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. 

New Photos of Chile’s Fassmer-80 OPV

, Andres In April 2014 a guest author, Andres Tavolari, provided one of our most popular posts, about a multi-national program to build OPVs to a German design, the 264 foot Fassmer-80. Andres has provided pictures of the latest Chilean vessel of this class, OPV-84 “Cabo Odger” which is to be the forth of a projected six. It is slightly larger than the first ships of the class at 1771.6 tons. She is also ice strengthened and is equipped a recycled 76mm and different radar and communications systems.

This class is one of three contenders for Australia’s OPV program.

India Launches First Two of Five OPVs

The Indian Navy has announced the launching of the first two of a new class of five Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). Three more of the class are expected by the end of the year.

Within the Indian Navy, these are unique in that they are being built by a private, rather than a government, shipyard.

Wikipedia reports that these vessels are 110 meters in length (Same as the Offshore Patrol Cutter) with a displacement of 2000 tons (this appears to be light displacement). They are armed with  an OTO Melara 76mm super rapid gun mount (SRGM) and two 30mm AK-630M six barrel Gatling guns. It is powered by twin diesels 18,200 kW (24,400 HP) for a maximum speed of 25 knots.

India has both a Coast Guard and a Navy, and both operated Offshore Patrol Vessels. The Coast Guard was established in 1978 and operates under the Ministry of Defense. Indian CG OPVs tend to be more lightly armed than their Navy counterparts.

The Indian Navy currently operates ten Offshore Patrol Vessels.

The Indian Coast Guard currently operates 16 Offshore Patrol Vessels and three larger “Pollution Control Vessels” which also function as OPVs.

The oldest of the Indian Coast Guard OPV was commissioned in 1983. The oldest Indian Navy OPV was commissioned in 1989.

Fish and the Brexit

Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels

Looks like fisheries has become a new sticking point in the BEXIT negotiation. A lot of bluster over EU fisheries chief’s interview on BBC. The Brits take it as an insult. He may have just been saying the fishermen are an unruly bunch and will go where the fish are. The reaction seems to indicate the Brits are taking this as a planned EU invasion of their waters.

There was a lot of criticism of the building of more River class Offshore Patrol Vessels (Infographic above) for the Royal Navy as a means of keeping the shipbuilding industry alive until the Mk26 frigates were ready to be built. It was said they were not needed and the Navy did not want them. Now they may now have a use for them. Contrary to what you see on the graphic (now out of date), they are building five of these, which will bring their total OPV fleet to nine vessels.

UAE’s New, and very well Armed OPV

UAE offshore patrol vessel Arialah

UAE offshore patrol vessel Arialah (note the concept above is incorrect in that the gun is a BAE 57mm rather than the 76mm illustrated).

DefenseNews reports first impressions of a new Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) built for UAE’s Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Agency (CICPA) shown at the NAVDEX (naval) portion of the IDEX international Defense Exposition in Abu Dhabi.

The ships are 67 meters (220 feet) in length, 11 meters (36 feet) of beam, and 5.4 meters (18 feet) of draft, with a speed of 20+ knots provided by four MTU engines driving four propellers.

Most of the armament is typical OPV, a 57 mm gun and two 30mm auto-cannon in remote weapon stations. What really sets it apart, is the Mk49 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher.

On the other hand, the UAE is just across the Straits of Hormuz from Iran and their shore based anti-ship cruise missiles.

Photo: Mk49 guided missile launch system for Rolling Airframe Missile

An earlier post provides a bit more detail on the program but it appears to have a couple of errors regarding the weapon systems (indicates a 76mm as seen in the first illustration vice 57mm and says the Mk49 launcher has 11 cells rather than the actual 21). There are to be two of this class, both to be delivered this year.

“The ships themselves will be delivered from Damen’s Galati shipyard in Romania in 2017; they will then go to ADSB’s facility in Abu Dhabi’s Mussafah industrial area for combat systems installation and integration prior to delivery to the CICPA.”

This looks like a straight forward adaptation of one of Damen’s designs for Offshore Industry Support Vessels with boats, helo deck, ESM/ECM, weapons and sensors added.

According to this older source, the Coast Guard was involved in the development of the SEA AXE Bow.

“Damen … has developed the sea axe bow design in partnership with the University of Delft, Royal Netherlands Navy, US Coast Guard and the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands.”

How Does the Program of Record Compare to Historic Fleets

 The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

A question from a reader prompted me to look at how the “Program of Record” (POR) compares with Coast Guard patrol fleets of the past.

The program of record is
8 NSCs
25 OPCs
58 FRCs

91 vessels total

1990: Looking back at the “Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991” the Fleet was:
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMECs (16×210′, 10×270′ (three building), Storis, 3×213′, 3×205′)
34 WPB 110′ (plus 15 building)
3 WSES 110′ surface effects ships
4 WPB 95′
85 vessels total
(There were also five Aerostat Radar Balloon tenders.)
2000: “The Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001” showed
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMEC (13×270′, 16×210′, Alex Haley, Storis, Acushnet)
49 WPB 110′
93 vessels total.
2013: “The Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition,” copyright 2013 listed:
3 NSCs
8 WHEC 378′
28 WMEC (13×270′, 14×210′, Alex Haley)
4 FRCs
41 WPB 110′
84 vessels total
Comparing the Program of Record (plus NSC #9) to the fleet of 2000: You can look at it this way,
  • 9 NSCs and 3 OPCs is more than adequate replacement for the 12 WHEC 378s
  • 49 of the FRCs is more than adequate replacement for 49 WPB 110s (and we have only had 41 anyway since the WPB 123 screw up)
  • That leaves 22 OPCs and 9 FRCs to cover for the 32 WMECs.
I think we would all be pretty happy, if we had the Program of Record fleet in place right now. It really would be a substantial improvement, but while the NSCs and the FRCs are well on the way, the first of the long-delayed OPCs will not be delivered until 2021, and, if everything goes according to plan, the last probably not before 2034, at which time even the newest 270 will be 44 years old. A lot can happen between now and then.
The 2000 fleet was, I believe, the benchmark against which the program of record was measured in the Fleet Mix Study. By 2013 we were already down nine vessels. By my estimate, by the time the last 210 is replaced it will probably be 60 years old. That is expecting a lot. Can we possibly expect that none of these ships will become unserviceable before they are replaced? Building no more than two OPCs a year is really too slow. Once the first ship is built, tested, and approved for full rate production, we should accelerate construction to the maximum. That can’t happen until at least FY2022, probably FY 2023.
By the end of FY2022 we should have already funded 7 ships. The remaining 18 would take nine years, if we buy them at the currently projected schedule. Instead we could fund the entire remaining program from FY2023-2027 by doing a single Multi-Year Procurement of 18 ships. If Eastern alone could not do it, Marinette, which like the designer VARD, is also a Fincantieri company, would probably be more than willing to build an additional couple a year, particularly if the Navy stops building Freedom class LCS/frigates.
We could have the program complete by FY2030, four years early.
Thanks to Peter for initiating this line of thought. 

USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), USCG photo


USCGC Storis WMEC-38)

USCGC Acushnet

USCGC Acushnet (WMEC-167), USCG photo


Mexican Navy OPVs


NavalToday reports the Launch of the sixth and last Offshore Patrol Vessel of the Oaxaca Class, the ARM (Armada Republica Mexicana) Hidalgo, for the Mexican Navy. These ships were designed and built by and for the Mexican Navy, but they would look quite at home painted white with USCG stripes and WMEC hulll numbers. Statistically they are very close to Coast Guard 270s.


  • ___________________Oaxaca Class_______________WMEC 270
  • Displacement (full load)  1,680 tons_________________1829 tons
  • Length                    282.2 feet (86.0 m)_______________270 feet (82 m)
  • Beam:                      34.4 feet (10.5 m)_______________38 feet (12 m)
  • Draft                         11.8 feet (3.6 m)________________14.5 feet (4.4 m)
  • Speed:                      20+ knots_____________________19.5 knots

The occasion prompted me to take a look at the Mexican Navy. While the Mexican Navy does have six former USN frigates, most of their missions are closer to what we do in the USCG, and most of their ships are offshore patrol vessels. They have 21 ships (soon to be 22 with Hidalgo) in five classes that look an awful lot like WMECs. These ships have evolved over time, with each class an incremental improvement over the previous ships. Only the oldest of these, the Uribe class ships were built in Spain by Navantia, the remaining 17 were built in Mexican Navy shipyards in Tampico and Salina Cruz with the first of the Mexican built ships being commissioned in 1991.

Photo: Uribe class OPV ARM Jose  Aueta (P-122)

The Uribe class were very similar in size and concept to the 210s, with a similar configuration of the foc’sle and flight deck on the O-1 deck. They did include a hangar, were 10 feet longer (67 m overall), and had more than twice the horsepower at 13,320 allowing a maximum speed of 21 knots. Its main gun was a single 40mm/7

The Holzinger or Aquila class were the first class built in Mexico. They stretched the design 24 feet to 244 feet (74.4 m), provided two main machinery spaces vice one, and retaining the same horsepower, achieved 22 knots. Originally they were to have had a 57mm, but because of stability consideration a twin 40mm/60 was used instead.

Holzinger-class patrol vessel

Sierra Class OPVs of the Mexican Navy


The Sierra, Mendz, or Holzinger 2000 class retained essentially the same dimensions as the preceding class, but introduced a number changes. The hull aft was extended upward to create a flush main deck at what had been the O-1 deck. A stern ramp was incorporated in the transom for launching a “chase boat.” The superstructure was given a more “stealthy” form with the RHIBs placed in enclosed pockets.  A Vosper fin stabilization system was also provided, and a 57 mm main gun was included. A max speed of 18 knots is claimed, but it is likely to be more than 22.


ARM Durango, Mexican Navy, 8 October 2008, photo by Apodemia.

The four ships of the Durango class were originally intended as units of the preceding Sierra class but the design was modified and is now considered a separate class although statistically they appear little different.

The Oaxaca are a bit larger. They seem to have decided that the “stealthy” superstructure is not worth doing. The 57 mm gun of the preceding class has been replaced by a 76 mm gun, but it is not the newest type so this may have been a case of the guns being available on favorable terms rather than a reflection of dissatisfaction with the 57 mm. There is also a auto-cannon aft (variously reported as 25 or 30 mm) and two remote weapon stations with .50 cal. Like US WMECs the range is substantial at 8,500 nautical miles. They have a crew of 77 and accommodations for 39 special forces and/or marines.

Given that the USCG is now responsible for maintenance of all US 76 mm guns and also operates the 57mm, the Mexican Navy’s choice of weapons suggests this may be an area of potential cooperation.

Auk class minesweeper

Auk class minesweeper now used as an Offshore Patrol Vessel by the Mexican Navy

Unfortunately not all of Mexico’s OPVs are relatively modern. They still have ten Auk  class 1,250 ton (fl), 221 foot, WWII vintage, steel hulled minesweepers that continue to function as patrol vessels. The ships are referred to as the Valle class in Mexican service. They are the same class as USCGC Tanager (WTR-885) that served as a CG Reserve training ship 1964 to 1972. They will certainly need to be replaced soon. Obviously their building program is not complete.

I find it interesting that Mexico with an EEZ of 3,144,295 km2,, with less than a third of the EEZ of the US (11,351,000 km2) has a fleet of OPVs that approaches that of the USCG.

Chile Christens Its Forth 80 meter OPV

On of our most popular posts has been “Three Nations Share German OPV Design” written by Andrés Tavolari, a lawyer, and Chilean Marine Reserve Officer. Andrés has written to say that Chile will christen their fourth Fassmer 80 class, OPV 84, “Cabo Odger” on August 3rd. Above is a Time Lapse of her construction.

As you can see from the diagram, this one will have a 76 mm gun.

“Latin American Navies Combat Illegal Fishing”–CIMSEC

CIMSEC has a short background article on the scope of, and reaction to, illegal fishing in Latin America.

You might recognize the ship pictured at the head of the CIMSEC post. It is one of a class we talked about earlier.

The post also talks about the sinking of a Chinese Fishing Vessel by an Argentine patrol vessel, an incident we also discussed here.

The two Peruvian patrol vessels seen launched in the post and in the YouTube video above, BAP Rio Cañete (PM-205) and BAP Rio Pativilca (PM-204), are according to a Google translation of this post,  55.3 meters (181 feet) long, 8.5 meters (28 feet) of beam, and a draft of 2.3 meters (7’7″). They have two diesels totaling 6690 HP for a 22 knot max speed, a range of 3600 miles at 14 knots. The crew is 25 with additional space for up to 14 additional boarding party members to man the two RHIBs carried in davits. They are expected to be armed with a Typhoon weapon system, similar to the Mk38 mod2 but with a 30mm gun plus two .50 cal. Their design is based on the South Korean Taegeuk class cutters.