Australia Selects OPV Design

Photographs taken during day 3 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. The Bruneian patrol vessel Darulaman moored in Sydney Harbour. Photo by Saberwyn.

The Australian Navy has announced the selection of the design for a planned program of 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels to replace the 13 active 300 ton Armidale class patrol boats.

The new ships will be built in Australia. The design is based on that of the Durussalam class, four ships built for the Brunei Navy by Lurssen in Germany. Lurssen is famous for their torpedo and missile boats. The vessels are expected to be 80 meters (262 ft) long and 13 meters  (43 ft) of beam with a draft of four meters (13 ft) with a speed of 22 knots. Unlike most of the Brunei ships, the Australian ships will be armed with a 40mm gun rather than the 57mm seen in the illustration above. The Australian OPVs are expected to have provision for three 8.4 meter boats and mission modules.

I am a bit surprised by the choice because this appears to be the least capable of the contenders in that it has no hangar, but it does double the range of the patrol boats they will replace and is more than five times the displacements, so should prove a substantial improvement over the Armidale class that really seem to have been asked to do more than  could reasonably expected of them. 

In some ways these  are the embodiment of the Cutter X concept in that they seem to have the equipment and crew of a patrol craft in a more sea worthy hull, but they have also taken the opportunity to provide more boats and a helicopter deck.

Photograph taken during day 5 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. Stern view of the Bruneian patrol vessel Darulaman, The ship’s RHIB is deployed, and the RHIB well is open. Photo by Saberwyn.

Thanks to Nicky for bringing this to my attention. 

44 thoughts on “Australia Selects OPV Design

  1. Hey Chuck,
    Not a problem and I was a bit shocked that the Royal Australian Navy picked the Darussalam-class offshore patrol vessel as a basis for their OPV. I would think the Fassmer 80 OPV that Columbia and the Chile uses would be something the Australians are looking for in an OPV. Even the Holland class OPV and New Zealand’s Protector-class offshore patrol vessel or even our own OPC would have suit the Royal Australian Navy’s needs as well. The one that the Royal Australian Navy is getting for their OPV is akin to our 210 WMEC’s.

    • My initial thought was that these were essentially the same as 210s but looking closer, the Brunei ships at least, have a multi-function radar and fire control system, ESM, the 57mm gun and reportedly up to four Exocet missiles. They also have a larger flight deck, longer range, and are about four knots faster. They also have the stern ramp in addition to a boat and davit on the port side.

  2. I agree the larger size offers better sea kepping. I presume the internal volume will allow more mission packages. The larger flight deck can operate aircraft which smaller ships can not.

  3. This Lürssen design has also being selected by the Navy of Uruguay. They have a requirement for 3 vessels. I don’t know if the contract with Lürssen have being signed or even if the political decision have been made.

  4. The Cutter X concept is the first thing I thought of when reading of the selection of the Lurssen design.

    Maybe the Aussies have been reading this blog.

    These things are about balancing capabilities and costs. Perhaps the Aussies have found the sweet spot. Better seakeeping, aviation facilities and flexability than the Armidales for a price they can afford.

    • The Australians have been making some very long and difficult deployments with their Armidale class patrol boats which are similar to our Webber class. That they were able to do this made me question the five day endurance sited for the Webbers. They clearly felt the need for something larger without resorting to using their frigates.

  5. Chuck I like the comparison to the 210s. As I said elsewhere, the key feature difference between a corvette and boat, and a frigate nee cutter is its aviation capabilities. A flight impacts the design dimensionaly, while the hangar adds not only size but many internal features. All of which drives the ship design up in size, and capability. So I think the Aussies are getting the right type of ship for long endurance, and a force enabler.

  6. No helicopter, major cost saving. ROM cost of helicopter $20+M, usually same again for support & spares, plus need a larger ship to accommodate hanger so assume another $40 M looking at twelve ships so total saving of $80+M x 12 = ~ $960. Also saving operations and maintenance ~ 12 highly skilled personnel, assume average of $40k x12 = ~ $0.5M x 20 years x 12 ships = $120 M and same again for fuel.

    Looking at a saving of roughly $1.2B over twenty life of program for twelve ships with no helicopter, figures guesswork, as always a trade off.

    Wondering if this influenced decision to pick the Lurssen OPV. They also have a very good track record with delivering ships on time and budget using the Siemens sophisticated shipyard software that tracks every individual item in digital build process.

    • I suspect these were the cheapest alternative that met all their stated requirements. Helicopters are a significant added cost, but of course you don’t have to add them just because the ship comes with the facility to support them. Ireland has had a ship with helicopter facilities that have been unused for decades. Luessen is an excellent ship builder. Other factors we know little about are the Australian ship yards the contending designs had partnered with.

      • Chuck, a “Non-carrier Aircraft Facility” from NAVAIR Bulletin One establishes all hardware and many design rqmts. Those can be categorized as: Installations (structure, internals etc.) about $5 mil for one helo spot; ancillary spaces (variable) increase radically when a hangar is required. The Hangar itself can have a big price tag. Depends again what level of support is selected from NAVAIR Bulletin. Then there are the life cycle costs (deck has to be stay certified whether aircraft are assigned or not). Last I saw a number on LCC (long time ago), it was about $1 mil per year for training and inspections. There are also some consumables required.

        Nicky all those numbers about helos and personnel are part of a higher level cost calc and NOT pertinent to ship acquisition per se. In Navy terms NOT SCN. Chuck may know where those bucks are buried?

      • these of course don’t have to comply with Navy Specs unless they want to operate US helicopters.

        Australian Navy has quite a few helicopters, but given they did not select a design with a hangar, they probably don’t expect to operate helicopters from them routinely.

        They probably still want to retain the capability.

      • Lurssen (and Damen) originally partnered with ASC, the current AWD builder and a coy in Western Australia called Civmech. Fassmer partnered with Austral (same coy as the LCS2 class).
        The OPV build has been made complicated by the need to fill a gap between the end of the AWD build and the start of the new projects (subs and frigates) so 2 get built at the ASC site in SA before the build of the remaining 10 starts in the site in West Australia. The site in WA was to be run by ASC and Civmech but the government decided that ASC was taking on too much and has demanded that Lurssen form a team made up of Austral and Civmech. Civmech is a fabrication engineer with a lot of track in the oil and gas industry. Their HQ is in Singapore.

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      • When I entered the Coast Guard Academy in 1965, 55 years ago we had WMECs that were 125 and 165 feet long (232 and 337 tons respectively). They had been built in the 1920s and 30’s. We were starting to build the 210s (1,000 tons). 15 years later we were building 1800 ton 270 foot WMECs. Now we are building 4,500 ton Offshore Patrol Cutters to replace them.

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  12. “Germany’s NVL Group, formerly Lürssen Defence, and its local shipyard partner MTG Dolphin, on December 03, 2021 joined representatives of the contracting authority to launch construction of the first of two Multipurpose Modular Patrol Vessels (MMPV) for the Bulgarian Navy in Varna, Bulgaria.”

    These are similar to the Australian OPVs but 10 meters longer and much more heavily armed.

    More here.

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  14. “Luerssen starts construction of the sixth Arafura class OPV Carpentaria”

    This is the latest on armament, “Shipboard armament was originally intended to be a single 40 mm gun and two 12.7 mm guns. The 40 mm gun was canceled in 2021 due to a combination of technical problems and a re-assessment of the threats the ships would face. 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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