Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel

The Arafura class is a multipurpose small warship class for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Initially proposed in the 2009 Defence White Paper and marked as procurement project SEA 1180, It was originally planned 20 OCVs would replace 26 vessels across four separate ship classes: the Armidale-class patrol boats, the Huon-class minehunters, the Leeuwin-class survey vessels, and the Paluma-class survey motor launches. Although having a common design (which could be up to 2,000 tonnes in displacement), the ships would use a modular mission payload system to fulfill specific roles; primarily border patrol, mine warfare, and hydrographic survey. The 2013 Defence White Paper committed to the OPV project as a long-term goal, but opted in the short term for an accelerated procurement of an existing design to replace the Armidales, and life-extension refits for the other types. This resulted in the amount of OPV's being decreased to 12. However, 3 additional OPV’s were recently promised by the Morrison Government to be built at WA’s Henderson facility to replace the mine clearance and survey vessels currently in service. It is assumed these additional 3 vessels will be based on the Arafura class. Therefore the total to be built in WA will be 13. 15 ships all together if the class in total should the Morrison Government deliver on the pre-election pledge.

Class overview
Name: Arafura class
Builders: ASC Pty Ltd and Civmec
Operators:  Royal Australian Navy
Preceded by: Armidale-class patrol boat
Cost: A$3.6 billion
Built: November 2018—present
Planned: 12
Building: 1
General characteristics
Type: Offshore patrol vessel
Displacement: 1,640 tonnes
Length: 80 m (262 ft 6 in)
Beam: 13 m (42 ft 8 in)
Draught: 4 m (13 ft 1 in)
Propulsion: 2 x 4,400 kW (5,900 hp)} MTU 16V 1163 M74R diesel engines
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) (maximum)
Range: 4,000 nmi (7,400 km; 4,600 mi)
Troops: 60
Complement: 40
Sensors and
processing systems:
SAAB Situational Awareness System (SAS) with Saab EOS500 electro-optical fire control director,[1][2] Terma SCANTER 6002 radar,[3][4] Safran Vigy Engage electro-optical surveillance and fire control multisensor system[5][6]
  • 1 x Leonardo Oto Marlin 40 mm
  • 2 x .50 calibre machine guns
Aviation facilities: Landing platform

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on 18 April 2016 that ship designers Damen, Fassmer and Lürssen had been shortlisted for the project.[7] On 24 November 2017, the government announced that Lürssen had been selected.[8] Australian Manufacturing reported, on October 24, 2019, that the consortium that included Austal and Fassmer was still under consideration for building the class.[9]

Planning and design

First made public in Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, the 2009 Department of Defence white paper, the planned vessels stem from Government instructions for the RAN to rationalise patrol, mine warfare, and hydrographic survey assets into a single class of warship.[10][11] Twenty vessels were originally planned to be built; however this was later reduced to 12 following a change in their planned role.[10] The project has received the procurement designation SEA 1180.[12]

Instead of being capable of performing all roles simultaneously, the ships will have a modular mission payload system like the Standard Flex system used by the Danish Navy, or the system used by the United States Navy's littoral combat ships: mission-specific equipment will be fitted to containerised modules, which can be exchanged for different modules when the ship needs to change roles.[10][13][14] 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.[11] The cost in developing and implementing the modular system is predicted to be offset by the savings in the areas of maintenance (having to purchase and maintain stocks to repair four different designs), personnel (having to retrain sailors when they transfer to a new ship), and administration.[10][11]

It is anticipated that the new ships may displace anywhere up to 2,000 tonnes, although defence magazine editor Kym Bergmann predicts that this 'worst case' would require 50,000 tons of steel or aluminium to be fabricated (compared to 36,000 tons for the Collins-class submarine replacement project), and unless multiple shipbuilders are involved, the 12- to 18-month construction time per vessel will see the last ship enter service during the late 2020s.[10][15]

Instead of building all 12 vessels to the same design, the idea of hull variants optimised for different roles is also being explored:[11] the module system will allow a ship designed for one role to be rapidly reconfigured to serve in another role, with a small but acceptable loss in capability compared to a 'native' OPV. The OPVs could be designed to carry a helicopter or an unmanned aerial vehicle to improve each ship's surveillance range, but this avenue is dependent on further study and cost-benefit analysis.[10][16]

Although the 2013 White Paper committed to the OPV as a long-term plan, it announced that an interim patrol boat class based on an existing design would be acquired as a short-term replacement for the Armidales, while the Palumas and Huons would undergo life-extension upgrades.[17]

In October 2017, the Australian government announced that the vessels would use an Australian-designed SAAB tactical combat management system.[18]

International co-operation

The Royal Navy has begun plans for a similar vessel under the Future Surface Combatant program, designated the Future Mine Countermeasures/Hydrographic/Patrol Vessel (FMHPV).[12] At the start of 2010, it was announced that the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom were exploring the potential for idea-sharing and co-operation on the design of the OPV and FMHPV, as well as planned replacements for the Anzac-class, Type 22, and Type 23 frigates.[12] Although the nations will share their analyses, a common design or shared construction program is unlikely, as the two nations have different needs and replacement schedules.[11][12] The RAN is also observing the development of the United States Navy Littoral Combat Ships, to take advantage of lessons learned during the program.[11]

Proposed designs

While designing the Independence-class trimarans for the Littoral Combat Ship program, Australian-owned shipbuilder Austal also prepared a scaled-down version that could serve as the basis for the Australian OPV.[15] The Austal Multi Role Vessel (MRV 80) would have an overall length of 80 metres (262 ft 6 in), a top speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), carry an NH-90 or similar helicopter, and have 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft) for mission equipment or cargo.[19]

In 2012, American shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries proposed a variant of the Legend-class National Security Cutter, a ship built for the United States Coast Guard.[20]


The class of ships will be based on Lürssen's OPV80, similar to the Darussalam-class offshore patrol vessel of the Royal Brunei Navy.[21] The first two vessels will be built at ASC shipyards in Adelaide, South Australia before production is transferred to Civmec shipyards in Henderson, Western Australia.[8][22]

Construction of the first ship began on 15 November 2018. On that day, it was also announced that the vessel would be named HMAS Arafura, and the class the Arafura-class patrol vessels.[23]


The OPV was originally planned to replace 26 vessels across four warship classes: the Armidale-class patrol boats, the Huon-class minehunters, the Leeuwin-class survey vessels, and the Paluma-class survey motor launches.[10][24] The new ships will be used for offshore and littoral patrol, border protection, anti-terrorism and anti-piracy operations, mine warfare, and hydrographic survey.[10] It is plausible that the OPVs will operate in support of the Canberra-class landing helicopter dock ships; amphibious operations would benefit from the survey and mine warfare capabilities of the ships.[16]


Name Pennant number Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
HMAS Arafura TBA ASC, Osborne 10 May 2019 Under construction
TBA TBA Under construction


  2. "Saab sensor system for OPVs". Australian Defence Magazine. 23 April 2018.
  3. "SCANTER 6002 radar selected for SEA 1180 OPVs". Defence Connect. 7 August 2018.
  4. "Australian SEA1180 OPVs to feature Terma's air and surface surveillance radars". Naval Today. 31 July 2018.
  5. Scott, Richard. "Vigy Engage selected for Project SEA 1180 OPVs". Jane's Navy International.
  6. "SAFRAN VIGY ENGAGE SELECTED FOR AUSTRALIA'S SEA 1180 OPVS". Monash Publishing Group. 5 September 2018.
  7. Anderson, Stephanie (18 April 2016). "Malcolm Turnbull says 12 offshore patrol vessels to be built in Adelaide". ABC News. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  8. "HUNDREDS OF AUSTRALIAN JOBS CREATED IN OFFSHORE PATROL VESSEL PROJECT". Christopher Pyne. Federal Member for Sturt, Minister for Defence Industry. 24 November 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  9. "Austal shares in trading halt awaiting government announcement". Australian Manufacturing. 24 October 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2019. The Australian reported that Cabinet was to announce the winner of a $3 billion contract to build new Arafura class patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy.
  10. Department of Defence, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century, pp. 72–3
  11. Australian Offshore Combatant Vessels, p. 1
  12. Scott, UK, Australia begin talks on future ship projects
  13. Thornton, The Rationale for the RAN Offshore Combatant Vessel, pp. 6, 8
  14. Boettger, The Offshore Combatant Vessel, p. 31
  15. Bergmann, Buzz around all-in-one combatant vessels
  16. Australian Offshore Combatant Vessels, p. 2
  17. Department of Defence (3 May 2013). Defence White Paper 2013. Commonwealth of Australia. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-9874958-0-8.
  18. "Joint Media Release – Prime Minister, Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Industry – New Approach to Naval Combat Systems". Department of Defence. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  19. "Multi Role Vessel MRV80" (PDF). Austal. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  20. HII Targets RAN SEA1180 Project, in The Navy
  21. "ASC Shipbuilding welcomes OPV bid partners Lürssen and Forgacs to Techport for the first time". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  22. Bell, Frances. "Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels to be built in WA and SA by German company Luerssen". ABC News Online. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  23. Zerbe, Ryan (15 November 2018). "Construction begins on Arafura Class patrol vessels". Navy Daily. Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  24. Thornton, The Rationale for the RAN Offshore Combatant Vessel, p. 6


  • Bergmann, Kym (29 May 2010). "Buzz around all-in-one combatant vessels". The Australian. p. 10 in Defence supplement.
  • Boettger, Daniel (December 2009). "The Offshore Combatant Vessel: Future Flexibility". Headmark. Australian Naval Institute (134): 30–34. ISSN 1833-6531.
  • Department of Defence (2 May 2009). Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN 978-0-642-29702-0. OCLC 426475923.
  • Scott, Richard (22 January 2010). "UK, Australia begin talks on future ship projects". Jane's Defence Weekly. Jane's Information Group.
  • Thornton, Sean (January 2010). "The Rationale for the RAN Offshore Combatant Vessel". The Navy. Navy League of Australia. 72 (1): 6–10. ISSN 1322-6231.
  • "Australian Offshore Combatant Vessels" (PDF). Semaphore. Sea Power Centre – Australia. 2010 (04). May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  • "HII Targets RAN SEA1180 Project". The Navy. Navy League of Australia. 74 (2): 18. April 2012. ISSN 1322-6231.
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