The Royal Australian Navy is working on a project to build an Arafura class offshore patrol vessel (OPV).

Under the plan, 12 Arafura-class ships worth $3.6 billion (about $2.22 billion) will replace the Armidale and Cape-class patrol boats that have been in service since 2005. The main task of the class is to perform maritime patrol and law enforcement at sea. In addition, they can also detect and neutralize mines, and hydrographic survey.

According to Australian media, the first Arafura-class patrol boat was launched at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia on December 16. Formally named as HMAS Arafura (OPV 203), the ship is also the first of 12 Arafura-class. “The Arafura class OPVs represent the future of Australia’s border protection and will be the primary asset for maritime patrol and response duties,” said Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton in his official press release.

Arafura-Class OPV
Arafura-Class OPV

Based on Lürssen OPV80 design, HMAS Arafura has 80 meters length, 13 meters beam, 4 meters draft and a displacement of 1,640 tonnes. Powered by two 5,700 hp diesel engines, the ship has a maximum speed of 20 knots, and a maximum range of about 4,000 nautical miles. It can accommodate up to 60 troops in addition to its 40 crews.

The ship’s main armament is a 40 mm cannon, as well as two 12.7 mm heavy machine guns. HMAS Arafura is also carrying two side-launched 8.5 meters sea boats, and one stern-launched 10.5 meters sea boat. It also has a flight deck for up to a medium-sized helicopter which also serves as the launchpad for its unmanned aerial vehicle.

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 module system will allow a ship designed for one role to be rapidly reconfigured to serve in another role.

The construction of the second Arafura-class OPV is now being carried out by Lürssen Australia at the Osborne Naval Shipyard. The remaining 10 will be constructed by the same company at Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia.

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