipurpose small warship class for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Initially proposed in the 2009 Defence White Paper and marked as procurement project SEA 1180, the 12 OCVs 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 (which could be up to 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 2013 Defence White Paper committed to the OPV 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.
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.
Planning and design
First made public in Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, the 2009 Department of Defence white paper, the planned vessels stem from Government instructions for the RAN to rationalise patrol, mine warfare, and hydrographic survey assets into a single class of warship. Twelve vessels will be built. The project has received the procurement designation SEA 1180.
Instead of being capable of performing all roles simultaneously, the ships will have a modular mission payload system like the Standard Flex system used by the Danish Navy, or the system used by the United States Navy's littoral combat ships: mission-specific equipment will be fitted to containerised modules, which can be exchanged for different modules when the ship needs to change roles. The use of containerised modules means that equipment can be upgraded without taking the ships out of service for refit, and if necessary can be fitted to requisitioned civilian vessels. The cost in developing and implementing the modular system is predicted to be offset by the savings in the areas of maintenance (having to purchase and maintain stocks to repair four different designs), personnel (having to retrain sailors when they transfer to a new ship), and administration.
It is anticipated that the new ships may displace anywhere up to 2,000 tonnes, although defence magazine editor Kym Bergmann predicts that this 'worst case' would require 50,000 tons of steel or aluminium to be fabricated (compared to 36,000 tons for the Collins-class submarine replacement project), and unless multiple shipbuilders are involved, the 12- to 18-month construction time per vessel will see the last ship enter service during the late 2020s.
Instead of building all 12 vessels to the same design, the idea of hull variants optimised for different roles is also being explored: the module system will allow a ship designed for one role to be rapidly reconfigured to serve in another role, with a small but acceptable loss in capability compared to a 'native' OPV. The OPVs could be designed to carry a helicopter or an unmanned aerial vehicle to improve each ship's surveillance range, but this avenue is dependent on further study and cost-benefit analysis.
Although the 2013 White Paper committed to the OPV as a long-term plan, it announced that an interim patrol boat class based on an existing design would be acquired as a short-term replacement for the Armidales, while the Palumas and Huons would undergo life-extension upgrades.
In October 2017, the Australian government announced that the vessels would use an Australian-designed SAAB tactical combat management system.
The Royal Navy has begun plans for a similar vessel under the Future Surface Combatant program, designated the Future Mine Countermeasures/Hydrographic/Patrol Vessel (FMHPV). At the start of 2010, it was announced that the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom were exploring the potential for idea-sharing and co-operation on the design of the OPV and FMHPV, as well as planned replacements for the Anzac-class, Type 22, and Type 23 frigates. Although the nations will share their analyses, a common design or shared construction program is unlikely, as the two nations have different needs and replacement schedules. The RAN is also observing the development of the United States Navy Littoral Combat Ships, to take advantage of lessons learned during the program.
While designing the Independence-class trimarans for the Littoral Combat Ship program, Australian-owned shipbuilder Austal also prepared a scaled-down version that could serve as the basis for the Australian OPV. The Austal Multi Role Vessel (MRV 80) would have an overall length of 80 metres (262 ft 6 in), a top speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), carry an NH-90 or similar helicopter, and have 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft) for mission equipment or cargo.
The class of ships will be based on Lürssen's OPV80, similar to the Darussalam-class offshore patrol vessel of the Royal Brunei Navy. The first two vessels will be built at ASC shipyards in Adelaide, South Australia before production is transferred to Civmec shipyards 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.
The OPV was originally planned to replace 26 vessels across four warship classes: the Armidale-class patrol boats, the Huon-class minehunters, the Leeuwin-class survey vessels, and the Paluma-class survey motor launches. The new ships will be used for offshore and littoral patrol, border protection, anti-terrorism and anti-piracy operations, mine warfare, and hydrographic survey. It is plausible that the OPVs will operate in support of the Canberra-class landing helicopter dock ships; amphibious operations would benefit from the survey and mine warfare capabilities of the ships.
|Name||Pennant number||Builder||Laid down||Launched||Commissioned||Status|
|HMAS Arafura||TBA||ASC, Osborne||15 November 2018||Under construction|
|TBA||TBA||15 November 2018||Under construction|
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