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SEA 1180 Arafura Offshore Patrol Vessel
Offshore Combatant Vessel

The Royal Australian Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels will be named the Arafura class, with the first ship entering service in 2022 being named HMAS Arafura. The Arafura OPV design is based on an existing design in service with the Royal Brunei Navy (Darussalam Class). Only minimal changes were necessary to meet Australian Legislative and Regulatory requirements and specific ADF communications and situational awareness needs, the inclusion of a bow thruster and an additional reverse osmosis plant.

Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, welcomed the 05 November 2018 announcement of the name Arafura, reflecting the strong connection between the Navy and the maritime waters it patrols. “Assigning a name to a warship is a significant milestone in the introduction of a new capability,” Minister Pyne said. “This is the first time the Australian Navy has used the name Arafura and represents a new generation of naval operations.”

The naming of ships and units is one of the greatest honours any navy bestows. “A vessel’s service to our nation and the deeds of its ship’s company throughout its life are recorded and remembered by the name under which it commissions,” Minister Pyne said. “Named for the Arafura Sea, the name recognises the prominence of Navy’s enduring operations in the northern approaches to Australia to protect our national interests, natural resources and maritime borders. “The name Arafura will imbue all Navy members who sail in the OPVs with a sense of pride for the waters and country they protect.

“The Arafura Sea stretches from Cape York in the east to Cape Don in the west and encapsulates the importance of the seas surrounding the Australian continent and our connections with our immediate neighbours, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The name honours the significance of the nation’s connection to the sea and those Australian waters in which our nation’s maritime security and economic prosperity depend. It reflects Navy’s continuing work across the Top End.”

The Navy operated in 2010 four relatively small fleets of vessels for important tasks such as offshore resource protection, border security, hydrographic and oceanographic environmental assessments and clearing sea mines. This significantly increases whole-of-life ownership costs and personnel overheads. Smaller vessels also have less seagoing capacity and a reduced scope for installing more capable sensor or weapons systems over time.

The Government therefore decided that Defence will develop proposals to rationalise the Navy's patrol boat, mine counter measures, hydrographic and oceanographic forces into a single modular multirole class of around 20 Offshore Combatant Vessels combining four existing classes of vessels. This has the potential to provide significant operational efficiencies and potential savings. The new vessels will be larger than the current Armidale class patrol boats, with an anticipated displacement of up to 2,000 tonnes.

This concept relies on the use of modular unmanned underwater systems for both mine countermeasures and hydrographic tasks. These systems are envisaged to be containerised and portable modules capable of being used in any port or loaded onto any of the Offshore Combatant Vessels or other suitable vessels.

The future Offshore Combatant Vessel will be able to undertake offshore and littoral warfighting roles, border protection tasks, long-range counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, support to special forces, and missions in support of security and stability in the immediate neighbourhood. Defence will examine the potential for these new ships to embark a helicopter or UAV, to allow a surge in surveillance and response capabilities without the need to deploy additional ships. This increased capability will also ensure that major surface combatants are free for more demanding operations.

These will be larger than the current patrol boats, at up to 2,000 tons. This would appear to be the role the Austal Multi-Role Vessel was designed for. The Austal Multi-Role Vessel can provide offshore and littoral war fighting roles, border protection tasks, long range counter-terrorism and counter piracy operations, support to special forces and missions in support of security and stability in the immediate neighbourhood surroundings. The Austal Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) utilises the unique and proven Austal Trimaran platform coupling high speed and superior seakeeping performance with unparalleled deck space. From border patrol to ASW to humanitarian relief missions the Austal Multi-Role Vessel is the truly reconfigurable seaframe.

Defence conducted a largely effective platform selection process which supported the achievement of a value for money outcome. Defence surveyed the market for an appropriate OPV design and implemented a well-documented process to select three designs for detailed evaluation. The competitive evaluation process was supported by appropriate governance, assurance and probity arrangements and a Tender Evaluation Plan that was applied consistently across the three invited tenders, to provide a basis for assessing value for money. The tender evaluation process addressed the essential criteria and requirements that the Government had set for the program. The effectiveness of Defence’s processes was impacted by the poor timing of and information access restrictions placed on a key assurance review activity, shortcomings in Defence record-keeping for the introduction of an additional condition late in the platform selection process, and Defence’s approach to advising its ministers.

In June 2018, Luerssen announced a JV with Civmec to establish Australian Maritime Shipbuilding and Export Group (AMSEG) as part of its commitment towards developing a sovereign shipbuilding sector. Australia’s historic shift to continuous naval shipbuilding began 15 November 2018 with construction starting on a new modern fleet of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). In a major boost for local jobs and advanced manufacturing, Luerssen Australia and ASC welded the first steel for the first of 12 OPVs for the Royal Australian Navy. With its cutting-edge design and a pedigree of Luerssen’s 145 years of continuous shipbuilding, Luerssen Australia– the prime contractor and designer for the SEA1180 program – has pledged to deliver the new fleet on time and on budget. The first two OPVs will be constructed at the Osborne Naval Shipyards in South Australia by ASC with the Australian steel cut in Western Australia by Civmec.

The Project achieved Second Pass Government approval on 24 November 2017 and contract signature with Luerssen Australia on schedule on 31 January 2018. An intensive design review program has been conducted and the project commenced construction of the first OPV in South Australia in November 2018 on schedule. A Whole of Ship Design Review was added to the program and conducted in late October 2019. The Support System Detailed Design Review was delayed to September 2021 to allow a Logistic Support Analysis program to be established effectively in November 2020. The OPV Situational Awareness System includes a version of the Saab 9LV Combat System. The sensors and weapons to be integrated include a 2D radar, 40mm Gun, an Electro Optical Surveillance System, Electro Optical Device and Electronic Support Measures. The OPV Communication and Navigation System (CNS) includes an integrated electronic navigation system, internal and external communications systems such as Satellite Communication (SATCOM), Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network (MTWAN) and High Data Rate Line of Sight (HDRLoS) capability. The ship will also have an Integrated Platform Monitoring System. The Support System is based on new analysis built from a combination of new and existing support data. For that reason, it lags the development of the Platform System. Contract Change Proposal (CCP) 007 adjusted the Support System development and also introduced a Whole of Ship Design Review enabling completion of the design phase. In 2022, the Australian fleet will begin to replenish with new patrol ships. In the coming years, the Australian fleet intends to receive 12 new multi-purpose "patrol". They will replace four types of ships in service with the Navy: Armidale, Cape, Huon and Leeuwin. It is planned to purchase 12 patrol ships of the type OPV80. The length of each of them will be 80 m, displacement - 1700 tons. The main armament of the new "patrol" will be a 40-mm automatic gun, while the capabilities of the ship will allow it to carry anti-ship missiles MM40 Exocet. The cost of the contract is estimated at 4 billion Australian dollars ($ 3 billion).

The construction of the ships will be carried out in Australia with the maximum involvement of domestic manufacturers. First, the contractor will transfer two ships to the Australian fleet (the first in 2021), after which the defense ministry will decide on further purchases. The first two OPVs will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia, and the project will move to Henderson in Western Australia in 2020 where further ten OPVs will be built by CIVMEC in partnership with Luerssen Australia.

On 16 December 2021 the first of 12 Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels - NUSHIP Arafura - was launched at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. First Assistant Secretary Ships Division, Sheryl Lutz, said the Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels were one of the foundational projects in the 2017 Naval Shipbuilding Plan. "Luerssen Australia is contracted to build twelve offshore patrol vessels, two at Osborne Naval Shipyard in Western Australia and ten at Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia.," Ms Lutz said. Building the first two OPVs in South Australia enabled experienced shipbuilders from the Hobart class destroyer to be retained and then transitioned to the new Hunter-class frigates, setting the foundation for a continuous sovereign naval shipbuilding industry.

As a result of delays created by COVID-19, Nuship Arafura is expected to be delivered by Luerssen six months later than planned in June 2022 after which Navy will commence its Naval Operational Test and Evaluation (NOTE). Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is still planned for December 2022. The Project is on track to achieve the Final Materiel Release (FMR) milestone.

In June 2021 due to technical certification concerns by Navy, a revised threat assessment and a requirement for commonality, Luerssen Australia was directed to terminate the main gun contract with Leonardo Australia. Designed to be fitted with a Bofors 57mm, Australia chose a 40mm that turned out would not work with the onboard systems. So it appears Arafura may be delivered unarmed. An interim gun solution is being investigated for the Arafura OPVs using the existing Navy, 25mm Typhoon Mod 0 until a replacement gun is identified.

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Page last modified: 06-07-2022 11:58:28 ZULU