The Australian Federal Government announced on 24-November-2017 in Canberra that Lürssen would be awarded as the Prime Contractor to deliver the Royal Australian Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). The OPV program will see 12 vessels built in total. West Australian shipbuilders Austal and Civmec/Forgacs, and Government shipbuilder ASC would all be part of building the vessels, according to the Defense Industries Minister Christopher Pyne. ASC Shipbuiding would build the first 2 vessels in Adelaide, South Australia, starting in the 4th quarter of 2018, and are expected to enter service in 2021. Austal and Civmec/Forgacs would build the 10 remaining vessels in the Henderson Maritime Precinct starting 2020. All 12 offshore patrol vessels will be delivered by 2030, and will replace the navy’s existing Armidale Class patrol boat fleet.
Austal and Civmec/Forgacs will build the 10 OPVs in Henderson, Western Australia, using the German designed Lürssen OPV80. The contract would be subject to the conclusion of commercial negotiations expected to take place over the coming months. Lürssen, a family-owned company, said it was committed to involving Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the project.
“Our ambition from the start of this process has been clear: To deliver the best vessel for the Royal Australian Navy from a proven low-risk design; to build that vessel by investing in the development of Australian shipbuilding skills; and to open up new opportunities for Australian businesses and suppliers by contributing to a sustainable and globally competitive industrial base,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Lürssen said. The Australian team of Lürssen includes sub-contractors L3 Australia, SAAB Australia, and Penske. “We see vast opportunities for SMEs across the entire country from the shipbuilding program, including in the construction of the vessels, contributing supplies, in shipyard services, in future sustainment work and in supporting industries,” Lürssen adds.
The Australian Government said the OPV program was worth up to AU$3.5 Billion (US$2.7 Billion), up from a previous estimate of AU$3 Billion, and that the construction would employ up to 1000 workers —400 direct and 600 in the supply chain.
“Australian jobs, Australian workers, Australian steel, for Australia’s navy, to keep Australia safe in these times, of greater risk, and greater challenge,” Prime Minister Turnbull said.
The OPVs are 80 meters in length with a displacement of 1700 tons, and a draught of 4 meters. The OPVs would have a 40mm gun for self-protection, three 8.4-meter sea boats, and command and communication systems. This would allow the LÜRSSEN to Build Offshore Patrol Vessels in
Australiato operate in tandem with Australian Border Force vessels and other Australian Defense Force units. The OPVs could accommodate 60 personnel, including a crew of 40 Navy personnel, with the ability to accept unmanned aerial systems.
The OPVs must qualify for maritime policing type missions but must also to be on call for primary defense maritime patrol duties. However, the OPV80 Lürssen design does not seem to include a helipad. One school of thought holds that a helipad is not necessary since the boats would carry UAVs; while another argument holds that a helicopter would provide better surveillance missions, enabling personnel transport, search and rescue, humanitarian, disaster relief, and medical evacuations.
“I congratulate Lürssen on being selected for the Lürssen, and Austal looks forward to establishing a long and productive future working together. This important program will not only deliver new capability for the Navy but will continue to build the industrial base in Australia in line with the Government’s stated intent. The Australian Government has made a commitment to a continuous naval shipbuilding industry and Austal looks forward to playing a role in making this happen. We thank the Australian Government for this endorsement of our shipbuilding capability, which will ensure Austal’s ongoing naval shipbuilding presence for the next decade and beyond. As I have said many times, the OPV program is very important for our Henderson workforce and we welcome the fact that our employees will have an opportunity to build these vessels,” Austal Chief Executive Officer David Singleton said.